If you’ve been following my latest blog posts, you will see one common thing: all are based on my solo day trip adventures from Edinburgh. I have already written about Queensferry, St. Andrews and Berwick-upon-Tweed. Now, it’s time to write about my last solo day trip from Edinburgh. It’s going to be about my day trip to Falkirk in Scotland, a short train ride away from Edinburgh. As usual, read on to find information on how to get there, what are the best things to do in Falkirk, and a selection of my favourite photos.
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Falkirk is a large town in Scotland close to Stirling. It is most known for its two steel horses, known as the Kelpies. The Kelpies are so famous that there is even a replica of them made of flowers at the Dubai Miracle Garden (although sadly there was no reference to the original one, even after looking online, the similarity is striking). In Scotland, the sculptures attract many tourists who are either specifically going there to marvel the giant horses (like me) or are briefly visiting as part of a larger tour around Scotland.
How to get to Falkirk from Edinburgh
Unless you have your own wheels, the easiest way to get to Falkirk from Edinburgh is by train. When you search for Falkirk train station, you will see that there are two stations: Falkirk High and Falkirk Grahamston. Both of them are about half an hour away from Edinburgh by train, but Falkirk High has more frequent connections than Falkirk Grahamston. The one you need to select is Falkirk Grahamston as it services the town centre of Falkirk and is the one closest to the places of interest. You can get the train from either train station in Edinburgh: Waverly or Haymarket.
Note: As there are less frequent trains, you should note down the departure times for either direction to ensure you don’t miss your train.
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Besides the train, you can get to Falkirk from Edinburgh by bus. Bus X38 towards Stirling departs from various locations in Edinburgh and services Falkirk as well. If you select this option, you need to get off at St Andrew’s Church and for the return trip, you should get on the bus at Weir Street. For this option, you will need to check the bus schedule in advance, as they are not very frequent. As an added disadvantage, it can take up to 1h30mins to reach Falkirk, three times longer than the train.
Things to do on a day trip to Falkirk
There are three main sights in Falkirk: the Kelpies, the Callendar House and the Falkirk Wheel. Unfortunately, all three are in different areas of Falkirk and hence, are far from each other. For this reason, on my day trip to Falkirk, I only managed to visit two of them. However, if you have a car or a bike it will be easier to cover all three of them in a day. For the sake of completion, below you can find information about all of them, not just the ones I visited.
Falkirk Town Centre
Before starting (or after finishing) exploring the main attractions of Falkirk I suggest to walk around a bit in the town centre and check out some historic landmarks. It is worth finding the grave of Sir John Stewart Of Bonkyll at Falkirk Trinity Church, who used to be a commander at the First Scottish War of Independence. Still, if you have no idea who he is, you can simply walk around the churchyard. Then, continue your way to the Falkirk Steeple which after being used as the town’s tolbooth it served as the town jail. The original steeple was built in the 16th century, but what is here now is its third reconstruction from the 19th century.
Around the Falkirk Steeple, you can find the Old Market Place, which apart from accommodating the weekly market, it used to be the place of public executions until 1828. Behind the Steeple, you can find Tolbooth Street, which is said to be Britain’s shortest street at 58 ft (17.68 m) long.
How to get there?
The town centre is a short walk from the Falkirk Grahamston train station.
The Helix: Home of the Kelpies
Helix is a recreational area outside the town centre. The park is part of a long cycle (or walk) route that connects the main sights of Falkirk. At the park, you can also do some water activities. As the Forth and Clyde canal passes from the park, there is a canal boat tour that you can take. Also, in the park, there is a lake that offers different water activities.
The highlights of the Helix park are two large horse sculptures, known as the Kelpies. Each horse is 30m tall and weighs 300 tonnes. It is said to be the largest structure of its kind in the world. The structure was created by Andy Scott in 2013. The selection of horses represents the significance of the animal in the development of the Scottish economy, as horses were often assigned to do all the heavy work. Their name is derived from mythology and is used to describe something extremely strong. Hence, the name is relevant to represent the huge transformation of the area.
It is free to walk around the Kelpies, but if you want to get inside you need to join a guided 30-minute tour. Opposite the Kelpies, you can find a visitor centre with a short exhibition about the structure, a restaurant and a souvenir shop. The Helix visitor centre is open daily from 9:30 am to 5 pm.
Find out more about the Helix: Home of the Kelpies here.
How to get there?
To get there with public transport, you need to take bus 3 or 4 towards Falkirk from Weir Street close to the Falkirk Grahamston train station and then get off at the Stadium Road End, at the south entrance of the Helix. To get to the Kelpies you need to walk for about 20 minutes through the park. If you prefer to walk there from the town centre, you will need about 45 minutes to reach the Kelpies.
Callendar House and Park
My second and last stop of the day after making my way to the Kelpies was the Callendar House. The house dating to the 14th century looks like a castle and has a fairytale-style entrance. Inside, there is are numerous collections regarding the story of the house, the Antoine Wall, the local area and more. Entrance to the permanent exhibitions is free. Inside the house, you can find a cafe that serves afternoon tea and light snacks. At Callendar Park you can find nature trails and lovely paths to walk around. The playground of the park and the activities of the house make it a great place to visit with children. Callendar House is open Wednesday – Monday until 5 pm.
Find out more about Callendar House here.
How to get there?
To get to Callendar House by public transport from the Falkirk Grahamston train station you need to walk to St Andrew’s bus stop, take bus F16 towards Westquarter from Weir Street and get off at Callendar Park. The entrance to the Callendar House is about 5 minutes away. However, this bus is not very frequent and you may prefer to take bus 1 towards Maddiston from Weir Street and get off at Moncks Road instead. Callendar House is about 10 minutes away. If you prefer to walk from the train station, you should be able to reach Callendar House in about 30 minutes.
The most straightforward way to get to Callendar House from Helix Park is to walk for about 40 minutes. If you want to get all the way there by public transport, you need to get back to the train station and follow the directions above.
Falkirk Wheel is a piece of engineering work that connects the Forth and Clyde Canal with the Union Canal. The two canals are on different levels and require some kind of lift to transfer boats from one section to another. What used to take a day to complete, now requires less than five minutes using the Falkirk Wheel. The wheel uses a series of locks and propellers to rotate boats from one level to another. It opened in 2002 and it is the world’s first rotating boat lift. Its design is inspirited by a Celtic double-headed spear and it required an impressive effort to create the 35m tall structure.
Visitors to the site can enjoy a range of activities including a boat ride to experience the rotation of the wheel. There is a visitor centre on-site which is open daily from 10 am to 4 pm and provides more information about the place.
Find out more about Falkirk Wheel here.
How to get there?
To get there from the Falkirk Grahamston train station you need to take bus 6 towards Camelon from Weir Street and get off at Ochiltree Terrace Terminus. From there, the Wheel is another 5 minutes on foot. The total journey should last about 30 minutes. Walking there can take up to an hour.
The quickest way to get there from Helix is by bike as there is a bicycle route that connects the two sights in Falkirk. However, if you don’t have one, then you may prefer to use public transport instead of walking there as it can take more than one hour to reach the Wheel. To get there, by public transport, you first need to return to the train station and then follow the instructions from there.
Similarly, from the Callendar House, you will still need about an hour to get there on foot, and it may be easier to get there by bike or public transport. The easiest way to get there by bus is to return to the train station and then follow the instructions from there. Alternatively, you can walk (about 10 minutes) to Moncks Road, take bus 1 towards Dunipace and then get off at Frasers Garage which is about 15 minutes away on foot from Falkirk Wheel.
Walking Route Directions:
If you want to walk the whole thing, you can follow the route below.
P.S. Don’t be mislead by the word last in the introduction. I still have a lot more content to share from my trips around Scotland and England. The only difference is that I wasn’t going there on my own but with some company.
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