Visiting Falkirk Wheel and Helix Park in Scotland

posted in: Blog, UK | 21

Jess, aged 14, writes: As someone who is interested in technology and engineering, I was very excited to visit Falkirk with my Grandma, her friend, and my uncle. Falkirk is a town in the Central Lowlands of Scotland and is just over 20 miles north-east of Glasgow, making it perfect for a day trip. We had two things we wanted to do in the day: visit the Kelpies (the world’s largest equine sculptures) and the Falkirk Wheel, the world’s only rotating boat lift. For someone interested in mechanics, the day was a treat – both attractions were incredible, and there was lots to do nearby.

The wheel is a real marvel of engineering
The wheel is a real marvel of engineering

The first place we visited on our trip was the Falkirk Wheel. This is a giant boat lift that connects the Forth and Clyde Canal with the Union Canal in the most spectacular way – the wheel’s gondolas rotate, lifting boats 35 metres up in the air. I was amazed by how quiet the machine was, and how simple it seemed (obviously, this is not the case: the wheel cost £84.5m, and took years to finish).

We took a boat trip up the wheel and through the canals
We took a boat trip up the wheel and through the canals

It was all good and well to admire the wheel, but I wanted to try it out for myself. My uncle and I took a fifty minute boat trip from the Visitor Centre, up the Wheel, and onto the Union Canal, which was a really cool experience. The boat was spacious, had large windows, and had a very nice man who was telling us about the wheel. It was amazing for the boat to be slowly lifted into the air, and the views underneath us were gorgeous. I found it fascinating to see such a marvel of engineering in action.

The trip was really interesting, and I learnt a lot
The trip was really interesting, and I learnt a lot

Next, we were shown a video about the history of the two canals we had been travelling on. We went through a dark tunnel, but I hardly noticed as I was engrossed in learning about the Wheel. I was amazed that the Wheel carries over 600 tonnes of water at a time, and that it can hold up eight boats!

Even though it was fifty minutes long, the tour seemed to go really quickly. Soon, my uncle and I departed the boat, just in time for a quick picnic and a trip to the gift shop. There were loads of activities for the children and space to run around, and I liked running on some interactive gears to make them spin.

I utterly loved going zorbing!
I utterly loved going zorbing!

However, the highlight of our trip to the wheel had to be going zorbing on the lake. I stood inside a giant inflatable bubble, was pushed into the water, and had to try to stand up. Needless to say, most of the time I spent in the ball was on the floor, but I really enjoyed it and must have spent at least ten minutes in there.

The Kelpies were absolutely massive and magnificent
The Kelpies were absolutely massive and magnificent

Next, it was time to visit the Kelpies in Helix Park. We drove for about five minutes, parked, and then walked for about ten minutes to get there, and I was astounded. The Kelpies are two gigantic horse-head sculptures, and are absolutely stunning. They were so big and beautiful, and I couldn’t comprehend how they had been built! Later, I discovered that they are the largest art pieces in Scotland.

The playground was gigantic, with lots to do
The playground was gigantic, with lots to do

We opted out of taking a guided tour around the Kelpies, and instead decided to have a walk around the park. It is absolutely massive, with lots to see and do. I spent ages on the kids’ playground with climbing frames and slides (it’s not so often I do this as I usually tower over all of the other children), enjoyed a walk through the vast expanses of grass, and bought a delicious (and well-priced) cake from the cafe. There was more we could have done too – there were lots of gorgeous cycling routes, pedalo boats, kayaks, canoes, and fountains to wade around in.

Overall, I had a really great day discovering Falkirk. Both the Wheel and the Kelpies were absolutely incredible, and there was a lot to do. The area was gorgeous, and it would be great for adults and kids alike. If you are in Glasgow or Edinburgh with time to spare, I definitely recommend visiting.

More by us:

Also in Scotland – Blair Drummond Safari Park

Top museums in London – for kids! (by Robert)

What to do in Norwich (by all of us!)


21 Responses

  1. Trish @ Mum's Gone To

    We visited the Falkirk Wheel a couple of years ago as we travelled from Glasgow to Edinburgh but we missed the Kelpies! They had only just been erected and we didn’t know they were there. As you can imagine, I was so disappointed when I realised as they are magnificent. 🙁

  2. Emma Raphael

    Both places sounds fantastic. I am married to an ex-engineer who would love to inspect the wheel, but as a photography geek, I would love to visit the horses too! 🙂

    • Jess

      I had seen pictures of them in the brochure, but hadn’t expected them to be so big! They’re truly magnificent.

  3. Anne

    Wow, that wheel looks amazing, I would love to have a ride on that! The Kelpies look incredible too, they look huge. If I had the chance I’d definitely go and visit.

  4. angela hamilton

    I love going to the Falkirk wheel, it is only 20 minutes by car from me (Cumbernauld). The kids love it there and we are hoping to go a couple of times during the summer holidays. We have passed the Kelpies, which I absolutely adore but have yet to be up close to them. The Helix is on our summer visit list too xx

    • Jess

      Yep – we saw a few canal boats going up it, and then we went up it ourselves when we went on the tour boat!

  5. Cass@frugalfamily

    Ooh I’ve seen this wheel in action on a TV show recently and I can’t for the life of me think what it is – it looks like so much fun 😉

  6. Hannah

    Ahhh I love the idea of zorbing here! SO FUN!
    Love the Kelpies- I think it’s great that they incorporated traditional Scottish myths and legends into this attraction!

  7. Sara Broers

    Zorbing looks like a great experience! And good golly, the sculptures in Helix park look to be out of this world. I believe it when you say they are the largest pieces of artwork in Scotland.

  8. Holly @ The Brave Little Cheesehead

    Oh my gosh ZORBING on that lake looks like so much fun! I probably would have spent most of my time on the floor of that thing too. So, you were supposed to be able to just stand up and push the ball forward by walking in it? Sounds treacherous to me! I’m definitely not that coordinated.

  9. Brianna

    As someone who has an engineering past the Falkirk Wheel looks super interesting, I’d never heard of that before! I had a chance to go zorbing on snow, I bet its a lot of fun on water too.

  10. Julie

    I would have never. ever. known about this attraction. And the boat lift is fascinating. Is is just me or does it look like one of the horses is nibbling from the tree?

  11. The Adventure Ahead

    Oh my goodness – arn’t those water bubble things so fun?! We did them with out kids recently in Whistler, BC, and they LOVED it!
    The Falkirk Wheel sounds fascinating. As always, I love reading about your adventures 🙂

  12. Sonia

    I’m desperate to have a go at zorbing, it looks like so much fun! That playground looks awesome too!

  13. Sonya Cisco

    Ooh I love a bit of industrial history – and the kelpies are astonishing!! Looks like a fab place, wish it wasnt so far away from us right at the opposite end of the island!

  14. anna

    I remember when the horse monument was inaugurated. Scotland is such an amazing place.

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