Silence isn’t always golden – sometimes it can be a steely grey. Anyone who has stood awestruck at the foot of Scotland’s most iconic pieces of public art will testify to that.
There’s something reassuring about the realisation that it doesn’t take big screens, big stars or big bucks to make a big impression with little people – The Kelpies do that all by themselves.
If you’ve stood in the shadow of these imposing equine masterpieces you’ll know just how spellbinding they are.
If you haven’t, you may well be wondering what on earth they are. A classic case of a picture telling the story of 1,000 words, so this post is a brief one – the images do the talking!
Situated on the edge of the central belt town of Falkirk, The Kelpies were unveiled in 2014 to great acclaim. It’s fair to say Scotland has never seen their like before and now, two years on, it is fair to say they’ll never be lonely – people continue to flock to see them in droves.
It took just 90 days to turn the vision of creator Andy Scott into reality, but The Kelpies will still be drawing crowds 90 years from now.
Standing proudly at 30 metres tall, each monument weighs 300 tonnes – an intricate patchwork of almost 1,000 stainless steel plates skilfully crafted together to form two momentous pieces of intriguing art. During the day they glint in the sunshine (yes, Scotland does get some now and again) and at night clever lighting brings a new dimension to a landmark that can be seen from miles around.
They are simply stunning, but there is a back story. Rearing over the banks of the Forth and Clyde Canal, the Kelpies provide a nod to the past and the heavy horses which trod the towpaths in years gone by as well as referencing the mythical water horses they take their name from. One looking skyward, the other stooping low. In the words of poet Jim Carruth, whose work can be found etched on site: “Bow down your strong heads to taste the water, stretch up your long necks to face the sun.”
Look away now if you don’t want a spoiler though.
Okay, here goes: They don’t do tricks. Don’t rotate. Don’t make a noise. They are quite simply just a captivating piece of visual magic. Once you get beyond the staring stage, there’s plenty of space to wander beneath them with a visitor centre, food, drink and ice cream all woven into the natural surroundings of the waterway.
The Kelpies are the focal point of The Helix – a meandering 350 hectare area linking 16 local communities between Falkirk and Grangemouth, established with the aim of creating an ecopark to be proud of.
There’s so much to see and do, with the Adventure Zone and Splash Play areas just a short stroll away from The Kelpies and offering a fantastic way to while away some hours. On the great playpark league table, this one is right up there challenging at the top. The Helix Lagoon also offers water sport tuition during school holidays as well as pedalo hire.
The watery theme continues throughout the area, with the Falkirk Wheel – the world’s first rotating boat lift – a short drive away and just as popular as the Kelpies.
And all just a hop and skip from Edinburgh and Glasgow. Suddenly there’s a new mark on Scotland’s tourist map – it’s certainly one not to be missed.