The Falkirk Wheel

Location MapI never would have expected to find myself at the Falkirk Wheel, but given it was close by while I was catching up with some extended family, why not?

Passing through Glasgow

I caught a series of buses from Glenfinnan to get to Glasgow. The first to Fort William for £3.30 and the second the rest of the way to Glasgow for £24.50. It was a hell of a lot cheaper than the ludicrous £145 train fare that ScotRail proposed. Train companies in the UK charge bogus amounts for last minute fares so be mindful and book ahead.

I actually wanted to give Glasgow more of a chance this time, but alas, time was too short. I had to get down to Derby to meet my old housemate and it was better anyway to spend the remaining time in Falkirk catching up with an extended aunt.

Glasgow made a better impression on me this time though. Maybe it was that the sun was shining, but the city felt pretty bright and vibrant. People hurried about their busy days and there was an abundance of bars, but all I really wanted to find was a cafe that did all day breakfast.

Eventually, I had some lunch and killed some time in a café/bar called Tabac close to Queen St Station, bought a bottle of wine and then jumped on a train to Falkirk.

But why Falkirk?

Well, while I was in Iceland I posted a bag of luggage ahead to a close friend’s aunty in Falkirk. She had hosted us several years ago and unfortunately she had to run when I came to pick up the bag. I really wanted to thank her for receiving my luggage and catch up.

So that’s what we did. Over a few bottles of wine, some spaghetti, more wine and then whisky. Good times, but far out the Scots can drink! We were both a bit rough the next day.

Feeling like we had to get out of the house, we went and saw the Falkirk Wheel. I know it’s meant to be a great engineering feat, but I have to say, the only reason I was interested was to pay a bit of a tribute to my good mate Malcolm back home. He really wanted to see it the last time we road tripped around the UK, but we kinda ignored his request…oops!

I felt like I should at least take a photo for him. So here it is: The Falkirk Wheel. A technologically advanced alternative to the usual loch for lifting boats up over short distances to other canals.

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The Falkirk Wheel

The thing cost £17 million to build, but thankfully only takes the power of four household kettles to rotate. That’s why it’s and engineering marvel, it’s incredibly well balanced. That was impressively efficient, but it started to bother me that it was unique and the only one in the world. Why didn’t anyone else want to copy such a great design?..

To find out we had to take a quick ride on it, though even a quick ride takes a very long hour. The boats don’t move too fast.. especially in tight spaces and the ride seemed to be designed for Cosmos tours clientele.

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Entering the wheel

What I began to learn while looking around the boat and listening to the tour guide, is that the Falkirk Wheel really is just a tourist attraction. Not really my kind of thing (it wasn’t exactly a rollercoaster). But it attracts 6 to 7 hundred thousand (‘00,000s!) tourists a year, though it is only used to lift 2,000 boats per year as per it’s intended design.

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Preparing to be dropped...slowly

The design is just not cost effective anymore (apparently it would cost £100 million to build today) and the canals don’t really have the same importance anymore either.

When reading a poster in the train station afterwards, it turned out that the Falkirk Wheel was one of the UK’s various Millennium Projects to spark new life into the country. In this case, the intention was to revitalise the Scottish Canal system.

Finally it all made sense! I can now sleep easy!

With the mystery solved I took a train down to Derbyshire to catch up with The Doctor.

See what happened during the rest of the month in the UK here.

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