I decided I wanted to celebrate my 30th birthday in one of my favourite cities. It won’t come as a surprise to some of you, that that city is Edinburgh. I have written many posts about Edinburgh, and frankly I thought I had seen it all. This weekend trip I found out I didn’t. You’ll have to wait for a few weeks though, because my first post about this trip is about my first visit to Falkirk.
The first time I heard about Falkirk was when I was a little girl; I was completely obsessed by the movie & history of William Wallace (Braveheart). Falkirk is where Wallace was defeated by Edward I of England. I already saw some of Wallace’s memorabilia in Stirling so for this trip I decided to focus on the new parts of Falkirk. This is why I also didn’t plan to visit the Antonine Wall.
It’s important not to make the rookie mistake I made: don’t assume Falkirk is a small town. I didn’t check the locations of the sights I wanted to visit before the trip. Instead I found out in the train, luckily there is wi-fi on most of the public transportation in Scotland so I could google means of transportation between the sights.
On this trip I visited the city centre, the Helix (to visit the Kelpies) & the Wheel. The Falkirk “tourist bus” made it possible for me to go to all these sights within the day. This isn’t a hop-on hop-off bus tour, but rather a local bus which conveniently stops at all the major sights.
I did walk from the train station to the city centre, which took me around 20 minutes. I didn’t spend much time there, but it was enough for me to realize that Falkirk has a typically quaint city centre. A city centre you would expect from a Scottish town. This won’t help people much who haven’t been to Scotland, but just take my word for it that places like Fort William, North Berwick, Peebles, and even Edinburgh have similar High Streets.
In Falkirk High Street you can find the Steeple, the current building was built in 1814. This building is widely regarded as the centre point of the town.
If you take the aformentioned tourist bus from the city centre, you’re dropped off near the football stadium. This is the closest you’ll get to the Kelpies by bus (unless the special bus service is running which takes you all the way to the statues). If you want to reach the Kelpies you’ll have to walk around twenty minutes through the park to reach them.
Walking through Helix isn’t really a punishment. You can tell that it would be a lovely place to spend a busy weekend, or quiet weekday. The Helix is part of a project which aims to renew the areas around the canal and to make it more people friendly. You can cycle in this park, you can obviously walk, and you can also rent a boat to go onto the little lake.
However, the Kelpies are by far the Helix’ masterwork. This is clearly the park’s main feature. The Kelpies are 30m high “horse-heads”. I put the animal in parentheses because as the name suggests these aren’t horses; they are Kelpies. Mythological beasts which possess the strength and endurance of 10 horses. Do you know the monster of Loch Ness? That’s (presumably) a Kelpie too.
These Kelpie heads are insanely spectacular. The landscape and people are dwarfed next to these huge structures. I would say that the trip to Falkirk is even worth it if you would only visit this sight.
My third and last stop was another bus ride away. Quite a lengthy one as well, it would’ve taken me more than an hour to walk here so I’m happy I didn’t attempt it as the day was running towards its end.
I don’t know about you guys, but whenever I hear the Falkirk wheel mentioned I think about the London Eye. Little did I know it’s a completely different story. When I arrived I was faced with this:
I bought a ticket for the boat to find out exactly what happens, because Falkirk Wheel is a rotating boat lift. It connects the Forth Clyde Canal with the Union Canal, by lifting the boat to a higher level, which kind of feels like riding a ferris wheel. The wheel raises boats by 24 metres. Since the Union Canal is higher than that, there’s another lift a bit further on.
The Falkirk Wheel is the only rotating boat lift of its kind in the world.
The boat ride itself wasn’t very spectacular. It’s difficult to get a good view of the mechanism from the boat and I guess you would be able to see more from the bottom. However, it’s nice to say I’ve been on the only rotating boat lift of its kind in the world.
We had something breaking in the boat which made the captain lose control of our steering. We kept bumping into the sides of the tunnel. No one actually knew something was wrong until he told us on the way down. I thought bumping into things was part of the ride.
How to get there
There are regular trains and buses leaving from Edinburgh & Glasgow which will take you to Falkirk in under an hour. It’s easier to travel to the town by car, as the sights are quite far apart but as you can tell from my post it’s easily doable by bus as well.
I can’t get enough of Scotland! Falkirk was only one of three places I visited in the area during my short visit in April. I have to say that I had never expected a sight like the Kelpies in Scotland, most of the other sights I visited in Scotland have focused on the history or the impressive landscapes. I like how you still manage to surprise me Scotland!