Scotland has a long history of equine utility and symbolism, including in their folktales, which tell of water spirits known as kelpies, which generally take the form of a horse. The titanic heads of two of these mythical beasts honor the country’s horse history in a modern public art exhibit.
Created in 2013, the twin horse heads act as a sort of gateway to a redevelopment project centered on local waterways. As water spirits that can change shape from horses to women to water at will, the figures were a terrific symbol of both the area’s past relationship with horses and the aquatic geography.
The statues themselves stand around 100 feet tall each, made of steel plates that overlap one another to create the illusion of horsehair. The plates have holes and voids in them, and in the evening’s red lights illuminate them from the inside, giving the duo an almost demonic air.
Andy Scott is the Scottish artist responsible for sculpting the art piece, which he modeled after two real-life Clydesdale horses named “Duke” and “Baron.” This breed of equine would have been used to pull barges along the nearby Union Canal, and helped with other aspects of Falkirk’s agrarian economy.
Visitors to the giant heads can get up close and personal with the metal equines and even go inside one of them. As much as kelpies and the horses that inspired them are deeply rooted within the heritage of Scotland, now Scots venture deep inside of them in return.
Know Before You Go
The "Kelpies" are located on an area known as The Helix. This is a free and open parkland that is serviced by the John Muir Trail and National Cycle Routes. There are several buses that connect Falkirk, which is a 15 minute journey away, including: 2, 3, 4, & 28.
The Helix provides plenty of accessible parking, as well as a cafe and gift shop with amenities. Here one can watch a short film on the construction of the "Kelpies", and make arrangements to tour the interior of the sculpture.
It is advised to check the website, as there are often activities, including outdoor theatre and sporting events taking place in and around the park.