THE Kelpies, the world’s largest pair of equine sculptures, are due their first health check and custodians Scottish Canals have arranged a visit by a rather unique veterinary team, who’ll be grooming their coats, checking their teeth, and inspecting every inch of the soaring steel canal guardians.
The sculptures – the centrepiece of The Helix project located between Falkirk and Grangemouth – are now undergoing a full internal and external inspection as part of an eight-week project. Tours inside the structures will remain available throughout the works, with visitors able to see the hard work that goes into caring for Scotland’s newest cultural icons first-hand.
Richard Millar, Director of Infrastructure at Scottish Canals, said: “From Neptune’s Staircase to The Falkirk Wheel, Scotland’s canals have been associated with innovative engineering and art for more than 200 years. The Helix and The Kelpies are the latest in that long line of ambitious projects fusing water, art and industry.
“As The Kelpies approach their third birthday, the maintenance work as part of this important health check will ensure that these global waterway icons are here, delivering for Scotland over the next century and beyond – continuing to capture the imaginations of people all over the planet and helping to put Falkirk and Grangemouth on tourists’ ‘must-see’ lists the world over.”
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 2.5 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.
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 the nation’s hospitable shores.
Kelpies Key Stats
- At 30m-tall, The Kelpies are the world’s largest pair of equine sculptures
- They are estimated to be seen be more than 50 million people per year from the canal, the nearby M9 motorway, and The Helix itself
- The sculptures are clad in 990 shimmering steel panels
- Each of the sculptures weigh around 300 tonnes
- They each contain over 18,000 components and 1.5 miles of structural steel
- They were constructed onsite in just 90 days
- The foundation of each sculpture is made up of around 1200 tonnes of concrete
- A whole horse sculpture built on the same scale would stand around 213 metres tall