I like to walk whenever and wherever I can. So, with an afternoon to pass in central Scotland I decided to embark on an urban ramble, trying to link two mysterious brown signed tourist attractions I had passed signs to frequently but had never visited. Using my very handy and very free (with a Trail magazine subscription) OS maps app it appeared that I could link the two sites with some canal, park and nature trail based rambling.
There are always green spaces even in the most urban of areas and trying to link them into a route can be a really rewarding experience.
Falkirk’s two top hits on the tourist trail are the intriguingly named ‘The Kelpies’ and ‘The Falkirk Wheel’. The former, two giant metal sculptures of mythical creatures with the power of 100 horses, the later a rotating boat lift! Both feats of engineering, both with attached cafes, both on canals.
Starting at the Falkirk Wheel I parked up and spent atleast 5 minutes marvelling at this feat of engineering. Disappointingly the wheel was dry and not in operation. When not dry as a bone you can take a ride on it, which I’ll be honest, I would have been pretty tempted to do!
The canalside awaited and off I set on the towpath of the Union Canal. With Falkirk town on my left and almost open countryside on the right there were moments when I felt miles away from civilisation. There was plenty of birdlife to keep me amused and before long I was following the John Muir Way into the grounds of Callander House. Woodland paths meandered down towards the house; so far so good on the urban nature, I had barely set foot on concrete. This changed somewhat as I struggled to link Callander House to the start of the Helix which is the park in which the Kelpies are situated. I toured some less than exciting housing and industrial estates. However powered by some emergency mini eggs I finally entered the Helix and made my way to The Kelpies. Helped by a backdrop of snow capped hills and crisp blue sky the sculptures really were a great spectacle.
I didn’t linger long as had a dying phone (source of my map) and limited daylight to complete my walk on the towpath of the Forth and Clyde Canal. I have to say this canal was less scenic and it is always a sorry site to see litter and plastic bottles in our waterways. Despite the need for some extreme litter picking I continued to see a wide variety of bird life. The stretch through Falkirk itself was a practical route but not one that I would rush to walk as a standalone, however once the town centre was passed greenery ensued once more.
As the sunset reflected in the still waters of the canal and the final light of the day disappeared I felt a lot of love for this urban ramble. It certainly wasn’t my classic hiking day but I had seen two amazing human built sculptures and more wildlife than I sometimes see on the hill, a perfect complement of urban spaces and nature.