AT ITS eastern end, the Forth and Clyde Canal passes through some industrial areas, but there are enough trees and wildlife (most noticeably swans, but heron and roe deer can also be seen) to make it a pleasant stroll.
The fact that industrial heritage is now a tourist attraction would probably seem strange to the people who built the canal at the end of the 19th century. But the Falkirk Wheel and the Kelpies – the 100ft foot high Andy Scott sculptures – allow for a great mix of canalside walking and interest.
Starting the walk at the Kelpies – designed as a monument to the horse power used by Scotland across its history – means the adjacent Helix park can be visited afterwards, which is especially good for families on a sunny day. Here there is a lagoon with boat hire as well as a large playground and water park (be prepared to get wet).
At the halfway point of the walk, the Falkirk Wheel is a more established attraction, having been opened by the Queen in 2002. It is the world’s only fully rotating boat lift and links the Forth and Clyde Canal with the Union Canal. It is welcoming coach loads of visitors, and is a great example of how industrial ingenuity and nature can make a good spectacle.
DISTANCE 8 miles.
HEIGHT CLIMBED Negligible.
TIME 3 to 4 hours.
MAP OS Landranger 65.
PARK At the Kelpies car park. Turn off the A9 north of Falkirk Football Club’s stadium and follow the signs to the end of the access road.
IN SUMMARY Cross the entrance road to the car park to reach the Forth and Clyde Canal and go right, towards the Kelpies. When you get close to the huge sculptures bear right to walk between them before crossing the water either by a lock gate or low wooden bridge and turning left. (It is worth taking time to walk all the way round the structures before continuing.)
Once behind some brown wooden huts, cross the canal by a lock gate and turn left – you are now following the towpath on the other side of the canal, which leads to the Falkirk Wheel. Don’t cross any lock gates as you make your way along and stay by the canal – except when roads have to be crossed or one section where steps lead up to a railway bridge and back down to the towpath.
The Falkirk Wheel is only seen at the last minute. To reach it cross a wooden bridge marked “09”. Take time to explore the engineering feat before retracing your steps to the start.
REFRESH There is a cafe at the Kelpies and one at the Falkirk Wheel, as well as a couple of canalside eateries and pubs.
WHILE YOU ARE IN THE AREA
The Falkirk Wheel visitor centre and a boat trip on the wheel itself is an enjoyable way to break the walk (www.thefalkirkwheel.co.uk). Or explore more of the Helix park next to the Kelpies with pedaloes, canoes and kayaks on its lagoon, as well as the (wet and dry) playgrounds (www.thehelix.co.uk). n