Scale models of The Kelpies, the world’s largest pair of equine sculptures, will be stabled at Neptune’s Staircase on the Caledonian Canal ahead of their gallop up the Great Glen to the World Canals Conference in Inverness.
The maquettes will stand in the shadow of Ben Nevis at Neptune’s Staircase – Britain’s longest lock flight – from 30th August until 11th September. The visit will mark the first time the scale models, which have been touring the world helping to promote Scotland and the Falkirk area as a visitor destination, will have paid a visit to the Caledonian Canal. The three-metre-tall sculptures have previously appeared at major events including New York’s Scotland Week, the Grand National and the Ryder Cup.
The colossal, 30-metre-tall Kelpies, which tower over a new section of the historic Forth & Clyde Canal, are the centrepieces of the £43m Helix project. The scheme, driven by a partnership of Falkirk Council and Scottish Canals and supported by an award of £25m from the Big Lottery Fund, has transformed 350 hectares of underused land between Falkirk and Grangemouth into a vibrant parkland, visitor attraction and marine hub with the canal and The Kelpies at its heart.
More than 1.5 million visitors from all over the world have stood in the shadow of the sculptures since their unveiling in April 2014, bringing renewed vibrancy and income to the area and boosting the local economy by an estimated £1.5m per year. The site is now co-managed by Falkirk Community Trust and Scottish Canals.
Overlooked by Ben Nevis, Neptune’s Staircase is a dramatic eight lock flight situated in the small village of Banavie, just north of Fort William. This amazing feat of engineering raises the canal by 19m (62ft) over a quarter of a mile of continuous masonry and takes around 90 minutes for a boat to travel up or down the locks. Built by Thomas Telford between 1803 and 1822, it is the longest staircase lock in Britain.
A colossal engineering endeavour in the vein of Neptune’s Staircase, inspiration for The Kelpies came from the heavy horses which pulled boats and cargo along the towpaths of the Forth & Clyde and Union Canals in their heyday. The transport arteries of the Industrial Revolution, the canals and the horses that walked them played a huge role in the development of the area. The sculptures’ name was derived from the mythical Celtic water horses which could transform their shape and which were reputed to have the strength of 10 horses and the endurance of many more.
Originally envisioned as a moving boat lift, during the early design process the notion of The Kelpies changed to monumental sculptures symbolising the industrial past of both the canal and the communities that line its banks. Glasgow-based artist Andy Scott – Scotland’s best-known sculptor – transformed The Kelpies from idea to reality, imagining a colossal gateway towering either side of the canal to welcome weary sailors and visitors to the nation’s hospitable shores.