30 April 2016 – A couple of years ago, while researching Scotland on the web, I came across a fascinating image – it was of these two enormous horse head sculptures, dramatically and colourfully lit up against a deep, dark blue sky. It was an image that stayed in my mind and made me add Falkirk, the town where these Kelpies are located, to my wish list of places to see in the UK.
Fast forward to April 2016, and my wife and I were on our way from Edinburgh to the Isle of Skye in our hire car. We had decided to spend one night at Falkirk – actually it was more my decision as she was far more interested in finding bluebell fields than looking at equine sculptures.
To be honest, I knew little else of Falkirk at the time. The Lonely Planet guide on Great Britain which I had with me wasn’t much help as it had no references to the town (would have appreciated an entry…any entry…even just a simple ‘Mostly Harmless’). Nevertheless, Falkirk remained in our plans – I figured that a town with these wonderful creations would have to be worthy of a visit!
We arrived at our accommodation in town early in the afternoon and set off not long after to The Helix, home of the Kelpies, a short five minute drive away. After a quick stop at the visitor’s centre, we went out for pictures and to practice our tourist poses.
The Kelpies, designed by Scottish sculptor Andy Scott, are both 30 metres tall and the highlight of The Helix. The word ‘kelpie’ here is in reference to the shapeshifting water spirit of Scottish folklore, and not, in case you’re from Australia, in reference to the humble sheep dog – though admittedly, giant sheep dog heads would be a pretty cool thing to see (I can just picture them right now, rising out from the blazing red sands of the outback).
The surrounding park itself is quite pleasant, with plenty of open spaces, cycling paths and a lovely canal (an extension connecting to the Forth & Clyde canal). There were quite a few families around while we were there, enjoying the sights and various other outdoor activities, which was great to see.
Before leaving for the afternoon I asked a park ranger what time the Kelpies light up. ‘Sundown,’ she replied with a smile. Now I knew that meant the same thing as sunset, though having not heard that word used in a while the first thing that came to mind were visions of cowboys having an Old West style shootout.
We thanked her and left, returning later that evening after a pleasant afternoon visit to Callendar House and dinner at a very good Indian restaurant in town called Sanam. However, it was quite a while after sunset before the first lights came on. Thankfully it was worth the wait and I was able to capture a little bit of blue in the sky during the long exposure.
I can’t recall how long it took before the first colour change, though I do remember how cold it was despite the Kelpies now looking like they were on fire!
At that stage the light was fast fading from the sky and it was time for us to head home. As we walked back towards the carpark, my wife turned around and noticed that the Kelpies had changed colour again – they were now blue! I took a quick shot but decided to call it a night as my hands were well and truly frozen by then (and quite possibly a colour matching the current shade of the sculptures).
Overall, we had a really enjoyable time at Falkirk, and highly recommend a visit to see these wonderful creations.