Falkirk Wheel is a fascinating piece of engineering and ingenuity. Rather than creating the usual series of locks to link two canals that are at different levels, this wheel has been built as a rotating, counterweighted boat lift. The glass roofed visitor centre explains the process and has a café where you can watch the wheel in action. As one gondola, containing boats and water, descends from the higher canal aqueduct, the opposite gondola rises from the basin and lower canal. All performed with minimal energy due to the Archimedes principle. Clever stuff. Usually there are tourist boat trips on the wheel but due to annual maintenance last week, we could only see the wheel and not experience it in motion.
Falkirk has another tourist attraction, The Kelpies. Two beautiful horse sculptures, thirty metres tall, made from stainless steel, which stand in the Helix parkland, beside the canals. We walked through the park to view the sculptures from a distance and up close. We also joined a tour, which told about the mythology of the water horses, the local history of the canals and heavy horses who worked the area, also the millennium vision that created the kelpies. The bonus of taking the tour was going inside one of the horses, seeing the internal design and engineering of the structure.
We stopped later in the day, at dusk, as the horses were floodlit from inside and the light reflected in the canal.
Stirling is another Scottish town full of history. It is the site of battles against the English, such as Bannockburn. The Wallace Monument sits on one hill, the castle sits on another hill. The castle was both a fortress and a royal residence for several hundred years. The tour guide refreshed my Tudor and Stuart history, Mary Queen of Scots, crowned as a baby, her son, James VI of Scotland who became James I of England. The castle staterooms are displayed with minimal furnishings, as example, a simple four poster bed frame to indicate the nature of the room, while paintwork and ornate ceilings were emphasized. The kitchens have displays and soundtracks to indicate the hustle to feed a full castle. A workshop was in use where replica tapestries are being woven by hand. Our afternoon was an interesting snapshot of history.
Back in 2011, we drove across the Forth bridge, up around Perth and on to Pitlochry where we stopped for coffee and a walk around. We took the kids for a walk to the river, over a suspension bridge and up past the fish ladders where the salmon swim up and through the dam, into the loch above. The scenery was stunning with the autumn colours. There was some cloud and even mist on the hills as we drove up, but we had some sunny spells. Aussie Mate and Aussie “soon to be” son-in law were on a search for some snow but it had not been cold enough that October, so there was no snow even on the Cairngorm Mountains. We drove back along the banks of Loch Tay via the Falls of Dochart.
I’ve enjoyed all three trips to Edinburgh. First class train travel was an added benefit, travelling via York, Durham, Newcastle Upon Tyne, Berwick on Tweed. The section around the English and Scottish border is lovely as the train tracks hug the coast and passengers get glimpses of the sea, cliffs, coves and beaches.