Map derived from data (c) OpenStreetMap
East of the Falkirk Wheel, the Forth and Clyde Canal descends rapidly through the town of Falkirk to the River Forth, via 15 locks. The first is lock 16, just below where the Union Canal originally joined the Forth and Clyde - the remains of the original junction are just visible but the extensive complex of locks and basins has all been filled in, and all that's left is the Union Inn pub. After the canal closed, lock 16 was blocked by the Union Road bridge which cut right into the chamber walls. The road now crosses a new concrete bridge below the lock and the chamber has been repaired.
The next 5 locks come shortly, descending through a nicely landscaped area (and past another historic canalside pub on the north side) to Camelon Bridge. This was originally a bascule bridge, replaced by a swing bridge in the 1900s so that trams could cross it, and then replaced by a drowned culvert after the canal closed. The culvert became a major obstacle for the restoration project as the road surface was only a few feet above the water and raising it would have caused major headaches. So they lowered the canal instead: lock 11, which was originally on the east side of the road, has been reconstructed on the west side to give plenty of headroom under the busy road. The large, distinctive brick building by the bridge was once a distillery warehouse but is now a bar and restaurant.
East of Camelon Road, the locks keep coming - first the remains of the now-redundant original lock 11, then locks 10 and 9. Just below lock 9, a metal swing bridge (now fixed in place) carries the railway line into Falkirk Grahamston station. Lock 8, like lock 11, has been moved in order to give more headroom for a bridge - in this case Merers Bridge where a busy industrial access road crosses the canal. Finally, lock 5 has also had the same treatment to allow the road culvert at Bainsford to be reconstructed with navigable headroom.
Beyond Bainsford, the canal runs very straight along an open embankment with industrial buildings to the north. At the far end is lock 4, the last surviving original lock. Abbots Road was built on a culvert across the tail of the lock in 1980 - the last obstruction to navigation to be built on the Forth and Clyde. By the time the canal was reopened, the road was no longer so important, having been mostly superceded by the new A9 to the east. So it was simply taken away and now there's only a footbridge at lock 4.
Until the mid-90s there was an impressive old railway swing bridge between locks 3 and 4, but it was removed when the A9 was rerouted as the Falkirk Distributor Road, and replaced by the current arched concrete road bridge. Just past here, the canal used to disappear into a culvert for the remainder of its journey to Grangemouth (the weir that leads into the culvert is still visible on the towpath side) - the last mile and a half down to the Forth was completely obliterated in the 1960s.
Several possibilities were considered for reconnecting the canal to the Forth for the Millennium Link, including restoration on or close to the original line, which would have been very challenging and expensive due to new buildings and roads that have appeared since the canal's closure. Ultimately a cheaper solution was chosen - the canal turns 90 degrees to the north and joins the River Carron just upstream of the M9 bridge, roughly following the route of an old branch canal called "The Carron Cut". This did the job of linking the canal to the east coast, but it was never ideal - headroom was limited at the road and pipe bridges over the Carron, and the tides meant that boats could only safely enter and leave the canal at certain restricted times. However, in 2014 this situation was improved by the Helix Project.
The Kelpies with new lock between them and basin in front
Helix aimed to regenerate the whole area between Falkirk and Grangemouth, creating new parkland and walkways as well as impressive outdoor sculptures (the Kelpies). One element of the Helix project is a much improved link to the River Forth for the canal. Instead of joining the Carron so far upstream, a new section of canal now branches off between the huge Kelpies and tunnels under the motorway. It then runs parallel to the river for a kilometre before joining it further downstream, below the problem bridges and much less affected by tides.
View photos of this section of canal in the gallery