Tuesday 28 July 2015

The Kelpies - "stretch up your long necks to greet the sun"

Since they first rose out of the regenerated industrial landscape of the Helix Park we’d been intending to visit the much talked-about sculptures at the heart of the project.

On a bright day early in the Spring we travelled to meet family and visit the park.  Approaching from one of the car parks, the Kelpies are an astonishing sight….

At 30 metres tall, they simply dominate the landscape, towering over their surroundings.

Close to, the scale and ambition of these wonderful horse head sculptures is really impressive.  They face the canal system running through the heart of Scotland and welcome visitors to both the canals and to the Helix.  The intention was to reflect both folklore and the industrial heritage of the area – the Clydesdale horses used as the models for the Kelpies were once the prime movers of the industrial revolution.

Each piece is made up of individual stainless steel panels fastened to an intricate framework. The sculptor, Andy Scott, and the construction firm have done a superb job.

Although architectural and even industrial in scale, there is real grace and intricacy in the design and construction – and realism too.

The panels are sufficiently spaced to allow sunlight to stream through the structure, adding texture.  At night they are floodlit and I’m assured that they are quite a sight looming through the mist alongside the motorway!

In Scottish folklore, a Kelpie is a water-horse; a shape-shifting spirit inhabiting lochs and rivers.  In the sculptures this legend is intertwined with the strong industrial heritage of this part of Scotland.   Sculpted stone panels around the Helix are carved with phrases connected with folklore and with the sculptures – the one which struck me as most appropriate reads “Stretch up your long necks to greet the sun”

Scotland, and particularly the Stirling/Falkirk/Clackmannanshire area has been gaining a reputation as the home of some great recent works public sculpture.  There’s the elegant “Arria” (also designed by Andy Scott) alongside the M80 between Glasgow and Stirling, the many sculptures on traffic roundabouts through the “Wee County” of Clackmannanshire and now the jewel in the crown, the Kelpies

The Kelpies are a real achievement and are becoming, rightly, a great attraction.  But there’s more…..  the stretching of the necks, the latent power and the scale of these works is something for the Falkirk area and the whole of Scotland to be proud of.  

We'll certainly visit again!