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If you’re looking for an awesome roadside pitstop in Scotland or day out from Edinburgh, you MUST visit The Kelpies!
These two mammoth horse head sculptures are part of The Helix, a community park for the public to enjoy while they are in the area.
As well as the amazing statues, there are some scenic canal tow paths, national cycle routes, adventure play areas and cosy cafés nearby too. So, there really is something for everyone.
I had never heard of or visited the Kelpies in Scotland before. But, when I saw them on Instagram, I knew I had to make my way over there as soon as possible.
Here’s a complete guide and all the reasons why you need to visit The Kelpies!
The Kelpies are a legend that have been spoken about for centuries in the folklore of Scotland and are often seen as evil creatures and demons.
The name Kelpie comes from the Gaelic ‘cailpeach’ or ‘colpach’ which means heifer or colt. Pretty much any body of water in the country has a story which includes them, the most famous of these is Loch Ness.
They are often referred as Water Kelpies as they are a shape-shifting malevolent spirits that live inside the rivers, loch’s and streams of Scotland.
Parents will warn their children of the Kelpies as a way to keep them from going near rivers and lochs.
Some believe that the Kelpies lure you into the water and some even blame them for any drownings that happen. They can also use their powers to summon floods.
As they can shape shift into human form, they can appear as beautiful men and women. Mother’s will use the Kelpies to warn their daughters of men that lead them astray.
To capture a Kelpie and banish the spirit, you need to use a halter stamped with the sign of a cross. So, make sure you bring one with you when you visit for protection, just in case ;).
Now onto the statues. Let’s start with what are The Kelpies?
Well, The Kelpies are two whopping horse head statues located in The Helix on the Forth & Clyde canal in Falkirk.
They were designed and built by Andy Scott in 2013, a famous sculptor from Glasgow. Originally, he drew the design in Amsterdam, eight years before they were made.
He saw this statue as Scotland’s answer to the Angel of the North. Another huge statue by Antony Gormley in the North of England. You can read about that here.
Andy Scott said that despite the name, The Kelpies were built as a monument and tribute to the heritage of working horses in Scotland. Years ago, many horses use to pull barges down the canal routes as a way of shipping goods.
Initially, the statues were meant to be practical as a Canal Junction and it still is. But, now it stands as the worlds largest equine statue. It’s also a popular tourist attraction and one of the most photographed statues in all of Scotland!
Fun facts about The Kelpies in Scotland
- Who built the Kelpies? a famous sculptor from Glasgow, Andy Scott in 2013.
- How long will they last? The Kelpies are built to last over 120 years
- What are The Kelpies names? Duke and Baron, who are real life working Clydesdale horses. They even came for the opening ceremony in 2013! Andy Scott modelled the horse heads after them and they are from Pollok Country Park. The statue is also a tribute to historic work horses as they used to pull barges down the canal ways.
- How high are The Kelpies? They are both 30 metres or 100 feet high – they’re HUGE
- How much do The Kelpies weigh? Each horse head weighs a whopping 300 tonnes
- What are the Kelpies made of? Building them required 1200 tonnes of steel
- How long did it take to build the Kelpies? The Kelpies were built on site in just 90 days!
- Are the Kelpies a world record? They are the world’s largest equine statues
- How many people visit the Kelpies? Around 5 million people visit The Kelpies each year!
- How much did it cost to build? It cost £5 million pounds to build the Kelpies
How to visit the Kelpies in Scotland?
The thing that makes the Kelpies so great to visit, is they are easily accessible off the motorway as a pit stop. You don’t need an excessive amount of time to visit and they can fit nicely into an already jam packed Scotland itinerary.
So, if you are planning a road trip and are looking for some places to stop off on the way. This is the perfect place to have a well needed break from the wheel.
Or, if you’re planning a day out in Falkirk, The Helix makes a great day trip from Glasgow and Edinburgh. As well as The Kelpies, there’s lots of things to do in The Helix park for adults, kids and those with dogs;
How to visit the Kelpies from Edinburgh and Glasgow
The Kelpies are conveniently located in the ‘central belt’ of Scotland so it’s easily accessible from the two main cities. Also, you can stop on your way towards Stirling;
- From Edinburgh: Take the M9 road towards Stirling and alight at Junction 5. You’ll see a brown tourist sign for the Kelpies/Falkirk Wheel.
- From Glasgow: You need to driving along M80 towards Stirling. Take the Junction 8 excite for M876 and join the M9. Take the exit at Junction 6 for Falkirk. Again, you’ll see a tourist sign on the M9 so it’s easy to locate.
How to visit the Kelpies via public transport
It is much more convenient to have your own means of transport to visit The Kelpies. But, there are ways to get there by public transport too.
- By Train: the nearest train station, Falkirk Grahamston, is located two miles away. The walk from there will take 40 minutes. Or, enquire at the train station for a taxi.
- By Bus: There are buses that you can take from Edinburgh and Glasgow to The Helix: Home of the Kelpies. But, you’ll need to make a change at Falkirk towards the Helix and the journey will take around 2 hours. You can use First Buses or Traveline Scotland to plan your journey.
- On a tour: if you’re not planning on driving and would rather see a few sites. Why not join a day tour that makes a stop at The Kelpies? For example this tour from Edinburgh visits Stirling Castle, Loch Lomond and makes a stop at the Helix too.
Opening hours for the Kelpies
The Kelpies are open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, so you don’t have any restrictions on when you can visit. However, not all the attractions around the Kelpies will be open.
For example, the The Helix visitor Centre is only open from 9.30am – 5pm if you are wanting toilet facilities, to purchase gifts or to buy lunch and snacks.
The Plaza Café that looks over the lagoon is also open at those hours but seasonally from April – October.
How much does it cost to visit the Kelpies? The Kelpies are completely FREE to visit.
Parking at the Kelpies
There are two carparks in the area.. One is The Helix Car Park and the other is the Kelpies Car Park.
- The Helix Car Park: is a smaller car park that is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. It’s complete FREE to park up here and visit the Kelpies. But, you will need to pay an overnight charge of £5 for campervans from March – October (no campsite facilities are available here).
- The Kelpies Car Park: is bigger and closer to the statues and visitor centre. But, the opening times are from 8am – 10pm.
Kelpies parking charges
The Helix car park is FREE but the Kelpies Car Park that is closer is chargeable;
- October to March – you can park free here during the week but on weekends there’s a £2 charge.
- March – November – there is a charge of £3 from 10am – 5pm (I went at 8am and didn’t have to pay. Not on purpose, just an early riser). Then a charge of £2 after 5pm – 10pm.
- This excludes July and August – The charges go up to £4 during this time in the day.
How long does it take to visit the Kelpies?
This all depends on you. Most tour groups stop here for 15-20 minutes for a quick photo stop.
If you’re visiting self guided, you could easily spend more time here admiring the statues, taking photos, then stopping for a coffee break at The Visitor Centre.
If you’re planning a guided tour and to go inside the Kelpies, the tour will take minimum 20 minutes in Winter and 30 minutes in summer. Tours start from 11am and the last goes at 4pm. Click here how to book a tour and times.
Of course, if you plan on parking up to visit the The Helix and enjoy the walks through the parkland. You could spend hours here.
Reasons why you need to visit the Kelpies in Scotland
1. They’re 100 feet tall horse heads!
Seems obvious but this has to be the number one reason. There is nothing quite like this on the planet.
Although you can see these from the roadside off the M9, I don’t think anything can prepare you with just how BIG these heads really are.
Even when I was walking from the car park, they kept growing in size, and eventually when you reach them – you’ll crane your neck to see them fully!
They’re almost unbelievable to be honest and overwhelming to take in. That’s what I think is so amazing about it.
As these statues are also seen as a monumental engineering feat. It really makes you appreciate the time and effort that it took to piece these statues together in the time frame of only 90 days!
2. It’s an awesome FREE pitstop and day out
The second reason is that it won’t burn a hole in your wallet. It’s amazing that this attraction and huge park is completely free for everyone to enjoy!
Sure, you need to pay a small parking fee in the Kelpies Car Park. But, it’s a small price to pay for a scenic rest or a fab day out. You can also park for as long as you like.
To save even more money, you are more than welcome to bring picnics here and enjoy lunch on the park benches provided.
Plus while you’re here, there are FREE play parks for children, convenient walking routes for dogs, quaint cafés to enjoy lunch or coffee with the view and so much more.
3. You can go inside the Kelpies on a guided tour from the Visitor Centre
If you’re wandering if you can go inside the Kelpies, the answer it yes. But, it has to be with a guide.
Booking tickets online is recommended as it does tend to sell out on weekends and nice sunny days. But, you can also book a tour through the visitor centre itself too.
Tickets cost £7.50 in the summer for adults and £6.50 for concessions and the tours last 30 minutes from April – September.
In Winter (October – March) tours are slightly shorter at 20 minutes and go down to £6 with concessions being £5.
Facilities at the Helix Visitor Centre
Even if you’re not booking a tour, the Helix Visitor is well worth popping in to.
Inside, they have a gift shop, café, free toilet facilities (on donation) and a small informative exhibit about what The Kelpies are! Check out their lego replica.
I decided to buy a good old can of Irn-Bru in here and sit outside to enjoy the views as it was a gorgeous sunny day. But, if it is raining or cold they also have seating inside too.
If you’re looking for another option a quaint Plaza Café is open on the Helix Lagoon from April to October. It has outdoor seating overlooking the Helix Lagoon.
The visitor centre & café is open from 9.30am – 5pm each day. Plaza Café is open seasonally from 10am – 5pm.
4. It’s set inside acres of beautiful parkland
Another reason is, that the statues aren’t the only thing here visit and experience. There are plenty of things to do in The Helix Park in Falkirk that makes a stop worth your while.
From Wetland Walks, Hiking Trails, Cycle Routes, play parks and the views to take in from the scenic Helix lagoon. There really is something for all here;
Things to do at the Helix Park
Take a walk on the many accessible trails
Although the canal routes aren’t used in the same way they were used to. Many people still take joy rides along the canals and the old two paths are perfect routes for walking. The Helix is a canal junction for both the Union Canal & Forth & Clyde Canal. These routes make fantastic walks around the area.
If you’re looking for famous walking trails the John Muir Way is one that includes a route from Falkirk to Linlithgow. On the route you’ll walk passed Callendar Park and the Antonine Wall. Click here to read more about this popular walking trail.
If you’re looking for an easy flat walk to enjoy, the Helix have their own Wetland Boardwalk. There are even organised walks where you can join a group that take place multiple times a week here. See here for more information.
Splash and Play Zones
If you need activities to keep your children entertained there are many areas to choose from. there is an adventure zone, accessible play and a splash play park that is open in the summer months.
Cycle the HArTT route
The Helix is part of two national cycle routes and has its own 17.7 mile HArTT (Helix Around Town Tour) route that takes you passed the Falkirk Wheel, Callendar Park and Westquarter Glen
Although mostly flat there are some rough, slightly steep and muddy sections so a mountain bike is best. The are HArTT signs along the way.
If you don’t have your own bike with you, did you know you can rent a Forth Bike from the Kelpies Car Park?
You simply join the Forth Bike app here and purchase a 30 minute or 45 minute pass for £2. Or, you can rent a day pass for £4 that gives you unlimited 30 minute rides for 24 hours. Annual pass options available.
5. You can buy some amazing Kelpies souvenirs
If you’re into your sculpture art and would like to take away some delightful souvenirs from your visit. You only need to pop into the Helix Visitor Centre.
The team worked closely with the creator Andy Scott, to design some official Kelpies merchandise which make beautiful unique gifts included jewellery, postcards, mugs, keyring and even mugs.
I loved looking around their shop as they sold some amazing handmade crafts, books, handbags and cushion covers from local artists.
6. It’s open 24 hours a day and you can even visit The Kelpies at night!
A common question is, do the Kelpies light up at night? Good news, they do every night!
As soon as the sun goes down in the evening, the Kelpies light up in all different colours of the rainbow.
It will carry on throughout the night but I’m not sure if they switch off at a certain time or keep going. The car park officially shuts at 10pm, so it may switch off around then.
This is something on my bucket list to see next time as it looks breathtaking!
7. There’s lots of attractions nearby after you visit The Kelpies
After you have finished visiting The Kelpies there are so many things to do in Falkirk afterwards.
It’s a beautiful part of Scotland that has a lot of ancient, historic, modern and down right quirky attractions which makes this area truly unique;
Callendar Park, House & The Antonine Wall
Callendar Park is located around a 12 minute drive and an hours walk from The Helix. There is even a walking path that can lead you right to it.
It’s a gorgeous park that is home to the famous Callendar House and part of the ancient Antonine Wall.
Callendar House is a French Chateau like building that has seen many historical figures walk through its doors including Mary Queen of Scots and Bonnie Prince Charlie.
Today, the house is a FREE museum you can enter that has exhibitions about the history of the area and you can learn about the Antonine Wall.
Outlander fans will be happy to know that this is also a film location from the series, and played the part of the Duke of Sandringham’s Kitchen in series 2.
The Falkirk Wheel
4 miles down the road is the famous Falkirk Wheel which is part of Scottish Canals. It’s a huge, rotating boat lift that connects the Union and Forth & Clyde canal routes
These two canals used to be connected with a series of 11 locks until around 1933. After that, they fell into disuse and the locks were dismantled. So in 2002, this wheel managed to reconnect the two canals the first time in over 70 years!
Today you can visit this popular attraction and take a scenic boat trip. These are a 60 scenic tour or a 30 minute revolution tour. There’s also lots of other boating activities to get involved with and scenic walks around the area. See here for more information.
You can walk from the Kelpies to the wheel and they have made it more fun with a Wheel2kelpies selfie trail!
One of the more quirky attractions near The Kelpies is the historic Dunmore Pineapple. Now, you’re probably wondering what an earth a pineapple statue is doing in the middle of Scotland?!
Well, although pineapples are easy to come by now, years ago only the rich and wealthy owned pineapples.
Many houses in 18th century Scotland had their own rooms which were set at a tropical temperature to cultivate them! The first was made in 1731.
The Dunmore Pineapple was built in 1761 by 1761 by John Murray, the 4th Earl of Dunmore as a summer home for his family.
The house today is only reserved for guests of the hotel and you can look at staying the night here. But, you can still park up to admire the pineapple and enjoy the amazing gardens too.
If you’re feeling adventurous, why not venture behind the Pineapple and find the abandoned Dunmore House? It’s only for the brave. See my complete guide on finding it here.
Where to stay near The Kelpies
There are plenty of places that you can stay around The Kelpies and Falkirk that suit all budgets. There are even some hotels that are in walking distance.
- Luxury – The Grange Manor – This 4* 19th century manor house is located just off the M9 and is only a 15 minute walk to the Kelpies.
- Mid-Range – The Helix Hotel, is the closest and Premier lodge Falkirk is in short driving distance of the Helix Park and Kelpies.
- Budget – Metro Inns Falkirk – there are no hostels in Falkirk but the Metros Inn has highly rated rooms from those that use Hostelworld!
Read more of my informative articles about Scotland!
I spent a couple of weeks driving around Scotland on an epic road trip. My journey took me from Edinburgh, Stirling, Fife, Perthshire, Aberdeen, The Highlands, The Isle of Skye, Glasgow and even more.
Make sure you read some of the informative guides if you’re currently planning your trip to Scotland;
- Dean Village – a fairytale found in the capital of Scotland!