Falkirk Wheel

We spent the last weekend in Scotland, around Edinburgh. On Saturday, whilst our daughter and son-in-law attended a wedding at Dalhousie Castle, Maggie and I entertained our two-year old grandson Hugh.

Falkirk Wheel
With Hugh keen on anything mechanical we just had to visit the Falkirk Wheel. Although I had visited back in 2007, Maggie had not and was keen to see this "Wonder of the Waterways". It was certainly well worth the visit and Hugh was delighted with the experience.

We got there just after 1:00 PM and found that the only trip up the lift was due to depart from the basin at 2:00 PM. This meant a rapid lunch, which is not always easy with a two-year old, but we managed it with a few minutes to spare. I had found out from my last visit that a trip up (and down) the lift is a must.

Hugh & Maggie aboard Archimedes

Taking it all in

The boat trip was in the purpose built boat Archimedes which is  68 ' long and 12' 6 " in the beam. The boat is fully equipped and highly maneuverable. It has plenty of video screens giving details of the construction of the original canal and the lift. The skipper for the day Phil, who has a background in operating community boats in London, gave a witty and informative commentary.

Getting the caisson aligned
Waiting for the gates to open

I was able to take video of a boat being lowered down the lift. With the short days this was just before dusk and after most of the day's visitors had left.

Boat being lowered down the Falkirk Wheel

The boat trip included a passage through (and back) the 180 m long Roughcastle Tunnel. Hugh was not at all bothered by the dark and enjoyed the experience. One day we will have to take Hugh through Blisworth.

Hugh watching progress through the Roughcastle Tunnel

Roughcastle Tunnel

The view from the lift just before you are lowered into the basin can be really good. Although it was misty the impression of height was still great. What should impress boaters, apart from the engineering and design excellence, is the speed of descent/ ascent. It takes around four and a half minutes to cover the 24 m height change, all accomplished with 1.5 kW h (or the energy required to boil 8 kettles - as is often quoted).    

Looking into the caisson for a descent

From the top of the lift I noticed that the canal to the north was closed. It appears that Network Rail are carrying out electrification of the Glasgow to Edinburgh line and the tunnel under the Forth & Clyde Canal is being rebuilt. The canal is due to reopen next March.

Rebuilding the Carmuirs Railway Tunnel under the Forth & Clyde Canal

We can see why the Falkirk Wheel is Scotland's second most popular visitor attraction after Edinburgh Castle with 400,000 visiting each year.