My first task on arriving back in Edinburgh after our three trains trip was to drop my daughter and two nephews at the airport for their departure to their Turkish holiday destination, leaving us to look after her house for a few days. This gave us the opportunity to visit three attractions and to have lunch with my brother and family.
Edinburgh is a great central location for visiting a whole range of places, in the city itself and in all directions outside its perimeter. As the weather continues to be quite remarkable, we are making the best of it. On Thursday we had a full day visiting these three attractions: The Kelpies, The Falkirk Wheel and New Lanark. I visited the first two during my previous visit to Scotland, but it has been years since I went to New Lanark.
These are quite extraordinary and unique sculptures in Falkirk, about 35 km from Edinburgh. Not to be confused with the Australian breed of dog, a Kelpie, in Scottish folklore, is a dangerous shape-shifting water creature that can appear on land as a horse. The kelpie appears to their human victims as a grey or white horse, entices them to ride on their back, then carries them down to a watery grave.
The construction of these two magnificent 30m high sculptures was completed in 2014 and quickly established the Helix Park in which they are located as a major tourist attraction. The supporting structure comprises a network of circular steel beams and the ‘skin’ comprises hundreds of individual steel plates.
The Falkirk Wheel
Opened in 2002 after a three year construction period, the Falkirk Wheel joins two Scottish lowland canals in a very unique way.
The Forth and Clyde canal starts at the Firth of Forth near Grangemouth, routes through the Scottish countryside to finish at the River Clyde in Glasgow.
The Union Canal starts in the centre of Edinburgh to join up with the Forth and Clyde canal, latterly via an extensive series of locks, the former higher than the latter by 35 m. However, these locks have since been demolished to make way for housing. This presented the major challenge of reconnecting the canals in a very small space. The solution was to construct the only rotating boat lift in the world.
The principle is that boats displace their own weight in water. With two gondolas, the wheel is always in perfect balance, thus requiring minimal energy to drive the mechanism.
We were fortunate to witness the wheel being rotated – quite a sight to behold.
During our visit, we walked the short distance to the Antonine Wall, a more northern and newer wall than Hadrian’s Wall. (Antonius Pius was the adopted son of Emperor Hadrian). During 140 years from 72AD, there were many attempts by the Romans to consolidate their rule in Scotland, but by AD212, they gave up and went home. Such is the determination of us Scots! Alongside the wall at this location is the remains of Rough Castle featuring a series of defensive pits.
One of the reasons I was keen to revisit New Lanark after many years was to follow the track up the River Clyde to the Falls of Clyde, but the town itself, a UNESCO World Heritage site, has a fascinating history.
New Lanark is a former 18th century cotton spinning mill village that was created to accommodate the workers at the mill. This included all the facilities that a thriving community would require – a church, a school, and of course housing. More than 2,000 people lived and/or worked in the village. The mill continued to manufacture cotton for nearly 200 years, until 1968. It is now a major tourist attraction, although the village still has about 200 residents.
The mills were driven by water wheels with water diverted from the River Clyde. Such is the amount of water flowing down the Clyde and the height differential, one of Scotland’s first hydro power stations is located upstream from the village.
As we walked up the track to the falls, we passed the power station fed by two very large diameter pipes descending from the hill above. At close quarters the roar of the water flowing inside them gives a hint of the potential energy created. Due to the amount of water that was being diverted to the power station, the water falling over the Falls of Clyde was not as spectacular as the pictures I had previously seen. However, it was pretty impressive to see them as they were.
Next few days
On Friday we visited my brother and family. It was great to see them, but as we sat chatting, the cold that had been niggling away at me since we arrived, started to take hold in my throat and chest. By the time we got home I could hardly talk. I decided to cancel meeting up with my son and mates over the weekend and spend Saturday trying to recover. K however, went into Edinburgh by bus to try to meet a friend who was also in the city for one day, but it didn’t quite happen. Unfortunately, by evening, it was clear that I had shared my bugs with her, so she is now coughing as well. With such a tight schedule of seeing people and doing things, it’s the last thing we need.
On Monday we travel to Orkney for a few days, so our fingers are crossed that we are well on the way to recovery by then.