The Kelpies Celebrate 10 Year Anniversary!

Shutterstock / John Messingham ©

The Kelpies 10 year anniversary is coming up next month. We chat to Richard Millar, chief operating officer at Scottish Canals, who commissioned sculptor Andy Scott to create this magnificent landmark.

On April 27, the world’s largest equine structures in Falkirk will turn 10. The Kelpies officially opened in 2014, while initial discussions about the landmark began way back in 2005.

It’s a very interesting story!

“The Chief Engineer at British Waterways Scotland and I had been working on a project to improve the canal entrance at the River Carron in Grangemouth,” Richard tells us. “We knew that The Falkirk Wheel had been at the heart of the Millennium Link and were keen to build on this success.”

Richard Millar, chief operating officer at Scottish Canals.

The team came up with the idea to create two giant decorative structures of Kelpies – Scotland’s mythical water horses. The way that Kelpies link water and land, while having the strength of ten horses and the endurance of many more just made so much sense for the project.

It was a stroke of genius that also resonated with locals who had been at the centre of the Industrial revolution in Scotland.

Those who watched the ship building and the iron works industries decline since the 1960s, felt a similarly sad story was reflected in the state of the Forth & Clyde and Union canals prior to their millennial regeneration project. This included the construction of the Falkirk Wheel – a boat-lifting marvel and an engineering feat, which connects the two canals.

The team’s initial idea comprised of two, two dimensional 30m high horse heads, which they felt would perfectly compliment the boatlift.

Miniature model of the Kelpies sat beside the Falkirk Wheel – the world’s only rotating boat lift. Credit: Shutterstock.

“We knew we had something, but we also knew our idea alone would not sell the project or capture people’s hearts,” says Richard. “We had always loved Andy’s Heavy Horse on the M8 and as one of Scotland’s best horse sculptures it made sense to have a chat.”

The group arranged a dinner with sculptor Andy Scott and he was immediately on board. Thus, putting the wheels in motion for Scotland’s most famous modern landmark.

“The plans he sent us a few weeks after the dinner blew us away,” Richard says. “They captured the essence of the Heavy Horse and responded to the canal environment, creating this majestic sculpture standing against the backdrop of the Ochil Hills for people to sail past.”

The team continued to work with Andy on the concept development so that they could incorporate the Kelpies into their bid for the Living Landmarks Lottery funding programme.

Richard says the team has been so proud of The Kelpies over the last 10 years.

“Eight million people have visited, and we believe from the motorway they’re spotted more than 40million times a year!” Richard says, “Scotland is so proud of them and they feature in so many places, such as the Ferrari California T launch.

Scots singer-songwriter Callum Beattie will be performing at the Kelpies 10 event. Credit: Helix Park.

A 10th anniversary celebration of the Kelpies will take place on Saturday, April 27.

Kelpies 10 will be a full day of free family fun activities, plus a ticketed evening event featuring performances from artists Callum Beattie and the Red Hot Chilli Pipers under the Kelpies.

Read more about the Kelpies 10 year anniversary in this month’s The Scots Magazine