If you’re headed to Scotland, I’d highly recommend checking out some of the more unique things to do in Falkirk. The small town is about 20 miles west of Edinburgh and only has a population of about 35,000, but there are some surprisingly interesting attractions.
Last year, Kerry wrote about the majestic Kelpies of Falkirk. These equestrian statues are the tallest horse statues in the world, rising over 90 feet. You need to visit them in person as you really can’t appreciate them just driving past on the nearby highway. It’s also great to go at night when the metal structures are beautifully lit up with colored lights. Best of all, the Kelpies are free to visit. You just have to pay for parking or you can use the free parking lot a few feet down the road (if there’s space).
The Falkirk Wheel
About 4 miles down the canal from the Kelpies is the Falkirk Wheel. This unique device is the only rotating boat lift in the world. More specifically, it raises and lowers boats from the Forth and Clyde Canal (connecting the two coasts of Scotland) to the Union Canal which runs from Falkirk to Edinburgh without a single lock (except for the two by the wheel). Despite each of the two gondolas which carry the boats weighing 250 tons each, the entire mechanism only requires the energy equivalent of 8 electric tea kettles.
For about $17.50, you can take an hour boat tour to the top of the wheel and then to the first of the two locks on the Union Canal before returning for the ride back down. I’d say it’s definitely worth it if you’re looking for a really unique experience.
The Callendar House is the top museum of Falkirk. It started as a tower house in the 14th century and has slowly expanded into a large estate. Many Scottish and British royalty have stayed at the manor, which recently has been restored to its Georgian-style grandeur. You can take a tour of the house to learn the history of the region, how the house was constructed, who stayed there, and what life was like through the ages in Scotland. The kitchen has many of the original contraptions, ovens, pots and pans, etc, and a guide dressed in character will explain how everything worked.
The house also holds several other exhibits applicable to the Falkirk region. At the time of this writing, there is a large exhibit dedicated to the construction and maintenance of the canals over the centuries, and the role Falkirk played as an iron and steel provider for the planet. You can actually find manhole covers all over the world with “Falkirk Iron Co.” proudly embossed on the top.
The Dunmore Pineapple
When it comes to unique structures in Scotland, I think the Dunmore Pineapple tops the list. This 46-foot concrete pineapple on top of two garden cottages is what’s known as a folly – a decorative structure on one’s property that doesn’t really serve any purpose. The rooms beneath the pineapple used to be a glasshouse for growing pineapples – back in the days when pineapples were an extremely rare and valuable commodity. The folly was probably built at the end of the 1700s, but the structure has weathered well, and now you can even rent the Pineapple House to spend the weekend in.
If you’re a fan of the TV show Outlander, then Blackness is the place to visit. By itself, the castle is really unique and interesting, as it’s built in the shape of a ship entering the Firth of Forth. More recently, the castle was used as an ammunition depot for Scotland, which is reasonable considering the castle has one of the most secure defensive fortifications, including 15-foot-thick walls!
Aside from Outlander, other movies and TV shows that have been filmed at Blackness Castle include the 1990 version of Hamlet, the sci-fi film Doomsday, the TV mini-series Ivanhoe, The Outlaw King with Chris Pine, and the new Mary Queen of Scots movie with Saoirse Ronan. It might not be as popular yet as Doune Castle, but it’s getting there.