Falkirk Wheel

(Millennium Wheel)

Falkirk Wheel
©2022 Gazetteer for Scotland

Falkirk Wheel

Located between Camelon and Bonnybridge, 2 miles (3 km) west of Falkirk, the Falkirk Wheel is the world's only rotating boat-lift and was built to transfer boats between the Forth & Clyde Canal and Union Canal. Opened by HM Queen Elizabeth II during her Jubilee tour of Scotland (2002), the wheel is 35m (115 feet) in diameter and is the centre-piece of the £78 million Millennium Link project, which has seen both canals restored and reopened for use. It was designed by Edinburgh-based architects Robert Matthew Johnson-Marshall and Partners.

A spectacular and stylish feat of engineering, the Falkirk Wheel comprises two counter-balanced tanks capable of moving 300 tonnes each (at least eight boats and the water in which they float) from one canal to the other, in approximately 15 minutes. It cost £17 million and occupies the site of an abandoned open-cast mine.

A 1¼-mile (2-km) extension to the existing Union canal has been built, including a tunnel under the Antonine Wall, two aqueducts, three locks and a railway bridge. This replaced a long-demolished series of locks and a dock, which once linked the canals some ¾ mile (1.2 km) to the east at Port Downie in Camelon.

Owned and operated by Scottish Canals, a visitor centre includes displays of the construction and working of the wheel. An image of the Wheel appeared on £50 banknotes issued by the Bank of Scotland in 2007 and it was the subject of an episode of the Discovery-UKTV series Impossible Engineering in 2020, although the pronunciation of 'Falkirk' left something to be desired.

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