Public invited to explore engineering secrets of world’s only rotating boat lift

The Falkirk Wheel is set to reveal its engineering secrets, with the first-ever public tour of the iconic structure’s internal workings.

Until now, visitors have only been able to imagine the engineering magic hidden behind The Wheel’s curved steel and soaring arches, but canal custodians Scottish Canals today (January 10th) announced a unique opportunity to take a tour inside the world’s only rotating boat lift in February.

Since its opening in 2002, The Falkirk Wheel has become one of Scotland’s busiest tourist attractions, attracting visitors from all over the world keen to marvel at the working sculpture. The Wheel combines modern engineering and technology with ancient principles set out by Archimedes more than 2000 years ago to link the Forth and Clyde Canal to the Union Canal, 35 metres (115 feet) above.

“We’re excited to offer this exclusive tour of The Falkirk Wheel, which has never been done before. The whole experience will be absolutely unique – The Wheel is the world’s only rotating boat lift, and it’s an incredible example of how design and technology can combine with art and sculpture to create a practical solution to an engineering challenge.

“The design solution integral to The Falkirk Wheel is so elegant; lifting boats 35m into the air in just a matter of minutes. Setting foot inside the structure is like nothing else on the planet – from the hum of the generators to the eerie silence of centre spindle, it’s a magical experience.

“Whether you’re curious by nature or a keen engineering buff, this is a fantastic opportunity to be one of only a handful of people to step inside the heart of this remarkable moving sculpture and see its revolutionary engineering first-hand.”

Richard Millar, Director of Infrastructure at Scottish Canals

Just a small number of people will have the chance to step inside The Wheel on the 23rd of February, with those fortunate enough to secure a place on the tours enjoying an in-depth discussion of The Wheel’s design, mechanics and engineering, before exploring the structure itself.

Taking in all of the structure’s internal workings, the tour will explore each level of structure – climbing through the heart of The Wheel, into the hum and thrum of its engine room, the eerie silence and shadows of its central spindle, and emerging onto the upper aqueduct for spectacular views of the Ochil Hills in the distance.

Scottish Canals is also offering a less-specialised guided engineering tour on the 23rd and 24th of February so those with an interest in The Wheel, and how it works, can discover more. These tours will include access to external areas not open to the public, with a walk to the end of the 110 metre aqueduct, then over the 150-metre-long Roughcastle Tunnel – presenting an exclusive opportunity for an almost bird’s eye view of the sculpture.

Tickets for tours are now on sale, and can be booked at

Notes to Editors

About Scottish Canals

Scottish Canals is responsible to the Scottish Government for the management and development of the Union, Monkland, Forth & Clyde, Crinan and Caledonian Canals. As well as the waterways themselves, Scottish Canals care for bridges, buildings, locks, The Falkirk Wheel, The Kelpies and water supply reservoirs in locations across Scotland. The reservoirs cover an area equivalent to 7,494 football pitches and supply the canals with the 332 million litres of water which flow through them each day.

The Forth & Clyde, Union and Monkland canals in the Lowlands, the Crinan Canal in Argyll and the Caledonian Canal in the Highlands together extend over 137 miles from coast to coast, across country and into the cities of Edinburgh, Glasgow and Inverness.

Built two hundred years ago to fire the Industrial Revolution, today the canals contribute to the Scottish Government agenda of developing a Greener; Healthier; Smarter; Safer and Stronger; and Wealthier and Fairer Scotland by acting as a catalyst for sustainable economic development, regeneration and tourism; contributing to education, biodiversity, heritage and promoting active living and healthier lifestyles. The Forth & Clyde, Union, Monkland, Caledonian and Crinan canals are recognised as Scheduled Monuments and attract 22million visits per year.

For more information, visit or follow @ScottishCanals on Twitter.

About The Falkirk Wheel

Opened as part of The Millennium Link, a £78 million project that restored Scotland’s inland waterways to a navigable state for the first time since the 1960s, The Falkirk Wheel replaced a flight of 11 locks that once stepped the Union Canal down to the level of the Forth & Clyde over a distance of 1.5 kilometres and took more than a day to traverse. The Falkirk Wheel allows vessels to transit between the two waterways in just a few minutes.

The working sculpture, which links the Forth & Clyde Canal to the Union Canal 35m (115ft) above, has welcomed more than 6.5 million visitors – more than the populations of Northern Ireland and Wales combined – since its opening by Her Majesty The Queen in 2002.

When one of the structure’s gondolas is lowered, the opposite one rises, keeping the vast, 1800 tonne boat lift in perfect balance as it carries canal barges 35 metres into the air in a matter of minutes. Each gondola holds 500,000 litres of water – enough to fill an Olympic swimming pool. Incredibly, because of the design and application of balance and weight, it takes just 1.5kWh – the same power as it would take to boil eight domestic kettles – for each rotation.

So iconic is its design, the International Federation of Consulting Engineers’ (FIDIC) – an organisation representing consulting engineers in more than 80 countries – judged the Wheel, alongside the likes of the Hoover Dam and The Channel Tunnel, as one of the most significant civil engineering projects of the last hundred years.

For more information, visit or follow @FalkirkWheel on Twitter.


For further information, please contact:

Chris McDonald at Scottish Canals on 07917217608 or email

Josie Saunders at Scottish Canals on 07881816283 or email

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