Official Sightseeing
Tours of Scotland since 1907

The Kelpies

The Falkirk Wheel and The Kelpies

When it comes to Falkirk, two things immediately spring to mind. The first is The Falkirk Wheel, a nautical marvel in engineering, and the second is The Kelpies, an equine marvel in steel structure construction! Just like fish and chips, Laurel and Hardy or Duke and Baron (keep reading to find out more!), we don’t think you can talk about one without including the other, which is why this blog will look at both Scottish landmarks in more detail. 

So settle down with some tea (and biscuits) or a cup of coffee (and a cake), and prepare to learn more about the Falkirk Wheel and The Kelpies. 

The Falkirk Wheel 

The Falkirk Wheel is a rotating boat lift, which is even more impressive considering that it is the only rotating boat lift… in the World! You’ve heard of the expression “when pigs fly”, but in this part of Scotland, “when boats fly” is more appropriate!

The Falkirk Wheel 

How does the Falkirk Wheel work? 

The Falkirk Wheel is an impressive link between the Forth and Clyde Canal and the Union Canal. Since 2002, when it opened, it has been responsible for transferring boats from one canal to the other in a straightforward half-turn, hauling boats from the Forth and Clyde Canal up 35 metres until they reach the waters of the Union Canal, akin to the way that a seesaw might work. 

When one “gondola” (the part of the structure that holds the boats) is moved down, the other moves up, resulting in a balancing act that any juggler would be proud of! 

Facts about the Falkirk Wheel  

As if a boat taking to the air isn’t impressive enough, this process uses minimal energy, with just 1.5 kWh of energy needed for each rotation. To put this into perspective, some sources say that the energy required is the same as that needed to boil 8 kettles… and, even more impressively, the entire process takes just 5 minutes to complete! 

We imagine that the opening of the Falkirk Wheel was more of a relief than anything else to all those who before it was created, would be faced with the task of navigating 44 lock gates to get from one canal to the other. We feel tired just thinking about that! 

Falkirk Wheel Tour Boat

Falkirk Wheel Boat Trip  

And if you want to take to the water yourself? Why not book yourself a seat on the “Wheel Experience”, a boat trip along the canal where you’ll spend an hour cruising the waters and experiencing how the wheel works up close? Who knew a Canal Boat Lift could be so interesting?! 

Just under 5 miles down the road from the Falkirk Wheel lies two equine sculptures that are well worth a visit. A short drive or a walk along the canal will take you straight to The Kelpies – so for those of you wondering, “How far are the Kelpies from The Falkirk Wheel?”, that’s that mystery solved! 

The Kelpies 

And so we now turn our attention to The Kelpies, two magnificent steel horse head structures that are the World’s largest equine sculpture.

The Kelpies tower above the Forth and Clyde Canal

What is a Kelpie?  

If you read or are familiar with Scottish legends, you may already know that a kelpie is often referred to as being a water horse but can be present on land in the form of a horse (with significantly more strength than that of a horse). It is worth noting that with many Scottish legends, the exact definition of a kelpie will vary depending on the one you know. 

In saying that, for the purposes of this blog, a Kelpie (sometimes known as a “Horse Head Statue” or “Horse Head Sculpture”) is a structure created by the sculptor Andy Scott. He was tasked with paying homage to the importance of horses here in Scotland with the design and production of these two fantastic steel sculptures, standing proudly in Helix Park

Each structure rises 100 feet and weighs over 300 tonnes each, meaning you’ll likely spot them well before arriving at the park! It is said that each sculpture comprises around 18,000 pieces and only took 90 days to build before being revealed in 2014. You can even watch the creation of The Kelpies yourself. Just click here

The Kelpies

The Kelpies Story

Two real-life Clydesdale horses acted as the inspiration for The Kelpies, namely Duke and Baron. Baron, who is the focus of the sculpture looking upwards, has now sadly died, although he lives on for eternity thanks to The Kelpies. 

Look in awe at these steel sculptures next time you visit Scotland… you won’t fail to be impressed! And if you just can’t wait, why not see if you can get hold of a copy of the television show “Great Canal Journeys”, featuring Timothy West and Prunella Scales? You might just find that two familiar faces make an appearance… 

Visitors explore Helix Park

The Helix home of The Kelpies 

It’s also worth spending a little time concentrating on the home of The Kelpies, namely, Helix Park. Why? The park covers 350 hectares of land and features an exhibition area, coffee shop, vast woodlands, and even a playground and some splash fountains for the little ones. 

You can also venture inside The Kelpies on your trip – it’s the best way to fully appreciate the sheer size and scale of these sculptures. 

Finally, April 2024 marks a decade of The Kelpies, with lots of special events planned to honour the occasion – there’s never been a better year to visit if you ask us!

A fabulous day out with Scottish Tours 

Experience The Kelpies for yourself on one of our tours. “The Kelpies, Stirling Castle and Loch Lomond” tour combines the gorgeous Loch Lomond with Scottish landmarks including Stirling Castle and of course, The Kelpies themselves!

Book your tour of Scotland – browse our full selection of tours today.