Travel Column: Falkirk Adventures

travel_4It’s a grey, rainy day for a trip, but at this point I’ve accepted this as the default weather here in Scotland. Although half a week of sunny weather leading up to my trip to Falkirk got my hopes up, by the end of the day, it was snowing.

The tour started at the Falkirk Kelpies at Helix Park. The Kelpies are two steel sculptures that stand about 30 meters each. They look like horse heads and were modeled on real work horses, but are actually Kelpies, mythical water horses that tempt people with rides across the water. When they get to the deepest section, they drown and consume their victims with a clap of thunder. They are the perfect mascots to stand on either side of a canal.

With the tour, you get to the skeleton of the creatures and get a brief reprise from the rain and wind outside. It’s a complicated, beautiful mess of art rsz_travel_1and math. The structure is massive and made of straight beams that crisscross and hold warped sheets of steel together in the shape of horses on the outside, their heads pointing at the sky and down towards to water.

Further along on the canal, there is the tourist trap of modern engineering: the Falkirk Wheel, the world’s only circular lock. The wheel picks up boats and moves them up to the next section in a sort of Ferris wheel fashion instead of raising water levels.

The wheel opened in 2002, and was meant to link Falkirk’s canals to bigger and busier waterways, but outside of tourists, the wheel only averages around 1,000 commercial and recreational ships a year.

During my trip, I only got to spend a half-hour in the Callender House, a 600-year-old Scottish mansion. The house is an impressive looking structure, and looks like what you would expect a 600-year-old European mansion to look like: stone walls, lots of windows and large wooden double doors opening to a hall and a grand staircase. Within the three-story house, there is more than the standard historic expects in the estates and castles around the U.K., where a nice looking tea room, an office for historic records, and most curiously, a room meant only to display art inspired by the American short story “The Yellow Wallpaper.”

All in all, Falkirk is a nice town that has a lot to offer for tourists. It’s got everything from art to math to history.

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