Where Scotlands flag the Saltire originated


Falkirk Wheel

This mammoth structure is a technological miracle, well worth a visit.


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The Forth & Clyde Canal meets with the Union Canal just outside Falkirk . At the meeting point of the two canals there is a difference in height of approximately 115 feet. To bridge this gap prior to the 1930's there were a series of 11 conventional locks, so it was quite a feat to get from one canal to the other. Over the years the locks were filled in and desolate.
Falkirk Wheel

The Millennium Commission decided to restore the canals of central Scotland and join the west and east canal routes. As part of this project an ingenious idea was engineered with a contraption which uses gravity and Archimedes principle to transfer barges or boats between the two canals using hardly any energy.

A barge leaving the wheel

This fantastic piece of engineering became known as the Falkirk Wheel.

The Wheel is essentially two huge, balanced water tanks suspended on arms which rotate around a central axis like a Ferris wheel. Each tank can support up to four twenty -meter-long boats at one time. Boats move into the tanks through the lock gates, which displaces a mass of water from each tank equal to the weight of the vessels.

The tanks are thus always equalized in weight, allowing the pull of gravity on the descending tank to do most of the work elevating the rising tank. This balance allows the wheel to consume very little electricity per turn despite the enormous weight involved. It uses a mere 1.5 kilowatt-hours– or roughly the equivalent power needed to boil eight kettles of water– each time if hefts a 600 metric ton load. And it does this in under four minutes per turn.

To see this is awe inspiring for adults or children alike, you may also venture onto the barges and go from one canal to the other via the wheel and it is quite an experience.

Also there is an information centre that helps you understand the principle of how this fantastic feat of engineering works, it is made so simple even the young children can take it all in.

Clyde canal waterway to the wheel


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© Crann Tara 2006