Falkirk, Scotland

The Wee White Dug meets ‘The Kelpies’

At the end of a wet weekend, we woke to discover a miracle. The sun was shining.

We were desperate to enjoy a rain-free day so hopped in the car and headed west to visit The Kelpies, Falkirk Wheel and Scotland’s oddest summerhouse – The Pineapple.

A day trip to Falkirk
The Kelpies

The Kelpies are a magnificent pair of equine giants, which rise from an intersection of the Forth & Clyde Canal in an area of reclaimed parkland known as The Helix. Built on-site, the sculptures were completed on 27 November 2013 and immediately became as intrinsically Scottish as Edinburgh Castle, Irn-bru and West Highland White Terriers.

Created by artist Andy Scott, each 30-metre high sculpture weighs 300 tonnes. They’re a tribute to the working horses which once toiled in this industrial heartland of Scotland – towing barges, pulling heavy loads and dragging farm machinery behind them.

Although symbolic of Scotland’s working horses, The Kelpies are also steeped in Scottish mythology. A Kelpie is a water spirit, usually seen in the form of a large black horse, but with the ability to shapeshift into human form. They’re found beside lochs and rivers and although they look beautiful, they’re deadly. They befriend humans, enticing them on to their back, before riding off into the water and drowning them.

Urban regeneration 

As we strolled towards the Kelpies, we passed a lovely area of wetland which had been reclaimed from wasteland. It was rich in plant and animal life. It was hard to picture it having been anything other than a pretty and peaceful spot. We tried to creep past a sleeping swan but the boy was having none of it. He stopped to stare, transfixed – his wee tail wagging ten to the dozen.

The stretch of canal by The Kelpies was busy with boats. We grabbed a coffee and stopped to watch a barge as it passed through a lock. There’s something quite wonderful about watching the water rise and fall in a canal lock.

A few months ago our guilty pleasure had been watching ‘Canal Journeys’ – a TV series following Prunella Scales of Fawlty Towers “Baaaaaaasil” fame and her thespian hubby Timothy West. The series followed the pair as they explored the canals of Britain and Europe. How rock n roll are we? In our defence, we chalked our viewing off as travel research and usually combined it with a glass or two of wine.

We lingered by The Kelpies a while, straining our necks to snap photos of them. From the roadside their scale is impressive, but up close they’re huge. On a sunny day, when the light hits them just right, they shimmer and glisten like the water in a cool mountain stream. As we admired their impressive scale the sky turned black and they seemed to glow. The contrast of black sky and silver kelpies was stunning.

Our next destination was the Falkirk Wheel, but en-route we passed a slightly older Falkirk attraction.

The Antonine Wall

The Antonine Wall is a Roman turf defence which stretches for 60 kilometres across the Central Belt of Scotland, from the River Clyde in the west to the River Forth in the east. When it was built in 142 AD to keep marauding Caledonian tribes out of Roman Britannia, it was a feat of engineering on a scale never seen before in Scotland.

Sections of the stone foundation and defensive ditch can still be seen today. As you know, I’m a die hard history geek. I find Roman history fascinating, having developed a bit of an obsession after visiting the awe inspiring ruins at Pompeii, Herculaneum and Rome. Scotland’s Roman remains aren’t quite as grand, but they’re still worth seeing. History’s history after all and even by today’s modern building standards, the Antonine Wall is a pretty impressive big ditch.

Mini kelpies and spooky canal tunnels

Parking at the Falkirk Wheel, we couldn’t resist snapping a photo or two of the boy posing with the miniature kelpies sculpture in the car park. Despite being a fraction of the size of the originals, they loomed like giants over the Wee White Dug.

Before heading down to the Visitor Centre, we climbed uphill for a closer look at the aqueduct which carries boats to and from the Falkirk Wheel. I loved the big, looping arches above the water. I’m quite partial to a bit of symmetry.

Not far from the aqueduct stands the Rough Castle Tunnel. It runs beneath the Antonine Wall and is wonderfully atmospheric. Walking along a narrow, dark path with water as black as the grave next to you, it’s hard not to feel spooked. As ever, the boy took it all in his stride and was eager to explore.

The Falkirk Wheel

It was nice to leave the cold, damp tunnel and step back into daylight. Near the Visitor Centre we found a spot with a good view of the Falkirk Wheel and watched in awe as it picked up a barge full of people and transported it 35 metres into the air and onto the viaduct. At the same time another barge was lowered down from the viaduct. It was really impressive and a wee bit hair-raising to watch. I’m not a fan of heights but I’ll definitely brave the wheel soon.

The wheel celebrated its 15th birthday recently, yet it’s hard to believe that it’s still so young. Like The Kelpies, it’s become one of Scotland’s most iconic symbols, which makes it seem like it’s been around forever. It’s an extraordinary feat of engineering and is the only boat lift of its type in the World. Although it’s a popular tourist attraction, it has a practical purpose too – it links the Union and the Clyde Canals.

As we were trying to decide where to go for lunch the sun made an appearance. The merest hint of sunshine made the on-site hot dog van impossible to resist. We grabbed a picnic table with a view of the wheel and feasted on hot dogs, fries and Irn-bru. They even had soggy hot dog onions – yay. None of this crispy onion nonsense for me. Hot dog onions should always be served boiled, hot and soggy. Lunch hit the spot perfectly.

The Pineapple

Our final stop of the day was The Pineapple, which is located 10 miles north of Falkirk.

The Pineapple is easily Scotland’s most bizarre building. Commissioned by the 4th Earl of Dunmore in 1761 the summerhouse must have raised some eyebrows when it was built. It’s not known for sure who the architect was, which could suggest he didn’t want the strange folly to become his legacy.

In its early days there was a hothouse in the ground floor of the building. Amongst the exotic delights that were grown in it were pineapples. Pineapples grown in a pineapple, it’s no wonder the British aristocracy have a reputation for being a bit batty.

The Pineapple isn’t open to the public other than as a holiday let, but the large walled garden which it sits in is. It’s managed by the National Trust for Scotland and is definitely worth visiting if you’re ever in the area. It’s a pleasant place for a walk, plus you get to see a gigantic pineapple, which isn’t something you’ll see every day.

As we were exploring the garden the heavens opened on us. I would have been happy to take shelter in the woodland trails on the estate but Mr G flew back to the car as if there was a serious risk of him dissolving in the rain.

Although our visit to Falkirk was an impromptu one, we ended up having a great time. There’s more to Scotland than lochs, mountains and glens. And although I adore the scenic spots, I also love Scotland’s urban landscapes and industrial heartland. They played a huge part in shaping the country that I known and love today and have lots to offer visitors. So, if you’re planning a trip to Scotland, make sure Falkirk’s on your list of places to see.

If you enjoyed this blog about Falkirk, you may like this one too.

Until next time ….

22 thoughts on “The Wee White Dug meets ‘The Kelpies’”

  1. Every time when I’m visiting Scotland my “home base” is Falkirk. Thus I know the Wheel and the Helix quite well. Both places are awesome and proof of great engineering. Your pictures are beautiful and the wee dug is an enjoyable bonus to them. Nicely written blog – all together a great read on a sunny morning in Germany.

    1. Samantha Grant – A Scottish travel blogger and digital influencer, exploring Scotland with my Westie Casper and husband Alex, to bring you the very best of scotland.
      Samantha Grant says:

      Thank you, so glad you enjoyed. Falkirk is a great base. Sadly it’s raining in Edinburgh today (again)!

  2. Lovely pics, thank you. We visited the Kelpies and the Wheel just last week – both magnificent and you have captured them beautifully. 🙂

    1. Samantha Grant – A Scottish travel blogger and digital influencer, exploring Scotland with my Westie Casper and husband Alex, to bring you the very best of scotland.
      Samantha Grant says:

      Thank you – it’s a great day out. So much to see and do there. 😊

  3. Marje @ Kyrosmagica – Hi. Welcome to my blog: M J Mallon - Kyrosmagica Publishing. A blog about magic, books, writing, laughter, and much more! I'm a YA fantasy author, poet and reviewer. My first YA fantasy novel The Curse of Time - Book 1 - Bloodstone is set in Cambridge and Book 2 - Golden Healer is now out too. As well as this, I have contributed to several anthologies, created my own with some amazing international writers, bloggers and creatives during the pandemic: This Is Lockdown and written two poetry collections: Lockdown Innit Poems About Absurdity & Mr. Sagittarius Poetry and Prose. I write book reviews on my blog and on Goodreads, book bub and on my bookstagram. I have a penchant for travel and have relatives in far flung places, Australia, Malaysia, and Singapore, (my birthplace.) I grew up in in Bonnie Scotland, in Edinburgh, and now live in Cambridge. I love sunny, hot places, particularly Rome, Venice, Portugal, Barcelona, and I forgot to mention the sun drenched beaches of the Caribbean, how could I? I am lucky to have been blessed with two lovely daughters and a husband who I fondly refer to in this blog as my black sheep. Family joke! With my passion for travel, culture, beautiful beaches, good food, books, theatre, writing, and humour, I hope to keep you entertained. I'm loving every minute of this creative journey, please join me.
    Marje @ Kyrosmagica says:

    Hi, love this post and your wee dog is so cute. saw your message on twitter synchronicity indeed. The Kelpies were awesome.

    1. Samantha Grant – A Scottish travel blogger and digital influencer, exploring Scotland with my Westie Casper and husband Alex, to bring you the very best of scotland.
      Samantha Grant says:

      Thank you 😊

  4. authorstephanieparkermckean – Fortrose, Scotland – While I am blessed to now live in Scotland with my wonderful husband, Alan, I'm a Texas girl and proud of Texas. I'm a writer--from birth--I think. Sunpenny Publishing has just released Bridge to Nowhere, the first in a Miz Mike series--and yes--Miz Mike is from Texas! Three Prongs where the misfits fit. Sounds a bit like Bandera, Texas!
    authorstephanieparkermckean says:

    Amen! What a marvelous adventure! Thanks for sharing it – and the gorgeous photos – with your readers.

    1. Samantha Grant – A Scottish travel blogger and digital influencer, exploring Scotland with my Westie Casper and husband Alex, to bring you the very best of scotland.
      Samantha Grant says:

      Thank you as ever for your kind comments.

    1. Samantha Grant – A Scottish travel blogger and digital influencer, exploring Scotland with my Westie Casper and husband Alex, to bring you the very best of scotland.
      Samantha Grant says:

      Thanks for reading – you’ll love the kelpies. 😍

  5. shazza – My name is Shazza and I live in a small town in North west England with my boyfriend and our black lab Hugo and black cat Slinky. I work in a supermarket full time and in my spare time i enjoy reading,film,food( mostly eating it,I am a terrible cook!),taking photos,travel,camping,wildlife,spending time with my mates and hunting in car boots and charity shops for vintage teacups.This blog is hopefully going to be a collection of my fave things and musings on life,the universe and everything.Xx
    shazza says:

    Fabulous! I definitely need to go see the Kelpies and the pineapple.:)

    1. Samantha Grant – A Scottish travel blogger and digital influencer, exploring Scotland with my Westie Casper and husband Alex, to bring you the very best of scotland.
      Samantha Grant says:

      For sure, you won’t be disappointed 😊🍍

  6. Little Miss Traveller – England – An independent traveller writing about her visits to countries near and far - travel diaries and days out providing inspiration for fellow travellers
    Little Miss Traveller says:

    Would love to visit the Falkirk Wheel sometime!

    1. Samantha Grant – A Scottish travel blogger and digital influencer, exploring Scotland with my Westie Casper and husband Alex, to bring you the very best of scotland.
      Samantha Grant says:

      It’s a great area and definitely worth adding to a Scottish travel itinerary

  7. edgar62 – Semi-retired in South Australia. Interests are Music (Andre Rieu, Anna Netrebko) Reading (SciFi / Crime) and History Movies: The Day After Tomorrow, Casablanca, The Man Who Would be King Community: Secretary Support group, Royal Flying Doctor Service.
    edgar62 says:

    Some friends have just come back from Scotland and Europe and took a number of photographs of the Kelpies and the Falkirk Wheel. Interestingly enough the Artist who created the Kelpies visited our little backwater of Whyalla and created a sculpture here. The Sculpture he created here is called “The Loaded Dog” and you can view the sculpture and read the story here – http://www.whyallavet.com.au
    Glad to know that Scottish weather is living up to its reputation. You are so right, there is more to Scotland than hills, glens and lochs – Edinburgh and the Reformation / Glasgow and the Tobacco Industry / Lobby Dosser and Rank Badyin.

    1. Samantha Grant – A Scottish travel blogger and digital influencer, exploring Scotland with my Westie Casper and husband Alex, to bring you the very best of scotland.
      Samantha Grant says:

      What a great connection – I can see the similarity to The Kelpies. The weather has been hellish. Summer is now officially my least favourite season as it’s when the weather is most disappointing.

  8. Do love these pen pictures of our Scottish treasures including your brilliant wee dog, Casper. Thank you for these interesting newsletters & sharing Caspers’s journeys around Scotland. What an Ambassador! 😊

    1. Samantha Grant – A Scottish travel blogger and digital influencer, exploring Scotland with my Westie Casper and husband Alex, to bring you the very best of scotland.
      Samantha Grant says:

      Thank you so much – glad you enjoyed 😊

  9. I didn’t realise you can get up to the top of the wheel without being on a boat. I took my parents on the tourist boat there last year but didn’t notice there was a walkway to the side.

    1. Samantha Grant – A Scottish travel blogger and digital influencer, exploring Scotland with my Westie Casper and husband Alex, to bring you the very best of scotland.
      Samantha Grant says:

      Yes, it’s great as you can explore the creepy tunnel too.

    1. Samantha Grant – A Scottish travel blogger and digital influencer, exploring Scotland with my Westie Casper and husband Alex, to bring you the very best of scotland.
      Samantha Grant says:

      Thank you so much. I’m really pleased you enjoyed it. 😊

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