An engineering wonder – The Falkirk Wheel

The day we went to see the stunning mythical creatures the Kelpies, which you can read about here, we ended our day out by visiting another feat of engineering wonder, the Falkirk Wheel, a rotating boat lift – the only one of its kind in the world – connecting the Forth and Clyde Canal with the Union Canal.

In the 19th century a boat had to negotiate a series of lock gates – a task which could all day to go from one canal to the other.  These were demolished many years ago and houses built where once the locks stood.

The Falkirk Wheel, opened in 2002, was created as part of the Millennium Link project to re-establish coast to coast navigation of the canals for the first time in over four decades.

We were lucky with our timing and were able to watch several boats going up and down. We also watched as each boat was manoeuvred into place to go up in the gondola.


We were highly amused by the antics of one weekend sailor. Somehow, the person (I am going to try to keep this gender neutral) steering couldn’t get the boat in close enough, nor straight so after one attempt the front stuck out and then the front was moved into place only for the back end to stick out. There was lots of engine revving and churning of water with the boatperson becoming increasingly red-faced and angry looking.

There was a fair bit of eye-rolling from the people who work there helping to get the boats into the right position – and from the boatman’s companion who looked like they might have done a better job had they been asked.

As I can’t begin to explain the engineering behind it – though I do just about grasp the Archimedes principle in that floating objects displace their own weight in water – here’s a YouTube video which does it so much better.

16 thoughts on “An engineering wonder – The Falkirk Wheel

  1. We loved our visit to The Wheel and your description made me laugh. A downside of any canal boat holiday for the amateur? At every lock and special wonder of engineering there will be walkers and holiday makers enjoying the scenery and watching the boats. I would never be able to manoeuvre with everyone watching!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh, I know I couldn’t do such manoeuvering. I can’t tell my left from my right at the best of times so with people watching me, I’d just go to pieces.
      I didn’t expect to be as enthralled by the Wheel as I was. If we’d had time I’d have loved to go up in a boat – as long as someone else was in charge of it.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. That is absolutely brilliant! I love it. Please add it to our itinerary for my Scotland visit. 😀 I showed it to my husband, as he’s the chief engineer for his company and this kind of thing really appeals to him. He said he’d seen a documentary about this on tv, and he’d love to visit it. Thanks so much for sharing. I’d never even heard of it. DOH! (Must come up for air now and then and see what the rest of the world is up to.) Great post, Mary.:)

    Liked by 1 person

  3. It really is an amazing feat of engineering. A friend hired some canal boats for a ‘special’ birthday and we toured the canal from Edinburgh to Glasgow. We did the Falkirk Wheel twice, once on a beautiful clear day and the return journey in good old Scottish rain!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Pingback: Engineering Wonder – John Collins – Engineering Topics

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s