Posts Tagged ‘Kelpies’

The Kelpies

The Kelpies

Ever since reading about the Kelpies I’d wanted to visit them, and I was pleased when I realised that the Falkirk Wheel was just a few miles away. So yesterday’s trip was to Falkirk to see both of these attractions. They could be described as major engineering artefacts albeit with different functions – the Wheel’s is functional whereas the Kelpies’ is artistic and commemorative.

But on to practicalities. I travelled to Falkirk by train from Edinburgh Haymarket. (The same trains can be caught from Waverley.) It turns out there are two stations in Falkirk, High and Grahamston, and neither are especially convenient for onward travel to these attractions. Tickets from Edinburgh are to ‘Falkirk Stations’, i.e. whichever one you fancy, and it so happened that the first train that came along was to Falkirk High so that was where I went. A walk of a mile or so got me into Falkirk town where, annoyingly, there is no tourist information centre… But a friendly local directed me to the bus station where I quickly bus to the Wheel.

Here, unfortunately, more annoyances ensued. The visitor centre, cafe and toilets were all shut – it was a Tuesday in March so winter hours applied! Essentially, there are no facilities open at the Wheel on Mondays or Tuesdays during the winter. However the wheel was working and I was able to get a few pictures (quite a lot, actually) of the Wheel doing its thing. It’s certainly impressive, but as is often the way with big engineering installations – the Thames Barrier springs to mind – you quickly get used to the scale of the thing and it stops seeming quite so remarkable. Perhaps the fact that it “just works” is the best testament to the quality of the engineering.

Then I needed to get to the Kelpies at the Helix Park, and the easiest way to do this was to walk along the Forth and Clyde canal which links the two sites. The walk is about 3 1/2 miles or maybe a bit more, and it took me over an hour. When I did so the effort was rewarded. It’s difficult to overestimate how impressive the Kelpies are. More so than the Wheel, perhaps – there is a cognitive disconnect makes it all the more so – you never get used to it. After all, it’s a high-tech sculpture of a couple of horses’ heads – 100 feet high…… Every time you look at it the illogicality of it hits you, but so does the beauty of the thing.

Also – and after the walk I was ready for this – the visitor centre was open, with a cafė and toilets. No winter opening hours here! However, there was still one ‘winter hours’ factor to take account of – the dedicated bus from the Kelpies back into town wasn’t yet running – no service in winter. So I had to finish the visit with another walk of through Helix Park to Falkirk Stadium to the nearest regular bus stop, which was a mile’s walk I could have done without – blisters were rising by this time. After getting back to town I walked to Falkirk Grahamston station because it was the nearer of the two and happily discovered that a train to Edinburgh was due in just a few minutes.


So that was my day in Falkirk. I felt that the two attractions were wonderful, and Falkirk should promote them as hard as it can. But there seems to be a lack of joined-up thinking about doing so. There was no information about them at either of the stations, for example, and as I’ve already mentioned, no tourist information in Falkirk town centre (or none that I could see). And they have to make getting from one to the other easier than it is, all year round. I was able to do the walk but it was harder than I’d expected. For families or those who can’t walk the distance the only choices are cars, either their own or taxis. Although the Wheel feels more remote than the Kelpies (and is further out of town) there is a good regular bus service to it, whereas the Kelpies, which is closer to town and is part of a large park/leisure attraction, seems only to be served by the dedicated bus, and only in summer. Strange.

Yesterday evening I first rested up at the hotel and contemplated my blisters. Then I spoke sternly to myself, put my shoes on (ouch) and went out to eat and drink. I had a pleasant meal (onion rings to start, burger’n’fries for main – I needed comfort food) at The Huxley, and it all hit the spot. It was probably helped by the Edinburgh Fizz Special – Prosecco plus some Edinburgh gin liqueur, rhubarb in my case. Very dry and refreshing. A glass of Cabernet Sauvignon also helped. After the meal I walked to the Cafe Royal where I marvelled at the tiled murals and enjoyed a glass of Laphroig, and afterwards walked back to the hotel via the White Hart, where I confirmed that Lagavulin is slightly more to my taste than Laphroig (though both are excellent). Then to bed.

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