The world’s only rotating boat lift gets an MOT

Annual maintenance works will get underway at The Falkirk Wheel on Thursday 10th November to ensure the world’s only rotating boat lift keeps on turning in 2017.

Between the 10th of November and 9th of December 2016, Scottish Canals’ engineering teams will carry out an extensive programme of inspections, maintenance and replacements covering everything from the Wheel’s mechanical and electrical systems to its surrounding infrastructure including the basin and aqueduct.

Paul Berry, Scottish Canals’ Project Manager, said: “The Falkirk Wheel is an incredible and unique feat of engineering as well as one of Scotland’s top tourism attractions and it is essential we carry out regular maintenance to ensure The Wheel continues to operate safely.”

The works will involve The Wheel being drained of water so the teams can inspect each of its thousands of mechanical parts, from the tiny nuts and bolts to the gigantic gondolas. The basin and aqueduct will also be drained as part of the programme of works to allow further inspection of the supporting infrastructure, such as the pumps and sluices.

“Although the public can’t experience a boat trip on The Wheel during the works, they’re welcome to come and catch a glimpse of the hard work that goes into ensuring the world’s only rotating boat lift keeps on turning.

“They’ll also be able to take advantage of all the other great things we have on offer. From Segway adventures around the grounds of the Wheel and the remains of the Antonine Wall to the chance to sample some scrumptious winter warmers in our cafe, there’s something for everyone at the incredible Falkirk Wheel.”

Mark Smith, Head of Projects at Scottish Canals

From Wednesday 2nd November, The Falkirk Wheel will be open Wednesday to Sunday between 11am and 4pm with a minimum of three boat trips taking place throughout the day. For more information and to book a boat trip, visit

There will be no boat trips from Thursday 10th to Friday 9th of December. The Visitor Centre, Café and Gift Shop will remain open Wednesday to Sunday between 11am and 4pm throughout the works.

For more information on the maintenance and winter opening hours, see here.

Images of previous years’ maintenance can be viewed here.

Notes to Editors

About The Falkirk Wheel

  • The Falkirk Wheel is a complex, elegant engineering solution, combining the principles set out by Archimedes in 300BC with 20th century electronic and electrical systems.
  • When one gondola is lowered, the opposite one rises. The vast, 1800 tonne boat lift moves boats 35 metres into the air in a matter of minutes.
  • The prime mechanism is a series of ten hydraulic motors which rotate the axle and a series of interconnected cogs.
  • The real secret of the boatlift’s smooth and economic operation is to ensure that both loaded gondolas are in perfect balance. The Wheel can only turn safely and successfully when there is an equal weight of boats and water in each gondola. The weight in the gondolas adheres to Archimedes Principle of Displacement.
  • A sophisticated network of water level sensors and water control systems monitor any variables which might affect this delicate balance, such as the water levels in the aqueduct or at the locks at the entry points to the Wheel.
  • Remarkably, because of the design and application of balance and weight, it takes just 22.5kW – the same power as it would to boil eight domestic kettles – for each rotation.

About Scottish Canals

  • 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.
  • As well as the waterways themselves, Scottish Canals care for 251 bridges, 212 buildings, 256 locks, The Falkirk Wheel, The Kelpies and 19 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 22 million visitations per year. See for more information

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