‘The Falkirk Wheel’

Wednesday 16th April

I had been looking forward to today since my beloved announced yesterday, over a glass of falling over juice, that she had booked us on a boat on the Falkirk Wheel. As some of the readers of my blog will already know, my other passion is Boats, not of the sailing variety but primarily of the Inland Waterways variety, Narrowboats, Widebeams, Barges and even Coastal style barges, with that of course comes the various canals and rivers that such craft can be ‘cruised’ upon both in the UK and Europe. It is fair to say that had we not been fulltiming in a Motorhome we ‘would’ have been fulltime Liveaboards on a boat and that ‘dream’ remains on my ‘Bucket List’ for another day ! In the many Waterways Magazines that I have read there have been numerous articles on unique structures that can carry boats up and down from one waterway to another, the ‘Anderton Lift Bridge’ is one and the ‘Falkirk Wheel’ is another, but there are many more around Europe. However, I never imagined that I would get to go on one of these without owning a boat so yes, I am as excited as a young boy about to lose his virginity !!

As usual we were in no rush, our boat trip was booked for 12:30pm so we had our usual relaxed cuppa in bed before getting showered and dressed, even so, we were in ‘Wuxly’ and leaving the campsite by 10:00am. Falkirk was only 24 miles away and apart from the last 6 miles it was all motorway so we arrived quite early but managed to change our trip time to an earlier boat. The Falkirk Wheel is the only fully ‘rotating’ boat lift in the ‘World’ and it carries boats 86 feet, from the ‘Forth & Clyde’ Canal to the ‘Union Canal’ or vice versa. I was quite surprised to find out that ‘Privately Owned’ boats can use the lift at absolutely no charge !!

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Okay, the above photographs give you a basic visual image of how it works, basically two ‘Bath Tubs’ full of water, they are counterbalanced, when one is at the top the other is at the bottom and when they are half way up or down they are both half way up or down !! So let’s go and take a ride on a boat !!

Boat enters 'Bath Tub'.......

Boat enters ‘Bath Tub’…….

Once it is fully in it ties up to bollards to prevent it from moving around, the back gates are closed sealing the 'Bath Tub'

Once it is fully in it ties up to bollards to prevent it from moving around, the back gates are closed sealing the ‘Bath Tub’

The wheel is operated from a control room and when hey are ready and confirm everything is as it should be, they start to rotate the wheel.

The wheel is operated from a control room and when they are ready and confirm everything is as it should be, they start to rotate the wheel and up we go.

Half way ! So let's take a boats eye view !!

Half way ! So let’s take a boats eye view !!

The bollard you can see is on the front of the boat. Not a bad view of the countryside !

The bollard you can see is on the front of the boat. Not a bad view of the countryside !

Just coming just coming around now to the upper level.

Just coming around now to the upper level.

Get lined up for a nice water tight seal and wait for the control room boys to lower the ramps !!

Get lined up for a nice water tight seal and wait for the control room boys to lower the ramps !!

Then away we go !

Then away we go !

We head for the tunnel we head for the tunnel that will take us to the lock gates that would, if we were in our own boat, take us onto the 'Union Canal'

We head for the tunnel that will take us to the lock gates that would, if we were in our own boat, take us onto the ‘Union Canal’

A bit hazy but the views are still pretty spectacular. I could imagine being stood at the tiller on my Narrowboat chugging away at a heady 4 mph !

A bit hazy but the views are still pretty spectacular. I could imagine being stood at the tiller on my Narrowboat chugging away at a heady 4 mph !

Coming out of the tunnel into the 'basin'. Only one boat at a time through the tunnel which is controlled via traffic lights. There are CCTV cameras so the boys in the Control Room can see traffic waiting to enter, there is also contact via VHF Radio if you have it of course ?

Coming out of the tunnel into the ‘basin’. Only one boat at a time through the tunnel which is controlled via traffic lights. There are CCTV cameras so the boys in the Control Room can see traffic waiting to enter, there is also contact via VHF Radio if you have it of course ?

And there are the double lock gates. We were not going through them though, this is where we turn around and head back.

And there are the double lock gates. We were not going through them though, this is where we turn around and head back.

If you were travelling down the lock to the 'Wheel' this is where you could tie up and have lunch or just wait until the tunnel was clear of oncoming traffic.

If you were travelling down the lock to the ‘Wheel’ this is where you could tie up and have lunch or just wait until the tunnel was clear of oncoming traffic.

Tunnel looks clear to me Captain, slow ahead, steady as you go !!

Tunnel looks clear to me Captain, and yes we have a green light, slow ahead, steady as you go !!

What a view as we exit the tunnel !!

What a view as we exit the tunnel !!

Straighten her up a bit, don't want to be falling over the edge now do we !!

Straighten her up a bit, don’t want to be falling over the edge now do we !!

That's better ! Now then, what did you say about brakes on this thing when we get to the end !!

That’s better ! Now then, what did you say about brakes on this thing when we get to the end !!

Ooh heck ! Which seafaring explorer was it that thought the Earth was flat and that you would sail right off the edge ?? Good job he wasn't here right now !!

Ooh heck ! Which seafaring explorer was it that thought the Earth was flat and that you would sail right off the edge ?? Good job he wasn’t here right now !!

Just sit back and enjoy the landscape as the wheel turns and slowly our Bath Tub descends.

Just sit back and enjoy the landscape as the wheel turns and slowly our Bath Tub descends.

And the 'Forth & Clyde' Canal comes into view.

And the ‘Forth & Clyde’ Canal comes into view.

One last look at that magnificent scenery !

One last look at that magnificent scenery !

As I look up through the glass roof I can just see a Narrowboat and crew going up in the other Bath Tub !

As I look up through the glass roof I can just see a Narrowboat and crew going up in the other Bath Tub !

Almost down...........

Almost down………..

And there we are, our trip was over and most enjoyable it was too !

And there we are, our trip was over and most enjoyable it was too ! If you were on your own boat you could tie up in the basin or go through the lock, which is straight ahead in this photograph, and join the ‘Forth & Clyde’ Canal.

And that was the boat trip and our experience on the 'Fakirk Wheel' over.

And that was the boat trip and our experience on the ‘Falkirk Wheel’ over.

There are the usual array of shops and kiosks on site, the ‘Visitor Centre’ with all the usual related ‘Tourist Tat’, Cafeteria, Ice Creams, Burgers and also a nice green space with picnic benches which is where we sat to eat the picnic lunch we had brought with us. There are a few walking opportunities as well, you could climb up the hill and walk along the Union Canal or down some steps to the Forth & Clyde Canal.

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We did not come equipped for walking but I couldn’t be this close to Narrowboatas and not take a few photographs !!

Looking from the lock gates back towards the 'Wheel'

Looking from the lock gates back towards the ‘Wheel’

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I know it may not have been everyone’s cup of tea but this day out, for us, was far better than walking around Glasgow City centre shops, museums and art galleries !!

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9 Responses to ‘The Falkirk Wheel’

  1. DebsK says:

    Fantastic, I’ve added the Falkirk wheel to our list of ‘things to do’, the photos were terrific Eric, gave you a real good feel of the experience, bet you had an amazing day. I never even knew something like that existed. We head South tomorrow in Bugzy; Leominster, Abergavenny and the Cotswolds and we’re really looking forward to it. Have a lovely Easter, I was going to add in ‘break’ but that’s not really relevant to you two, lol xx

    • You will enjoy the Falkirk Wheel but bring your walking boots and you could also do a walk along one of the two canals. You will see from the signpost that you can walk to a ‘Sea Lock’ only 4 miles !! Enjoy your ‘Easter Break’ in Bugsy :0) we move on ‘Good Friday’ to ‘Killin’, Kayaking and Walking Country, yee hah !!

  2. ellisadine says:

    We were there last week – had tea in the tea rooms – up on the barge – but what did you do to the kids – there were loads around last week !!!! Julia xxx

  3. Wandering star says:

    That looks amazing! I have never heard of it before but now, like all big kids … I want a go!

  4. Debs says:

    wow how cool is that…. looks like a brilliant day 🙂

  5. mike says:

    Excellent bit of engineering that! I’m not a boat person but Architecture & Engineering is my cup of tea! Maybe we should be heading for the Western side in September….sure there are distilleries on that side too 😛

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