Map derived from data (c) OpenStreetMap
Past the new bridge and the new marina, the canal continues eastward through open country. At Craigmarloch there is one more bridge (a bascule until the mid 1980s, now a plain concrete one), and the canal's main water supply (from Townhead Reservoir to the north, also known as Banton Loch) enters on the north side. Then comes a remote long, straight, wide section across Dullatar Bog. Building the canal here was a huge challenge. An enormous embankment had to be sunk into the bog to form the towpath and the north bank of the canal. On the south side, the water is just allowed to find its own level, which results in the canal having quite a wide and uneven profile across the bog.
Normality returns after a mile or two as the canal finally bends again, and reached Wyndford Lock. This marks the point where the long summit level ends and the canal starts its descent to the Forth. The bridge that used to cross the lock chamber was rebuilt just below the lock for the Millennium Link, but this was a fairly minor issue compared to the horror around the next corner: the A80.
When this road was upgraded to dual carriageway (it's now a full motorway) in the early 1960s, parliament closed the canal to save the £160,000 cost of putting in the lifting bridge that would otherwise have been required. The canal was blocked by the first of many submerged culverts here, although there was an underpass for the towpath. In the year 2000, work started to raise the road and put in the current concrete bridge. It cost a lot more than £160,000! The other concrete bridge just beyond replaced a derelict swing bridge on the old, pre-1960s A80.
Three more locks (19, 18, 17) follow in the next mile or so. These were restored and given new cast iron gates in the 1990s before the major full restoration of the canal started. The third, Underwood Lock, now has a restaurant and bar (Underwood Lockhouse) in its former lock keeper's cottage on the offside.
Bonnybridge is the first settlement actually on the canal for many miles. The bridge here is now a modern vertical lifting bridge - previously there was a restrictive culvert here. The original crossing, a small aqueduct, is still there just to the east as well.
Falkirk Wheel from Forth and Clyde Canal
As the canal approaches Falkirk, the Union Canal (which previously joined further east in Falkirk itself) branches off from the south side and one of the most famous and impressive structures of the whole Scottish canal system can be seen: the Falkirk Wheel. Access to the wheel from the Forth and Clyde is through a new lock (Jubilee Lock), and for towpath users there is a wooden swingbridge to go across.
The canal is currently (October 2014 to March 2015) blocked immediately west of the Falkirk Wheel; a section has been drained to allow the railway tunnels underneath to be replaced by a new aqueduct, allowing electrification of the line. A towpath diversion is in place but the canal will not be passable by boats until the end of March.
View photos of this section of canal in the gallery