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The Kelpies: the mane attraction at The Helix

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Just imagine this: travelling along an unremarkable section of motorway, when, seemingly out of nowhere, two gigantic, glinting horse heads, stretching almost a hundred feet high, rise up in front of you.

If you have not yet seen them from the M9, then let me tell you about these structures, straight from the horse’s mouth. They are The Kelpies, designed by Scottish sculptor Andy Scott, and they’re the largest pair of equine sculptures in the world.

A sight you won’t forget

Towering above the Forth & Clyde Canal, The Kelpies are a feat of engineering, each made with 300 tonnes of structural steel, and are a monumental tribute to the horse power heritage that was vital to the early industries of central Scotland.

It’s a project which I have observed since construction began. I travelled between Edinburgh and Stirling many times during the course of the build – the highlight of each journey was undoubtedly when I laid eyes on these evolving, steely steeds.

I saw the huge metal frames emerge from the ground and transform into the shape of horses’ heads. The careful construction of the stainless steel ‘skin’ panels slowly but surely brought these sculptures to life; the effect of this cladding is so that The Kelpies look solid and strong while at the same time appear porous and fluid.

Experience them yourself

These two incredible sculptures are the centre piece of Scotland’s newest parkland The Helix, which lies between Falkirk and Grangemouth in the Forth Valley. This recreational space, which has 27 km of pathways to discover, opened in September 2013.

The Kelpies Hub is home to a visitor centre with a café, exhibition and gift shop. Should you want to find out more about the story of these metallic beasts, take The Kelpies Tour – you’ll even get to see the sculptures from the inside!

And then try…

South of The Kelpies Hub, the Adventure Zone play area and café are situated by the Lagoon. It’s the perfect spot to let the kids blow off steam while you relax at the water’s edge with a book!

Make a day of it and plan a cycle through some of the tracks of the 350 hectare site, or take to the water and explore the Lagoon by kayak or pedalo.

Or, why not plan a weekend in the region and check out other quirky attractions in and around Stirling and the Forth Valley region, such as the Falkirk Wheel, Stirling Castle and the Dunmore Pineapple?


This blog post was originally published in November 2013 and was updated January 2016.

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Amy Robertson

Amy is a content executive at VisitScotland. Hailing from the west coast of Scotland, she's rather fond of music festivals, coastal walks, whisky and coal fires.

Comments

  • Christine Woods

    I loved the Kelpies. I saw them in September last year. I didn’t know anything about them but a camping neighbour told me and my husband about them and said we must go to see them. We went to the Falkirk wheel first and thought that was it. Oh how wrong we were! While we were there someone said have you seen the real ones? We thought he was winding us up! He told us where to find the Originals and wow! We had such a shock when we saw the size of them. We also saw them from the motorway on our way back to the campsite and only regret not seeing them out up at night! They are magnificent and a credit too Scotland. I love them. We have a sculpture here in St Helens called the Dream and although it is also magnificent it is not lit up at night due some say to vandalism some say it will cause crashes on the motorway which runs alongside it. I disagree and after seeing the pictures of the Kelpies lit up it would also look magnificent. Maybe our local council could come and see the Kelpies for themselves and see what an asset it would be to the town and surrounding areas .

    • Glad to hear you enjoyed both sets of The Kelpies! We have to agree that they are marvellous, and are well worth seeing during the day and at night. Thanks for sharing your experience, it sounds like you made some great discoveries. 🙂

  • Simba

    Are there any campsites nearby – we will be traveling up from Essex and have a motorhome

  • gary horsey

    can you tell me of any good places to vist in july of this year got the kelpies and the wheel any thing else that is close by we are staying at dunfermline

  • bendmac

    We had a three-week adventure in Scotland last August…saw MANY beautiful sights (and sites) including Skye and all the natural wonders it has to offer, the Borders, Culloden, Clava Cairns and a Tattoo performance.

    That said, on our way back to Glasgow for the flight home, we made time to go see the Kelpies. I honestly have to say, even with ALL the wonderful things we saw, I was most moved by those two noble steeds. Perhaps this was because I had taken the time do a little research and was aware of the two gentle giants (Duke and Baron) who were the “models” and the fact that one of them had been removed from a less- than-good environment…

    Would have loved to seen them lit up at night…but that’ll be on another future adventure! 😆

    • Glad to hear you liked them! We love them too. They are indeed magical in the dark. 🐎

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