Newest Review: ... up or down so there's no hanging about if there's only one boat needing transported. *~* Parking and Getting There *~* I have never had to... more
Wheel We Go Round!
The Falkirk Wheel (Falkirk)
Member Name: xxBeccaxx
The Falkirk Wheel (Falkirk)
Advantages: Educational, lots to do, reasonably priced.
Disadvantages: The weather isn't predictable!
I live 5 minutes from the Falkirk Wheel so it feels fitting to write a review about something so close to where I am. Despite celebrating the 10 year anniversary until I moved to where I am now just 18 months ago I had never seen the wheel up close, only from a distance although to be honest it had never intrigued me to see what it was about. Despite living just 5 minutes walk away it took a further few months until I started taking ways with my son in the summer and we discovered what the Wheel had to offer.
*~* The Story Of The Wheel *~*
There are 2 canals, The Union and The Forth and Clyde, however they never joined as there was a drop of 35ft between the 2 and so to enable them to be joined together and provide canal links between Glasgow and Edinburgh The Wheel was designed by British Waterways as the first and only boat lift that rotates in the world to connect them. Once erected the Wheel was opened by the Queen herself on May 24th 2002.
*~* The Structure Of The Wheel *~*
In my young state when it was first built the wheel was nothing but a hunk of metal to look at from a distance, even now when I drive the road to my mum's house and see it in the distance it looks out of place in an otherwise undisturbed view but as the years have went on I have seen that it is an architectural marvel. When you see it up close and rotating the sheer effort put in to making the landmark is huge. More than that it is a piece of sculpture that adds to Falkirk and gives it something more than just a far out town no-one has heard of. It wasn't actually built on site but instead in Derbyshire and then carried to the site to be put together, certainly a mammoth task which was first considered in 1994.
*~* How It Works *~*
There is a detailed description of how the wheel works on the website but personally I couldn't make head nor tails of it so from my experience it is almost like a Ferris wheel but instead of having a large number of small tanks there are 2 platforms that rotate lifting the boats from the bottom to the top or also in reverse. It is powered by hydraulic motors using just 1.5KW of electricity to turn it which is pretty impressive I think.
It doesn't need 2 boats on the wheel to turn it, there have been multiple times I have seen it rotating with just 1 boat going either up or down so there's no hanging about if there's only one boat needing transported.
*~* Parking and Getting There *~*
I have never had to do either to get there but if arriving by car once you get almost to Falkirk there are lots of those brown tourist type signs that direct you to the wheel although I personally wouldn't have known how to get to it without living where I am, it isn't actually situated in Falkirk but the entrance is in Tamfourhill which is next to Camelon next to Falkirk. I would suggest using a sat nav to guide you, I often have people stopping me looking for directions. Once arrived there is a lot of parking space with a price tag of £2 attached although in the height of good weather (which is rather hit or miss) it can get rather crowded.
If you're travelling by public transport you need to get to Falkirk, there are two train stations, Grahamston and Falkirk High, from there the number 3 bus has to be caught which for an adult single ticket is £2.10 and £3.80 for a return. The bus takes you right the way down to the wheel or there is a stop beforehand which allows you to take a walk next to the grassy area and small forest on the other side. The buses run every 20 minutes from the site so there is decent transport links but as there is only the one bus route it can get busy in the summer.
*~* Arriving At The Wheel *~*
Once you get to the wheel there are plenty paved paths to get to the visitor centre which boasts a Gift Shop selling small souvineirs, a cafe which has a variety of options although I have never used it, it looks clean with friendly staff and great views of the wheel itself. There is a booking point in which you can order tickets for a boat ride although you can also do this on the website beforehand to avoid waiting for a long time if the weather is nice especially. From this point you are also able to book a boating holiday although I have never done it myself.
There are sculptures and huge rocks dotted around the site that my son loves to try and climb. The centre itself is free to visit, the only thing requiring payment is a boat ride or the cafe and gift shop so it can be an educational day out for next to nothing.
Outside there is a children's park which is advertised as 5-15 but my son went last year when he was almost 3 and there was still plenty for him to do. I know a lot of people round my area who go down to the park on a summer evening as it really does have quite a lot of things in there including slides and sprinklers and is much better than anything else around here. Also around this area is picnic benches which are ideal in the summer for taking along a picnic, my son can't wait to go back but with this almost monsoon we seem to be going through there's no hope as yet.
The site is easily accessible for wheelchair users which is excellent I think, blue badge holders are also entitled to park for free in the car park. Dogs are also allowed although only working dogs on the boat and in the visitor centre but there are plenty of area's for dogs to be taken.
*~* Prices *~*
Child (3-15) £4.95
A booking of 2 adults and 2 or more children gets 10% off.
There are also deals for large bookings of schools and clubs and so on so it's worth visiting the website and seeing if there are cheaper prices if you have a large group.
*~* The Boat Ride *~*
The boat ride is a canal boat that boards around 10 minutes before setting sail, definitely worth getting there early if you want a good seat. The trip starts outside the visitor centre and you board the wheel at the bottom which rotates and deposits you at the top sailing onto the Union Canal, this takes around 15 minutes of the 50 minute journey which takes you through a long tunnel, depositing you the opposite sides allowing you to take in the views.
*~* Walks *~*
This is the part that we enjoy the most, the boat ride is a novelty and is exciting but there is infinitely more things you can do with the land around the Wheel. Firstly you can walk the boat ride route which has a lot of informative information boards alerting you to the correct route, the only worry I have with this is that the water is not sectioned off in any way so if walking with a small child you have to be super careful as especially in the tunnel there isn't a large path to walk along. You can walk halfway along the wheel that starts to jut out from the side of the earth to view the sights from a height, I really enjoyed it and my son seemed to be fairly happy with it too.
Of course apart from the boat ride walkway there are lots of little walks you can experience that aren't hugely long, but give you a look at the sights 'Falkirk' has available to offer. I would definitely recommend walking along the canal in the summer, many people from the area make this a jogging or cycling route or a walk with the dog. There are sometimes ducks and swans on the lake and of course you're also able to see the many boats that are privately owned docked up on the canal. This is something we do often and it can be a nice walk or educational.
*~* Weddings And Parties *~*
Parties can be held at the wheel for just £5 per child with a minimum of 20 children. A ride on the wheel can also be arranged for an extra £2.50 per head which works out cheaper than paying the regular rate.
Weddings can also be carried out at the venue starting at £300+VAT there is a number on the website if you are interested in further information.
There are also various events that are held at the Wheel, it is worth checking on their website to see what is going on and when. The most recent event was the 10th anniversary which saw the princess visiting yesterday and a party style today with various events, floats and face painting as well as many many more although with the torrential rain for most of it we didn't head out. We did hear the bagpipes last night and seen the fireworks which were quite a show.
*~* My Opinion *~*
Although I live near it the Wheel is still something that can teach us something, the walkways are lovely. I love getting our shoes on and heading into the sunshine for a walk around the various walkways. The park is lovely to visit on a summer evening and letting my 3 year old run around and burn off energy. The ride is slow enough that you can take in the sights and learn but it's not too slow that you find yourself getting bored and overloaded with facts. I wouldn't say that the transport links are the best especially if arriving by bus but it is accessible and once you've done it once you wouldn't forget in a hurry! There is plenty to do for young children, as I say my son was 2 and a half the first time we done the walkways and he coped tremendously even during the wheel experience there was plenty to do and see, you could easily spend a good few hours seeing it all and even more if you were looking to take a walk. i would definitely recommend a visit if you're near the area. It's worth visiting once in your lifetime.
Summary: An educational day out.
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