The colossal Kelpies, which tower over a new section of the historic Forth & Clyde Canal, are the centrepieces of the £43m Helix project. The scheme, driven by a partnership of Falkirk Council and Scottish Canals and supported by an award of £25m from the Big Lottery Fund, has transformed 350 hectares of underused land between Falkirk and Grangemouth into a vibrant parkland, visitor attraction and marine hub with the canal and The Kelpies at its heart.
Millions of visitors from all over the world have stood in the shadow of the sculptures since their unveiling in April 2014, bringing renewed vibrancy to the area.
Clad in almost 1000 shimmering steel panels, standing the same height as six and a half double-decker buses, and weighing more than 600 tonnes, The Kelpies are a monumental addition to the Falkirk and Grangemouth skyline that are estimated to be seen by more than 50 million people per year from the canal, the M9 motorway, and The Helix itself.
The inspiration for The Kelpies came from the heavy horses which pulled boats and cargo along the towpaths of the Forth & Clyde and Union Canals in their heyday. The transport arteries of the Industrial Revolution, the canals and the horses that walked them played a huge role in the development of the area. The sculptures’ name was derived from the mythical Celtic water horses which could transform their shape and which were reputed to have the strength of 10 horses and the endurance of many more.
Artist Andy Scott designed The Kelpies
Originally envisioned as a moving boat lift, during the early design process the notion of The Kelpies changed to monumental sculptures symbolising the industrial past of both the canal and the communities that line its banks. Glasgow-based artist Andy Scott – Scotland’s best-known equine sculptor – transformed The Kelpies from idea to reality, imagining a colossal gateway towering either side of the canal to welcome weary sailors and visitors to the nation’s hospitable shores.
The new canal which passes between The Kelpies is one of the most complex sections of waterway ever built in Scotland. Passing beneath the M9 motorway and the A905 trunk road, the new section and sea lock dramatically improve access to the Forth & Clyde Canal’s eastern gateway.
The one-kilometre extension returns the Forth & Clyde back to its birthplace in Grangemouth some 250 years after it was built, and is the final piece in the Millennium Link project that restored the nation’s inland waterways back to a navigable state for the first time in more than 50 years and saw the construction of the iconic Falkirk Wheel.
As well as The Kelpies and the canal, The Helix offers a myriad of attractions including a wetland boardwalk, a lagoon, a splash play area, The Horsebox and Plaza cafes, and 27km of flat, traffic-free paths.
The area is also a valuable educational resource attracting school pupils and college and university students, with its unique biodiversity offering learning and teaching opportunities for all ages and stages, as well as less-formal nature walks and discovery events.