Falkirk, sitting between Glasgow and Edinburgh, but not with the fame of either, isn’t on the normal tourist trail for Scotland, however it does now have two excellent attractions at each end of town – the Falkirk Wheel canal lift, which opened in 2002 at the junction of the Union and Forth & Clyde Canals and is unique in the world; and the Kelpies, two huge sculptures of horses in The Helix, a modern park in the scrubland between Falkirk and Grangemouth which opened today.
The Kelpies are a pair of huge steel horse heads, positioned near the point where the Forth & Clyde canal meets the Firth of Forth. With a motorway on one side and two canal sections on the other, it’s an isolated spot, but great for an iconic sculpture, with a brand new lock being positioned right between the sculptures themselves.
The Kelpies are part of a new park, The Helix, which sits in a no-mans land between Grangemouth (of oil refinery fame) and Falkirk, with a number of other communities – Polmont and Larbert – not far away either. It consists of a number of new cycle paths, connecting these various communities, through a modern park (various bridges, small water features and curved paths) which reminds me a little of the new Olympic Park back in London. It was great to see so many cyclists using the park already, although the appearance of a no-cycling sign on one section was a bit silly:
The Falkirk Wheel, a few miles away from the Kelpies to the south-west, acts as a ship lift, moving canal boats between two canals which have a considerable vertical difference. Because both boat “pens” have the same mass (of water and/or boats displacing the water) the rotation of the wheel is done with a minimum of electricity and noise.
The approach for the higher canal, to the wheel, is also a pretty impressive piece of engineering.