To me, it looks like a gigantic transformer toy with its ginormous metal parts and thunderous gears.
Obviously, this engineering marvel is not a transformer but a colossal boat lift and the only one on the entire planet. And for the price of a ticket, you can do what we did, and take a ride on the Falkirk Wheel!
For many years the Forth & Clyde Canal was connected to the Union Canal by 11 lock gates. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen a lock in action but it’s a long and tedious process as seen here . With 11 locks it could take an entire day for a boat to traverse the waters.
In 1933, the locks were dismantled and in 2002, the world’s first and only rotating boat lift was constructed. Located in the town of Falkirk in Central Scotland, it’s also a family fun area with a splash zone and other water activities.
How does it work?
It’s easier to watch than for me to explain, take a look at this great aerial video by SkyEyeBritain . It’s a simple concept really, it rotates one boat from the bottom canal to the upper one and vice versa.
Obviously, engineering that concept was not as simple as my explanation but you get the picture.
Riding the Wheel
Okay now to the fun part. Yes, you can ride the wheel. But there are a few things I think you should know first.
What you are paying for is the thrill of riding in this mechanical miracle–so don’t expect a long cruise down the canal because you will be sorely disappointed. What you do get for your 50 min ride is a boat lift up, a brief ‘courtesy’ ride on the canal, and then back down the lift again.
It really is a cool experience to know you are doing something that can’t be done in any other place in the world.
Also, there are some great views at the top, along with a tunnel, and a park view –so have your cameras ready.
The Falkirk Wheel is not just a boat ride, it’s also a working lock so there might be a brief wait while others pass through.
Well, I think they’re fun anyway so here they are:
- Weight: 1800 tonnes total or 3,968,321 pounds
- Height: 35 metres high x 25 metres long (8 double-decker buses stacked on top of each other)
- Lift loads: Equivalent to 100 African Elephants
- Half turn: Rotation time from top to bottom or vice versa is 5 minutes
- Bolts: 15,000 bolts, 45,000 bolt holes, all hand tightened
- Energy: 1.5kWh of energy to turn, the same amount to boil 8 household kettles
You can purchase tickets in person, but I would make reservations online so you can get the time and date you want. The boats hold a limited amount of people, I would say about 50-60.
Location and Hours
Hours are 10-5:30pm daily
If you are going to the Falkirk Wheel, don’t forget to visit its massive friends, the Kelpies–you can’t miss them!
Remember to live slow and travel even slower……
Happy Trails 👣,