The Helix is a community outdoor green space with interesting artwork and attractions located in the town of Falkirk, Scotland, about twenty miles from Edinburgh and Glasgow. The park paths are popular and are shared by both pedestrians and cyclists, so please look and listen for others.

The Kelpies

The largest and most well-known attraction in this park is the Kelpies, the world’s largest equine sculptures that tower thirty metres above the Forth, Clyde Canal, and the M9 Motorway. Created by sculptor Andy Scott, the Kelpies rose from the ground in just ninety days in late 2013. 

More fun facts about the Kelpies:

  • Each structure contains approximately 18,000 individual pieces 
  • There is over 1.5 miles of steel in each structure
  • They each weigh over 300 tonnes and sit on 1,200 tonne foundations
  • Each structure has 464 steel plates 

In front of the visitor centre, café, and toilets by the Kelpies is a large open area that’s paved and flat with a path to the takeaway coffee trolley and picnic tables. Although the picnic benches aren’t specifically designed for wheelchair users, wheelchair users can sit on the hard paved area with their feet underneath the table and reach the picnic bench. 

There is an uphill incline to the Kelpies from either the car park or visitor centre area, but isn’t significant, and the path’s surface is wide and paved. No access guide was available at the time of my visit; however, I suggested one be created so that people could see the safest wheelchair routes and avoid the inaccessible spots. For instance, when heading towards the marina, the loch bridge between the two Kelpies has a step.

Furthermore, the bridge to the right of the Kelpie that goes across the canal is a swing bridge with a raised lip. Signage clearly warns people about the raised lip. If you are coming towards the bridge from the rear of the Kelpies, the bridge would tip downwards and leave about a 2 cm threshold to get back onto the path. I wouldn’t try to wheel onto this bridge to go towards the Kelpies as the bridge would need some weight on it to stop it from moving. Alternatively, take the easier route around the left Kelpie, or following the path to the statue called ‘Love and Kisses.’

Love and Kisses Statue

A small metal plaque is located on the side of the path with details about the sculpture. The sculpture is also sometimes called the ‘Abbotshaugh Sentinel’ and was created by artist Jephson Robb out of Corten Steel. The inspiration was the shape of a laurel leaf which references the rich Roman heritage of the Falkirk Area. From certain angles it also looks like a heart and a pair of lips.

From the Kelpies, it’s a short twenty-minute stroll through the woodlands to the Love and Kisses statue. Wheel along the smooth tarmacked path by the side of the river to a level bridge. Turn right to cross the bridge and then turn right again onto the path.

Wheel down the other side of the river where you will have a great view of the Kelpies. Continue on this wide, flat, tarmacked path past the water treatment works on your left. The path continues over another bridge with no threshold, and you will come to a wide crossroads with fingerpost waymarkers. 

The Human Sun Clock which will be on your right-hand side. If possible, sit on the slab in the location indicated by whatever month it is when you visit. Your shadow will fall on one of the metal plaques coming out of the ground, estimating the time. With the Human Sun Clock on your right, continue straight to follow the fingerpost watmarkers to the Love and Kisses sculpture.

To get back to the Kelpies, take the same route and enjoy great views from a distance. An alternative route is through the greenspace Community Woodland, which provides a year-round home for many species including Roe deer, foxes, buzzards, and kestrels.

Nearby Attractions (from Kelpies)

  • The Peace Pole (1min stroll): A short pole sits between two park benches along the pathway.
  • Kid’s Adventure Zone (1min stroll): This outdoor play area for children includes wheelchair accessible equipment, like wind chimes, ball tumbles, flat rubber mat flooring as well as a wheelchair friendly roundabout and see saw.
  • Castle Ruins (20 min stroll): An old brick tower; visibility from the path is unknown and may require traveling over grass.
  • Charlotte Dundas Heritage Trail (4mins drive): The trail runs along the Carron River, where otters are frequently seen, and celebrates the world’s first practical steamboat.
  • Zetland Park (8mins drive): A flat park with wide, paved pathways and wheelchair accessible features, including a playground with barrier-free pirate ship.
  • Tomb of Sir John De Graeme (6mins drive): A man who promoted and fought for the Scottish Wars of Independence and died in 1298.
  • Kinneil Local Nature Reserve (12mins drive): Greenspace along the water. A flat and paved pathway travels through parts of the park; some trails are a firm dirt and crushed rock makeup. A large mansion estate often has events and offers tours, but access is currently unknown.
  • Kinneil Museum (10 min drive): About two minutes from the Kinneil Local Nature Reserve, is the museum.
  • Carron Dams Heritage Trail (7mins drive): A path travels around the reserve from Strenhouse Road, and includes the ‘Stenhousemui,’ the giant bee statue by Robert Burns (Poem of Iron).
  • Dunfermline Abby and Palace (30mins drive): No wheelchair access has been made into the historic buildings, but the surrounding grounds have some barrier-free, tarmac pathways. The architecture, alone, may still be worth visiting for some.

Getting Here

Driving
When arriving at the car park, if a wheelchair user shows the blue badge, the parking attendant will allow you to park in one of the seven accessible parking spots closest to the Kelpies, visitor centre, café, and toilets. The parking area is flat and has a tarmacked surface. From the parking lot, follow the paved walkway to the visitor centre, café, toilets, and picnic benches.

Public Transport
To reach the Kelpies at the Helix by public transport, you will need to use a train, followed by a bus, and then wheel. To catch the train, it is advisable to pre-book your wheelchair assistance at least one hour in advance. It’s possible to book up till 10pm the day before and six hours before travelling during working hours.

The number of wheelchair spaces per train depends on the train company (i.e., Virgin, Transpennine Express, Northern, ScotRail) and the number of carriages on the train (sometimes Transpennine Express trains have 4 carriages, sometimes 8). There are normally at least 2, often 4, wheelchair spaces per train. The spaces are big enough for a powered wheelchair, however no restraints are provided. You can book a seat and transfer out of your wheelchair if you prefer, although your wheelchair will then remain in the wheelchair space. Each carriage where there is a wheelchair space(s), there is an accessible toilet, with automatic doors, grab rails and room to side transfer (normally to the left), although again this depends on the train and train company. 

Book Wheelchair Assistance:

  1. Visit any staffed station.
  2. Online with the Assisted Travel booking form.
  3. Use the Passenger Assistance App by Transreport. (This is free to download from App Stores and you can store your own travel requirements so you don’t have to input these each time.)
  4. Free Assisted Travel Helpline: 0800 912 2901
  5. Assisted Travel Textphone: 18001 0800 912 2 901 (for deaf and hearing loss customers)
  6. British Sign Language (BSL) users can contact contactSCOTLAND-BSL the online British Sign Language interpreting service.

Train Stations:

  • Falkirk High Station is on the Glasgow to Edinburgh Line, via Falkirk, and situated on the southern edge of the town, close to the Union Canal. It has level access to platform 1, and ramped access to platform 2 and connecting footbridge with stairs. The alternative route is a long route using the subway under the rail tracks. There are four accessible parking bays.

Once you are at the Falkirk High train station, you can either:

  1. Wheel to Slammanan Road. (approx 2 minute’s wheel from the Falkirk High station) and then catch First Bus Number 2 bus for Bo’ness. This bus will stop on Falkirk Road opposite Falkirk Stadium (watch out for the pink bus stop). You will then be at the side entrance to Helix Park and you can wheel through the park to the Kelpies and the visitor centre. This will take approx. 15 minutes.
  2. Alternatively, once at Falkirk Stadium you can then get the 28 bus to Falkirk/Alloa and get off at Glensburgh Road. From here it is an approx. 8 minutes wheel to the Kelpies along the flat/smooth canal path.
  1. Once you are at Falkirk Grahamston Station, wheel 2mins to Weir Street, travel 6 stops and alight at Stadium Road End. It is then a nice, flat, smooth 15min, 0.3 mile, wheel through Helix Park to the Kelpies.

Accommodation

I didn’t stay overnight in Falkirk, however it appears that a range of chain hotels such as Premier Inn, Ibis and Double Tree have hotels with accessible rooms in Falkirk.  Personally, I like Premier Inn rooms, but it is always worth checking what the bathroom layout is as some of them have baths with lowered sides rather than a wheel in shower.

Claire Unwin (6 Posts)

I'm Claire. I live in Cumbria, in North West England, near the beautiful lake district and a short distance from Hadrian's Wall and Scotland. I've used a wheelchair since 1999, as I have a bone condition. I mainly use a manual wheelchair, but due to repeated soft tissue problems I use a power wheelchair for distance too. I love exploring the world and have been to some amazing places including Europe, Cuba, and this year a tour of the American Canyons. I hope you enjoy my articles, and find them useful.


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