From castles to Kelpies

In a country where rain is the norm, it’s not surprising that there’s a legend about shape-changing aquatic spirits. Known as Kelpies, these spirits have been immortalized through public art near Falkirk.

It’s not hard to miss the Kelpies when you’re driving along the highway. The 30-metre tall statues of horse heads are in plain view, and we drove past them several times at different points during the day.



The statues were inspired by the myth of Kelpies, malevolent spirits that are said to have appeared as ponies feeding alongside the river. Kelpies would coax victims onto their backs, and then descend in the water to drown them.

The statues were inspired by the myth, but have also come to symbolize the hard working horses of Scotland’s industrial era that pulled boats through the locks on the rivers. The artwork was erected in 2013 and have become popular with tourists and locals alike.

(Bet I’ve just lowered the blood pressure of several of my colleagues with that bit of info!)

While we’ve spent a lot of time in Scotland having fun with family, we managed to do a couple of typically tourist activities. We met up with another family from Calgary to explore Edinburgh and Stirling Castles.

Edinburgh is the most famous of the two castles, and its popularity among visitors was evident by the crowds. Al and I have been in the castle a few times before, but there seemed to be about 100,000 more visitors this time around!

View from Edinburgh Castle

View from Edinburgh Castle

Despite all the people, it was important to take the girls to see it because the castle has been home to many kings and queens, changed hands several times, and has played a huge role in Scotland’s history.

We were also lucky to find a seat beside a window in the cafeteria that provided a bird’s eye view of the firing of the One O’clock Gun. The gun has been fired consistently since 1861, with the original purpose of allowing ships to set their maritime clocks.

Scotland's national animal

Scotland’s national animal

If you want to find a quieter castle that is perhaps nicer, I would go to Stirling Castle. It looks really cool sitting on top of a crag that is over 350 million years old and bordered by steep cliffs on three sides.

Many kings and queens have been crowned at the castle including Mary Queen of Scots, and it has been placed under siege eight times. Bonnie Prince Charlie tried to take the castle during the Scottish Wars of Independence, but was unsuccessful.

The kids liked the actors that were on site to provide historical figures to learn from, and the free tour was definitely a bonus. The activity rooms for kids in the basement were also well done.

If you have kids and you don’t have a lot of time, I would skip Edinburgh Castle and head straight for Stirling. It’s a less harried experience!

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