The Kelpies at the Helix Park Falkirk / Grangemouth
In recent years the Falkirk and Grangemouth area has undergone a great deal of regeneration with new parklands such as The Helix and activities like canals/boating, watersports, cycling, escape rooms, fishing, and golf. On a recent trip to Falkirk, we wanted to check out the Falkirk Wheel but the highest on our to-do list was The Kelpies at The Helix Park. Parking in the ample spaces at the Kelpies car park (free parking), we made our way over to these stunning sculptures.
What are The Kelpies?
The Kelpies are two large sculptures of horseheads created by artist Andy Scott. The sculptures are around 100ft / 30 metres tall and 300 tonnes each and are the largest equine sculptures in the world. The internal materials of the sculptures are structural steel, and the external cladding with the shapes that form the "skin" of the Kelpies is stainless steel.
In 2008, miniature versions of The Kelpies called the Kelpie Maquettes were built by Scott to use as a template for the main sculpture. Lasers were used to scan the model and the data was used to make it easier for the steel fabricators to create each section of the full-size sculpture - 928 metal panels in all. art meets engineering.
Construction started in June 2013 and took only 90 days to complete.
The Kelpies are a monument and cultural heritage site to working horses throughout Scottish history who laboured on farms, canals and Scottish industry. Clydesdale horses were used to pull barges down Scotland's canals which carved out Falkirks geographical layout. There are nice little touches to find around the site such as a poem by Jim Carruth engraved into the pathway at the Helix car park.
In Falkirk, the Kelpies are a big Scottish tourist attraction, with visitors from around Scotland, the UK, and the rest of the world. In the first year alone after opening in October 2013, nearly one million people visited the Kelpies.
The Kelpies Falkirk after dark
The Kelpie Sculptures are fantastic in daylight, but they come into their own after sunset. They are lit up with internal lighting and change colour every 30 minutes - they look spectacular. You can get a brilliant photo at night with the Kelpies reflected in the water pool in front of it.
What is a Kelpie?
A water kelpie is a mythical creature from Scottish Folklore. Said to be aquatic shape-shifting beasts that could take human form, they have the strength of 100 horses and dwell in the deepest of Scotland's lochs. The legendary Loch Ness Monster is sometimes considered a kelpie.
Can I go inside the Kelpies at Falkirk?
Yes - but the only way to see inside is via one of the guided tours. It costs £5 per adult, but two children can also come for free with each adult. Each tour lasts 15 minutes and the times will be displayed at the "head down" kelpies entrance. The tours are a great way to explore the internal engineering of the sculptures.
There is a great visitor centre on-site near The Kelpies, which includes a nice exhibition space, a gift shop and Plaza Café overlooking the Helix Lagoon. The kids loved the lego Kelpies in the exhibition area. The visitor centre and Plaza Café also have toilet facilities available.
Near the Kelpies also in The Helix Park is the Adventure Park. This is a great park with a large assault course and slide. The splash play zone is also here, which has jets of water that shoot up from outlets with coloured lights.
The adventure area also has a fantastic accessibility area for wheelchairs, including a see-saw and roundabout.
The Forth and Clyde Canal
The Forth and Clyde new Union Canal extension is located next to the Kelpies and runs through Falkirk and Glasgow and all the way to the River Clyde and out to the Firth of Clyde. The Scottish canals are an excellent way to see central Scotland by an alternative means.
The Falkirk Stadium is near the kelpies, home to Falkirk FC and East Stirlingshire FC. Additional parking is available here if the Helix car park is at capacity. Vice versa it could be working checking the football fixtures before your visit as parking will be scarce.
Where are the Falkirk Kelpies located?
They are just off the M9 near Falkirk, Scotland. You can see them well from the M9 too as you drive past. There is not an exit directly from the M9 to the Kelpies, you have to exit from the M9 first, then follow the signs for the Kelpies/Helix Park.
Can I park a motorhome at the Kelpies?
Yes! For only £5 you can stay the night in your motor home/campervan.
Do you have to pay to see The Kelpies?
No, admission is free to walk around all areas of the park, but if you would like a tour and see inside the Kelpies it will cost you £5 per adult with 2 free kids.
We had a fantastic visit to the Kelpies, it makes for a great day trip from Glasgow or Edinburgh and a must-see on your visit to Scotland. There are great walks and two national cycle routes to The Falkirk Wheel - which is also well worth a visit and could probably be done on the same day. The kids will love seeing the amazing statues and there are so many other things to see and do at The Helix Park. Callendar Park is about a 1-hour walk or 12-minute drive from Helix Park and is another great place to stop with the kids. Next stop for us was Stirling Castle to the north, but that's a story for another day!