The Kelpies & The Falkirk Wheel

The Forth and Clyde Canal runs for some 35 miles from the River Forth at Grangemouth to the River Clyde at Bowling and between Falkirk and Grangemouth there’s a short but interesting stretch between two famous landmarks, the Falkirk Wheel and The Kelpies. Of course, as canals runs mostly on the flat, apart from short rises at locks, it’s ideal for kick scooting.

My journey today starts at Grangemouth, where the canal starts, or ends, depending on your point of view, at the River Forth and the Firth of Forth. I could have started at The Kelpies, which is a short way inland, but wanted to begin right at the end of the canal as I have a mind that I might scoot the entire length, even if only in short sections at a time.

My steed for today was my trusty Swift Zero, as my research had shown that the canal towpath was mostly good smooth tarmac, ideal for the smaller, and faster, tyres of the Swifty Zero. Weather was on the cool side, so shorts were traded for warmer leggings with the addition of a light jacket on top. The wind was from the west, so a slight headwind, but nothing to bother about.

My first stop was, of course, The Kelpies, two 30m high steel sculptures of the mythical water horses that frequent some Scottish lochs and rivers. They must be seen to really grasp the true scale of their majesty and my photographs do not do them justice. Unfortunately, due to the Covid-19 outbreak, the visitor centre was largely closed, as were the toilets, but on the plus side, it was much quieter than usual with far fewer tourists visiting the site.

My route followed the canal upstream and I was surprised to find myself gradually gaining elevation, the canal itself also rising with the aid of some 16 locks. In the past much of the land beside the canal would have been industrial but little remains today other than the tell-tale street names that hint at other times. A sharp eye will spot the odd remains of past industry. The canal path itself was fairly busy with runners, people out for a morning stroll, dog walkers, people fishing and quite a few cyclists, though not too many that the path was over-crowded.

With this stretch at only 4 miles, I was soon at the Falkirk Wheel, which is essentially a modern-day boat-lift, replacing the 10 locks that used to take canal traffic up to the Union Canal that eventually ends 31 miles away in Edinburgh, but that’s a scoot for another day. Tourists were conspicuous by their absence today with only a handful of cyclists dotted about the area. After a quick drink, I about-turned and headed back the way I’d come only this time enjoying the more downhill aspect of the route.

Soon, I was back at The Kelpies and the car was only a few hundred meters further towards the coast. This being my first canal scoot with either Swifty, it’s good to know that there’s still another 30 miles of the Union Canal and 35 miles of the Forth and Clyde Canal just waiting for me to explore. Watch this space, as they say.

Copyright ©2020 Gary Buckham. All rights reserved.

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