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The Forth & Clyde Canal below the Falkirk Wheel
The Forth & Clyde Canal below the Falkirk Wheel

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Route No. 594 - Thursday 17 September 2015
"The Kelpies", Forth & Clyde Canal,
Falkirk Wheel (rotating canal boat lift) - 7km
Falkirk, Scotland . . .

Route map from Ordnance Survey Open Space service.

Map: OS Explorer 349 Falkirk, Cumbernauld & Livingston


The magnificent Kelpies!
The magnificent Kelpies!

The Kelpies look just as good from every angle
The Kelpies look just as good . . .

We pulled into the car park just after 9.30am and were very pleased to find that if you get there before 10.00am the parking is free. What an impressive sight these horses heads are! So graceful despite their size. We walked round them and viewed them from every angle on their paved plaza. They kept their sleek elegant horses appearance no matter where we viewed them from.

My wife & I are on holiday in Scotland for a couple of weeks and this morning we met my wife's sister & husband at our hotel. We all drove together to go see "The Kelpies". The Kelpies are two huge horses head sculptures around 30m high on a site between the Forth & Clyde Canal and the M9 at Falkirk. We followed the brown tourist signs to the car park at map ref. NS 907 818.

The Kelpies look just as good from every angle
. . . from every angle

Canal boat moorings at the Kelpies
Canal boat moorings at the Kelpies

One of many locks along the canal
One of many locks along the canal

The A9 road bridge over the canal
The A9 road bridge over the canal

The canal is in quite a pretty setting despite passing through an industrial area and the autumn colours in the vegetation by the canal was lovely on the morning sunshine.

From these amazing sculpture we walked along the side of the Forth & Clyde Canal that borders the site and crossed the canal at the lock that overlooks the car park. Then we continued along the canal tow path.

Leaving the Kelpies along the Forth & Clyde Canal
Leaving the Kelpies along the Forth & Clyde Canal

Wild flowers on the canal bank
Wild flowers on the canal bank

Autumn colours along the canal banks
Autumn colours along the canal banks

Protective parents with their brood of cygnets
Protective parents with their brood of cygnets

The tow path was also a cycle and was well surfaced
The tow path was also a cycle and was well surfaced

There were more locks as we progressed along the canal and as we stood looking at them a man passed by along the tow path in one of those Sinclair "Electric Cars". I think they're powered by a vacuum cleaner motor. It was a real blast from the past.

There were several locks and we passed a few families of swans on the grass beside the canal. On one of these occasions the male swan, the cob, was beginning to get aggressive as a lady walked past with her two dogs, but they just kept going and the swan soon settled down again.

More locks as we followed the tow path
More locks as we followed the tow path

A Sinclair
A Sinclair "C5 Electric Car" passed us along the tow path

Boat owner waiting for the lock to fill
Boat owner waiting for the lock to fill

Easigoing pleasant stroll along the tow path
Easygoing pleasant stroll along the tow path

Further on we sat by the canal next to a cast Iron openwork sculpture of three prominent canal men including John Smeaton the designer of the Forth & Clyde Canal.

We stopped by one of the locks to have a word with a boat owner who was standing in the stern of his boat waiting for the lock to fill so that he could continue his pleasure trip along the canal.

Interesting graffiti by the canal
Interesting graffiti by the canal

Iron sculpture of John Smeaton & others by the canal
Iron sculpture of John Smeaton & others by the canal

The white building is The Union Inn -
The white building is The Union Inn - "Lock 16"

Heading along the tow path nearing the Falkirk Wheel
Heading along the tow path nearing the Falkirk Wheel

We followed the canal tow path past another lock and then the Falkirk wheel, a rotating boat lift, came into view across the canal. We crossed a bridge over the canal and walked up to the visitors concourse around the site of the Falkirk Wheel.

As we continued our way along the canal we passed an old Dutch sailing barge called the 'Het Leven' that seems to be from the small town of Westzaan in the province of North Holland. The name means 'The Life' in the sense that 'this is the life'

Old Dutch barge, the 'Het Leven' of Westzaan in North Holland
Old Dutch barge, the 'Het Leven' of Westzaan in North Holland

Bridge over the canal to the Falkirk Wheel
Bridge over the canal to the Falkirk Wheel

Our first proper view of the Falkirk Wheel
Our first proper view of the Falkirk Wheel

Passenger boat enters the bottom 'gondola'
Passenger boat enters the bottom 'gondola'

Our boat sailed into the 'gondola' (the official name for a large rectangular tank incorporated in the wheel). The water tight doors were shut on this tank and on the one at the top of the wheel and the wheel began to rotate.

This is a fascinating structure. It replaces a flight of locks that moved canal boats from the Forth & Clyde Canal up to the Union Canal for onward passage to Edinburgh and vice-versa. We had a light lunch in the cafe here and then took the boat trip up to the Union Canal and back.

Passenger boat for trips up to the Union Canal & back
Passenger boat for trips up to the Union Canal & back

The wheel has rotated part way with the gondolas still level
The wheel has rotated part way with the gondolas still level

The almost aligned
The almost aligned

Emerging from the tunnel on the Union Canal
Emerging from the tunnel on the Union Canal

In the gondola ready to go down to the Forth & Clyde canal
In the gondola ready to go down to the Forth & Clyde canal

Our boat passed through a short length of tunnel and then turned round to make the return journey. It was a fascinating trip, well worth it to experience this huge mechanism working.

It was a very gentle movement, hardly noticeable at first. A system of gears kept the tanks (sorry, 'gondolas') level as the wheel rotated and soon we reached the top of the movement, the watertight doors to the gondola were opened and we sailed out into the Union Canal.

View from the boat as the wheel begins to turn
View from the boat as the wheel begins to turn

The boat starts to leave the gondola entering the Union Canal
The boat starts to leave the gondola entering the Union Canal

The boat has turned round to re-enter the tunnel
The boat has turned round to re-enter the tunnel

Boat in the top gondola ready for the wheel to rotate
Boat in the top gondola ready for the wheel to rotate

Carved rock next to the Pink Loop Bus stop at the Falkirk Wheel
Carved rock next to the Pink Loop Bus stop at the Falkirk Wheel

Then after our boat trip we made our way to the bus stop next to the site to get the 'Pink Loop Bus' back to the car park at 'The Kelpies' site where we had started our visit this morning.

We had had a lovely day with our visit to the very impressive sculptures, The Kelpies and then our linking walk of about 6km along the canal tow path to see the engineering marvel of the Falkirk Wheel.

Arriving at the Pink Loop Bus stop back at the Kelpies
Arriving at the Pink Loop Bus stop back at the Kelpies

Aqueduct and the Falkirk Wheel forming the end of the Union Canal where it joins the Forth & Clyde canal below seen from the bus stop
Aqueduct & the Falkirk Wheel forming the end of the Union Canal where it joins the Forth & Clyde canal below seen from the bus stop

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