Crinan Canal set to welcome boaters

Discussions at lock 4 as the new gate is fitted

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Six months after being closed for refurbishment, the famous Crinan Canal will once again welcome sailors from Thursday May 13.

The canal, opened in 1809 and patronised by everyone from puffer crews to royalty in its long history, remains one of Argyll and Bute’s most popular visitor attractions, with more than 1,600 boats transiting the canal each year before the coronavirus pandemic.

Now managed by Scottish Canals, the nine-mile-long route connecting Loch Fyne and the Sound of Jura has been undergoing a facelift including replacing lock gates as part of a major project to improve and safeguard the scenic route for years to come.

The £3.7 million scheme to replace gates in the eastern section – part of Scottish Canals’ asset management strategy 2018-30 – started in November 2020 with the draining of the canal.

Locks one to four in Ardrishaig had new steel gates installed in partnership with contractor AmcoGiffen. Dredging is also being carried out, boosted by £1 million of additional Scottish Government funding to Scottish Canals for schemes in both the Crinan and Caledonian canals.

Unsurprisingly for a project of this complexity there have been complications, including one occasion in March when the canal refilled in heavy rain, while some technical challenges have had to be overcome.

A Scottish Canals spokesman explained that ‘minor adjustments’ were required ‘for the new steel lock gates to fit appropriately in the existing historic lock chambers’.

He added: ‘It is a very busy site, therefore it is vital we ensure the works are being undertaken in a safe manner and as per the required standards.

‘The Crinan Canal is due to re-open on Thursday May 13 for boaters to enjoy Britain’s most beautiful shortcut.’

Improvement work is also planned for locks along the western section of the canal to Crinan as well as upgrades to the Cairnbaan Bridge and modifications to Crinan Ferry Bridge and Oakfield Bridge.

As Scotland remains under level three pandemic restrictions, Scottish Canals has adopted strict physical distancing, segregation and hygiene measures to minimise the risk of transmitting Covid-19. Anyone visiting the canal is advised to take all relevant safety precautions.