Pedal power on canal Jack - Sean Barry and Mike Hanrahan of Bridge8hub based at the Union Canal Jack - Sean Barry and Mike Hanrahan of Bridge8hub based at the Union Canal

Travel on the Union Canal is usually limited to canoes and barges – and perhaps the occasional brave swimmer.

But now heads are being turned after a cycle path was opened on the 30-mile stretch of water for the first time.

Floating bikes known as Akwakats, which originate from New Zealand, have been powering along the canal since an outdoor activity centre began renting them out earlier this week.

More than 200 people have taken to the water, using pedal power to operate a propeller instead of turning wheels, while handlebars are attached to a rudder to steer.

The £1500 vehicles can reach speeds of around 8mph on the canal, which runs from Fountainbridge to the Falkirk Wheel.

Sean Barry, 35, who brought the novelty to Scotland at the Bridge8 outdoor activity hub in The Calders, said the bikes were proving to be a surprise for passers-by.

He said: “The Union Canal is well used, but very few people have seen a bike on the water. A lot of people do a double-take when they see you cycle past them.”

As well as hiring the water bikes to outdoors enthusiasts, the company is working with schools and youth clubs, and hopes to fund a sea-kayaking trip to British Columbia for a dozen children.

Mr Barry said: “I grew up on an Edinburgh housing estate so I know about the lack of opportunities some kids face. We are trying to encourage as many people as possible to get out and explore our amazing heritage which is the canal network.”