Are you planning a trip to Scotland? A stop-off at the magnificent Kelpies – two incredible Horse Head Sculptures – are a must for your itinerary, and an easy day trip from Edinburgh or Glasgow.
Get up close to these giant pieces of art which have been welcoming visitors to Falkirk for the past ten years. Part of an eco park called The Helix, there is plenty to do for the whole family. The Kelpies are a must-see on a visit to Scotland.
Here is all the information you need to help you plan your visit to The Kelpies.
What are the Kelpies?
The Kelpies are a public art and visitor attraction created by artist Andy Scott. They are two large horse heads that have now become an iconic part of the Scottish landscape. At the time of building, the Kelpies were the largest equine sculptures in the world.
Where are the Kelpies located?
The Kelpie sculptures are in Helix Park between Falkirk and Grangemouth, about 26 miles from Edinburgh.
They stand as a gateway to the Forth and Clyde canal. The sculptures are easily visible from the motorway and the park is an easy five minute drive from the motorway. You must stop, even if it’s a flying visit, so you can get up close and appreciate the size of these monumental sculptures.
How do I get to the Kelpies?
Conveniently situated in central Scotland, The Kelpies are very easy to get to.
From Edinburgh (26 miles): take the M9 towards Stirling, exit at Junction 5 for Falkirk/Grangemouth. Follow the brown tourist signs for The Kelpies.
From Glasgow (29 miles): take the M80 towards Stirling, exit at Junction 8 for M876 and join M9, exit at Junction 6 for Falkirk/Grangemouth and follow the brown tourist signs.
From the North: take the A9, M9 towards Edinburgh, exit at Junction 6 for Falkirk and follow the brown tourist signs.
From Carlisle and the South: take the M74, M73, M80, M876, M9, and exit at Junction 6 for Falkirk/Grangemouth. Follow the brown tourist signs.
By Public Transport:
You can travel to Falkirk in under half an hour from both Glasgow and Edinburgh. There are 2 main train stations in Falkirk that are close to The Helix: Falkirk High (located 3 miles away) and Falkirk Grahamston (located 2 miles away). There are also services to Polmont Station, Larbert Station and Camelon Stations which are all close by.
Pleasevisit ScotRailfor timetables.
From Falkirk High Station: Board the McGill’s number 2 bus on Slamman Road, approximately a 2 minute walk from the station. The bus journey will last around 21 minutes. Depart the bus at Dalgrain Road. It is around a 13 minute walk from Dalgrain Road to the Kelpies.
There are several bus routes which will take you to The Helix and regular buses between Falkirk and Edinburgh, Glasgow, Stirling and Fife. Please visit FirstBusfor timetables
Kelpies parking charges
The first car park you arrive at as you enter Helix Park is free. This is the small Helix Car Park and is about a 5-10 minute walk to The Kelpie Sculptures. There is no over-night parking here.
There is a bigger car park is further on, located next to the Kelpies Visitor Centre. This is The Kelpies Car Park and is chargeable for most of the year. This is a couple of minutes walk to the Kelpie Sculptures. For prices see here. You can park overnight in the Kelpies Car Park.
Why were the Kelpie sculptures built in Falkirk?
The Kelpie sculptures are the dramatic centre piece of the 740-acre Helix Park in Falkirk. The Helix Ecopark is part of the Falkirk Greenscape Initiative which has reclaimed scrubland and transformed it into a unique outdoor greenspace. The Forth and Clyde canal which now runs through the park, had silted up so Scottish canals built a new extension joining Scotland’s east and west coasts. It was felt that the entrance to the canal in Helix Park needed a dramatic feature to welcome visitors. The giant horses head sculptures form a new gateway into the canal system of central Scotland. The project has transformed the underused land between Falkirk and Grangemouth into a unique outdoor green space, consisting of parkland, visitor attraction and marine hub with The Kelpies at its highlight.
Originally envisioned as a moving boat lift, during the early design process the idea of The Kelpies changed to colossal sculptures symbolising the industrial past of both the canal and the surrounding communities. Inspiration for The Kelpies came from the heavy horses which pulled the wagons, ploughs, barges and cargo along the towpaths of the Forth & Clyde and Union Canals in their heyday, and are a tribute to the huge role these horses that walked them, played in the development of the area.
When were the Kelpies built and how long did it take?
Each sculpture is made from 464 stainless steel plates on a skeleton of steel bars and contains approximately 18,000 individual pieces. The components arrived on site in the summer of 2013, which was prepared in advance with foundations more than 30m deep.
Starting in June 2013, each head took 75 days to construct, and was complete by October 2013. For photos and more information about the building process, click here. By spring 2014, the whole site was ready to welcome visitors.
The sculptor Andy Scott is the designer of the Kelpie sculptures. His initial design process involved building maquettes – scale models – about one-tenth the size of the completed sculpture.
The first set was to test out the design and garner interest and the second was a more refined version that would form the basis of the finished work. Since completion, the maquettes have toured cities around the world including New York, Chicago, Milan and London. In 2020, they returned back to Helix Park where they can still be found today, outside the visitor centre.
How tall are the Kelpies?
The Kelpies are an impressive 30 metres (100 feet) tall. The miniature versions are 3 metres tall (9ft) and are built to scale 1:10.
How much do the Kelpies weigh?
The iconic horse heads are made up of 900 stainless steel scales and weigh in at a whopping 300 tonnes each.
Why are they called Kelpies?
The Kelpies are named after the mythical Celtic water horses said to be in Scottish lochs and rivers. In Scottish folklore, a kelpie, or water kelpie is a shape-shifting spirit. It is usually described as a powerful black horse-like creature, able to adopt human form. Nearly all large bodies of water in Scotland has a kelpie story, most widely reported is Loch Ness. The kelpie is seen as evil creatures that live in deep pools of rivers and streams of Scotland, preying on any humans it encounters, luring travellers to their death. Initially appearing peaceful, the travellers would be tempted to ride the docile horse to cross a body of water. Once on its back, the Kelpie would gallop into the deepest end and drowning them below the water.
What are the Kelpies names?
The Kelpies are called Baron and Duke and are named after real-life working Clydesdale horses. They were chosen to model for sculptor, Andy Scott, in his studio. Baron and Duke even came to Helix Park for the opening ceremony in November 2013. Baron is immortalised as the ‘head up’ horse of the Kelpies.
Opening hours for the Kelpies
The Kelpies are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 364 days a year. So you can visit whenever you like, day or night.
The visitor Centre is open from 9.30 am to 4.00/5.00 pm, 7 days a week all year.
What time do the Kelpies light up?
If you want to visit the Kelpies at night, you can. The Kelpies light up at night. As soon as the sun goes down the sculptures come alive! It’s a good idea to arrive just before sunset so you can see them in the daylight and then watch them light up in all the colours of the rainbow after dusk. The light changes colour every few minutes and is stunning!
How much does it cost to visit the Kelpies?
The Kelpies are FREE to visit. The only possible charges are for parking (free in the Helix car park), or, if you want to take a tour.
You may want to buy some refreshments or souvenirs from the visitor centre.
Can you go inside the Kelpies and is there a guided tour?
You can go inside the Kelpies, but only on a guided tour and you book these through the visitor centre. It currently cost £7.50/Adult and £6.50/Concession. Two children can get in free with every paying adult. Tour times are usually 10.30 am, 12.30 pm and 14.30 pm. The guided tours usually last between 20 and 30 minutes. Click here for up to date tour information and booking.
How long does it take to visit the Kelpies?
You don’t need much time to see the Kelpies, you can make it as long or short as you like. We stayed for about an hour because we arrived just before sunset and wanted to see them in daylight and after dark when they were lit up. We much preferred seeing them after dark.
You may want to stop at the cafe at the visitor centre, or explore Helix park. There is plenty of things to do here (see below).
Facilities at the Helix Visitor Centre
The visitor centre at the Kelpies has a café with indoor and outdoor seating and toilet. The café serves up hot and cold food, including vegetarian and vegan options. There is a gift shop which sells a unique range of souvenirs and keepsakes, as well as a range of lovely treats and gifts from local producers and artists. You can also find more information about the Kelpies in a small exhibition inside the visitor centre. There are more public toilets next to the Kelpies Car Park.
You can also find The Plaza Café overlooking the Lagoon in the middle of Helix Park which also has toilets.
Things to do at Helix Park and the Kelpies
The Helix Ecopark has plenty to see and do for all ages. There is:
- An adventure play park (with accessible equipment) suitable for older and younger children
- Splash play water fountains
- Wetlands and boardwalks (easy flat walk)
- Coffee shop and café
- Bike trails and cycle hire – Helix Around Town Trail – HArTT route – 16 miles via Helix Park, Falkirk Wheel, Callendar Park and Westquarter Glen)
- Water sports lagoon with fishing and boating
- Walking paths (you can walk to the Falkirk Wheel via The John Muir Way or join the Charlotte Dundas Heritage Trail – see below)
Is Helix Park accessible for wheelchair and pushchair users?
Helix Park is accessible for wheelchairs and pushchairs. The paths are very well maintained and the walkways through the wetlands are wooden boardwalks.
The paths around The Helix are flat and ideal for kids to bring their scooters. The Charlotte Dundas Trail is tarmacked and fully accessible.
Where can I stay near the Kelpies?
There are several over-night accommodation options to suit all budgets a short distance from Helix Park and The Kelpies.
- Luxury – The Grange Manor, Laurieston Inn
- Mid-Range – Inglewood House and Spa, Premier Lodge
- Budget – Travelodge (Falkirk), Premier Inn (Falkirk North or Central), Metro Inns (Falkirk)
Where can I see more work by the sculptor, Andy Scott?
You can see Andy Scott’s large public art sculptures all over Scotland and around the world in places such as London, Sydney and Dubai. The nearest piece is located in the Glasgow Business Park beside the M8 motorway, called the Heavy Horse sculpture.
Other things to see and do near the Kelpies and Helix Park
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