The Kelpies

The Kelpies

The Kelpies


24 December 2015


Helix Park, Falkirk
NS 90621 82170; 56.01990°N, 3.75630°W


The Kelpies are a pair of 30-metre-high, 300-tonne steel horse-head sculptures standing at the entrance to the Forth and Clyde Canal in Helix Park, Falkirk next to the M9 motorway.

The work was designed by Glasgow-based sculptor Andy Scott (b 1964), who specialises in public art, and it opened to the public in April 2014. The name, which refers to the Scottish folkloric malevolent shape-shifting water spirit often taking the appearance of a horse, was chosen by Scottish Canals at the outset of the project in 2005. Scott, however, developed the theme as a tribute to the heavy draft animals that played such a prominent role in the industrial history of the area. He modelled his 1:10 scale, hand-welded maquettes for the sculptures on two Clydesdale horses, Duke and Baron, who made a guest appearance at the official ‘topping out’ ceremony at the end of construction in November 2013.

The three-metre-high maquettes were laser scanned in order to fabricate the corresponding full-scale steel components. These were manufactured by Yorkshire-based SH Structures Ltd, who also erected the sculptures on site in 90 days. The sculptures stand by the new ‘Kelpies Hub’ turning basin and extension to the canal linking it to the North Sea, both of which opened for boating at the same time as the sculptures opened to the public. The Kelpies cost £5 million and were funded by the National Lottery, Falkirk Council and Scottish Canals.

The £1.8 million visitor centre was designed by Dundee architects Nicol Russell Studios and opened to the public in October 2015.

On 1 April 2015 The Scotsman newspaper ran an April Fool’s story stating that £2 million of remedial work, which would involved closing the attraction for up to a year, would be necessary to repair rust damage to the foundations of the sculptures. The problem was first discovered, so the story claimed, when American tourist Flora Pilo (an anagram of April Fool!) noticed the horses’ heads sinking downwards in a ten-minute time-lapse video she had recorded on a visit to the site.

Further Reading

The Kelpies (The Helix)


Falkirk Wheel

Falkirk Wheel. Opened in 2002, the world's first and only rotating boat lift re-established the link between the Union Canal and the Forth and Clyde Canal.


22 December 2011


NS 85257 80131; 56.00033°N, 3.84144°W


The 35-mile-long Forth & Clyde Canal was built between 1768 and 1790 to provide a shipping route across central Scotland from the Firth of Forth in the east to the Firth of Clyde in the west. A route from its eastern end to Edinburgh — a distance of about 31 miles — was created with the construction of the Union Canal between 1818 and 1822. The two canals were connected by a flight of 11 locks at Falkirk, where their difference in height was 35 metres.

Competition from the railways spelt the demise of the canals. Commercial use of the Union Canal came to an end in the 1930s and the flight of locks at Falkirk was filled in and built over. The Forth & Clyde Canal ultimately fell into disuse in the 1960s when it was closed in order to avoid having to build a motorway crossing.

British Waterways, with support from a number of sources, including National Lottery funding via the Millennium Commission, led an £84.5m project to revitalise the two canals. The Millennium Link was the UK’s largest canal restoration project and its centrepiece was the Falkirk Wheel — the world’s first and only rotary boat lift.

The Falkirk Wheel was officially opened in May 2002 and cost £17.5m. Its overall diameter is 35 metres and its shape was inspired by a Celtic double-headed axe. Boats can transfer through the lift in about 15 minutes, with a half rotation of the wheel taking 4 minutes, during which time a water-filled gondola at the lower level swaps position with its counterpart at the upper level. The wheel is always in perfect balance due to Archimedes’ principle — a floating object displaces its own weight in water — so as a boat enters a gondola, a volume of water equal to the weight of the boat is forced out, preserving the original net weight of the gondola plus water. The energy required to operate the wheel is only 1.5 kWh, roughly equivalent to that needed to boil 8 kettles of water.

The upper level of the Wheel is connected via a reinforced-concrete aqueduct to a 180-metre-long tunnel ending in a basin which in turn connects to the Union Canal via a double lock. The Roughcastle tunnel was built when the Wheel was constructed so as not to disturb the Roman remains of the Antonine Wall, under which it passes.

The Falkirk Wheel (; Falkirk Wheel (Wikipedia)