The Kelpies are celebrating a major milestone today (June 10th) as the 15,000th boat trip passenger sailed between the world’s largest pair of equine sculptures on the historic Forth & Clyde Canal.
Transport Minister Derek Mackay presented lucky pupils from local school St Francis Xavier’s Primary with a golden ticket for the landmark trip, which comes hot on the hooves of The Kelpies welcoming their millionth visitor and the first anniversary of their construction. They then joined Scottish Canals’ Chairman Andrew Thin, Chief Executive Steve Dunlop, and canal charity Seagull Trust Cruises’ Chairman David Mieras on board the ‘Campbell Christie’ barge for the milestone journey to the sculptures.
Canal charity Seagull Trust Cruises, which takes thousands of people with special needs on free boat trips on Scotland’s canals each year, has ran tours to The Kelpies since shortly after the sculptures’ unveiling last year. The income generated from the public trips goes towards funding the work of the charity, which is staffed completely by volunteers and has branches at Ratho near Edinburgh, Falkirk, Kirkintilloch and in Inverness.
Minister for Transport and Islands, Derek Mackay, said: “I’m delighted to be part of the celebrations as The Kelpies reach another impressive landmark.
“These iconic sculptures have already proved a real hit with the public, attracting huge visitor numbers, and the 15,000th passenger trip only serves to underline that popularity.
“Of course, The Kelpies are part of the £43million Helix project, which has breathed new life into this part of Scotland and provided a significant boost to the local economy. I congratulate everyone involved and wish them continued success in the future.”
The colossal Kelpies, Scotland’s newest cultural icons, stand guard over a new section of the Forth & Clyde Canal at the heart of the £43 million Helix project. A partnership between Scottish Canals and Falkirk Council, the scheme has transformed 350 hectares of underused land between Falkirk and Grangemouth into a vibrant parkland, visitor attraction and marine hub and is expected to help generate an additional £1.5 million income per annum for the local economy.
The new canal which passes between the 30-metre-tall Kelpies is one of the most complex sections of waterway ever built in Scotland. Passing beneath the M9 motorway and the A905 trunk road, the new section and sea lock dramatically improve access to the Forth & Clyde Canal’s eastern gateway.
The one-kilometre extension returns the Forth & Clyde back to its birthplace in Grangemouth some 250 years after it was built, and is the final piece in the Millennium Link project that restored the nation’s inland waterways back to a navigable state for the first time in more than 50 years.
Andrew Thin, Chairman of Scottish Canals, said: “It’s been an incredibly exciting year for The Kelpies and we’re immensely proud to welcome our 15,000th boat trip passenger.
“Since their unveiling in 2014, more than a million people have paid a visit to The Kelpies. It’s clear that, whether they’re passing between the world’s largest pair of equine sculptures on board a boat or marvelling at their scale from dry land, the chance to see this iconic fusion of engineering and art in person is drawing huge numbers of visitors to the area. This incredible project is boosting the local economy and helping put Falkirk and Grangemouth on tourists’ ‘to-see’ lists the world over.
“The Kelpies are one of the jewels in the crown of Scotland’s canal network and, with The Falkirk Wheel nearby, the area has so much to offer visitors from home and abroad. With the chance to take a turn on the incredible Wheel or stand in the shadows of these breathtaking public works of art, Falkirk and Grangemouth is now a vibrant tourism destination with the Forth & Clyde Canal at its heart. We can’t wait to welcome even more people to the area, whether they’re travelling by boot, boat or bike, in 2015 and beyond.”
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 equine 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 Scotland’s hospitable shores.
David Mieras, Chairman of Seagull Trust Cruises, added: “We are delighted to be associated with this exciting and innovative project. As well as getting a unique view of the magnificent Kelpies, our passengers are also helping our core work – taking people with special needs along our beautiful canals.
“Funds raised by the trips will go to our four bases across Scotland where our specially adapted boats take thousands of people on free canal tours each year. Seagull Trust Cruises is operated entirely by volunteers and we are currently looking for more folk who could donate their time to us. I’d urge anyone who thinks they could help to get in touch.”