Developing a visitor and resident offer in Falkirk

The Kelpie sculptures, Falkirk

Developing a visitor and resident offer in Falkirk

This month, our director Diane Cunningham headed to Scotland for a long overdue visit, much postposed due to lockdowns then train strikes. Diane knows Glasgow well but this time there was an opportunity to visit some new places.

Glasgow southside
First up there was time for a wander around the southside where she explored Govanhill and the area around Queen’s Park and up Victoria Road where there were some interesting things happening in the retail spaces from a CIC advising on keeping warm and growing food in tenement buildings to a radio station and a fruit and veg shop selling produce only grown within Glasgow. The rest of the street was taken up with a mix of traditional, long establish hospitality and food businesses who looked to be joined by newer cafes and bars with more work underway so encouraging to see a high street with plenty of life on it. Over in the more familiar West End, Partick Mini Market had set-up selling local artists’ work, a mixture of art, textiles and jewellery and we stumbled across Kimchi Cult, a Korean restaurant who started out on Chatsworth Road Market in Hackney. Next time, we will head back when they are open!

On a day trip out of town we headed to Falkirk home to The Kelpies and The Falkirk Wheel, both quite niche tourist attractions with an interesting story behind them.

Starting at The Helix site we heard how the development of a visitor and local attraction here dated back to 2003 when the idea was to improve the local environment and to create a free, green space for people to visit while better connection 16 local communities around the area. There was a strong desire to link the canals and industrial past with tourism and leisure.

The project was developed between Falkirk Council, Central Scotland Forest Trust and Scottish Canals who prepared a masterplan for the area with funding secured from the Big Lottery Fund.

Since 2014, the site has been home to The Kelpies, the world’s largest pair of equine sculptures standing at 30m tall in a 350 hectare parkland on a new stretch of canal. The Kelpies are a Scottish mythical water horses which can appear both in and out of the water. They are free to visit (without a tour) and can be seen from the motorway running alongside the site.

Nearby – with a connecting bus link (or a walk along the canal) between the two sites – is the Falkirk Wheel. A feat of engineering and the world’s only rotating boat lift. It opened in 2002 and restored Scotland’s waterways to a navigable state for first time since 1960s with the lift replacing 11 locks.

Falkirk Wheel

Both attractions, celebrate their environment, opening the area up to local people and visitors alike with a wealth of activities and walks on offer at both. They also celebrate Scotland in the myth surrounding The Kelpies, the oldest canal and opening up the landscape. As successful tourist destinations will know, it can be hard to have an attraction that appears to visitors and residents alike but with the creation of these space, there seems to be enough available for everyone and plenty to do without having to book organised tours.