The Kelpies welcome 15,000th boat passenger

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.

"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."

Derek Mackay, Minister for Transport and Islands

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.”

Notes to Editors

Scottish Canals is responsible to the Scottish Government for the management and development of five Scottish canals as well as the surrounding estate and The Falkirk Wheel. See www.scottishcanals.co.uk or follow @ScottishCanals for more information

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 visitations per year

The Helix project has transformed 350 hectares of land between Falkirk and Grangemouth into a vibrant new parkland with visitor attraction. The Kelpies, 30-metre-tall horse head sculptures inspired by the role of the heavy horse in the history of the canals, form the centrepiece of the project.

The Helix has also boosting the area’s path connections with the creation of over 27 kilometres of pathways. These link into 400km of wider central Scotland path networks including Sustrans routes, the new John Muir Trail and the Bespoke Mountain Bike Trails, which are the first of their kind in Falkirk

Another key Helix development is the installation of an enhanced canal hub with a visitor centre as part of a new canal link into the Forth & Clyde Canal. The one-kilometre extension returns the canal back to its birthplace in Grangemouth some 250 years after it was built, and is the final piece in the Millennium Link project

The Helix is being driven by a partnership of Falkirk Council and Scottish Canals. The project has been awarded £25 million by the Big Lottery Fund’s Living Landmarks programme. More at www.thehelix.co.uk

For more information about Seagull Trust Cruises visit www.seagulltrust.org.uk

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