Sometimes there are some gems to be found by venturing outside of the city center. This was certainty true in Scotland. Edinburgh is wonderful, but the surrounding counties also have a lot to offer!
This story takes us to Linlithgow and Falkirk, two small towns around the Livingston, Scotland area. We wanted to go to Linlithgow to hike around the beautiful palace and lake that reside there. I was telling a local this one day and was promptly corrected that in Scotland they do not have lakes… they have lochs. My bad… we wanted to go see Loch Linlithgow. And that we did.
Although Linlithgow Palace is in ruins now, it was once a posh Palace and was in fact where Mary Queen of Scots was born. Mary Queen of Scots was crowned queen at only nine months old and then was sent to France to be raised by her family.
[Side Note: We have heard so much about Mary Queen of Scots between London and Edinburgh… we feel as if we know her personally. Her tragic story has won us over many times and we feel such sadness for her.. although it is said that she was a rather unpopular queen. Poor, Mary]
We had a great morning hiking up to the Palace and all around Loch Linlithgow until out of nowhere BOOM.. downpour. Our first time in Scotland to truly get drenched head to toe. It lasted about 15 minutes before the sun came back but we were wet for quite a while after that 😉
After exploring the palace and loch, we went to see THE KELPIES! The Kelpies are a rather famous piece of art here in Scotland. They are absolutely gigantic as you can see from the scale of the person at their base.
They are bright and reflective and tell the tale of Scottish folklore. Apparently, Kelpies are water spirits/water nymphs that are shape-shifters and often assume the shape of a horse. There are water spirits associated with every body of water individually. The statues are new, built in 2013, but the story has been around forever. The mythological creatures were said to be fiercely strong and ever-enduring and this is another reason why they were chosen to stand in this place. The park they inhabit is a new park project that connects 16 communities in the area.
Right down the street from the Kelpies is another feat of engineering, The Falkirk Wheel. Not gonna lie.. it took me a little while to understand what this was or why it was a big deal, but after watching it in action.. it’s a pretty incredible structure.
The canal above the wheel-structure is a waterway that connects to two large Scottish cities, Edinburgh and Glasgow. The canal system fell out of disuse many years ago due to other forms of transportation, but in it’s day, a boat had to go through a series of 11 locks (where the water moves up and down to move the boat upward) in order to reach the canal. This process took a half a day to get the boat from point a (lower) to point b (upper.)
This wheel allows a boat to ride on into the bottom section and in 15 minutes it can rotate the entire mechanism to place the boat on the upper canal. Same works coming down… a boat can ride down the canal… load itself into the water chamber, and be rotated on the wheel (like a ferris wheel) down to the bottom body of water. A process that took half a day now takes 15 minutes.
Here is a little triptech of the wheel working it’s magic. See how it rotates around to move the boat from Point A to Point B?
If you followed all that, it really is fascinating. Now the canal system is stronger than ever and is another major way of transporting people and goods around the area!