The town of Falkirk isn't often the first place that springs to mind when visitors are planning their itinerary. This is changing though thanks to the popularity of Andy Scott's stunning Kelpies. There is so much more things to do in Falkirk though so I want to shine the spotlight on them and show you that Falkirk and the surrounding towns and villages are definitely worth adding to your bucket list.
Of course it makes it a whole lot easier that it's so easy to travel to. Situated between Edinburgh and Glasgow it's easily reached from both cities. Find out all the best things to do in Falkirk, how to get there, the best time to visit and the best places to eat and shop.
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How to get to Falkirk
If driving by car from Edinburgh the A9 will get you to Falkirk in around 50 minutes. If you are travelling from Glasgow the M80 takes 35 minutes.
There are two train stations serving Falkirk - Falkirk High and Falkirk Grahamston. You can get regular trains to Falkirk High from Edinburgh (25 minutes) or to Falkirk Grahamston (35 minutes). From Glasgow Queen Street to Falkirk High takes 20 minutes and to Falkirk Grahamston takes 50 minutes. You can also get a train directly from London to Falkirk Grahamston which only takes 5 hours.
Scotland's bus service is pretty great and you can get regular buses to Falkirk from Edinburgh, Glasgow, Stirling and Fife.
Best time to visit Falkirk
Unlike the Highlands of Scotland the Central Lowlands, where Falkirk is situated, enjoy a much calmer and less extreme weather pattern. It rarely gets unseasonally hot or cold. I recommend packing layers which can be taken off and put back on when needed. Waterproofs of some kind or at the very least waterproof shoes, jacket and umbrella should suffice. . Many of Scotland's attractions close for the winter season so it's best to check the website of places you want to visit before finalising dates if there is somewhere you definitely want to see. I always recommend the shoulder months of March, April, September and October, attractions are less busy and accommodation is easier to find.
Accommodation in Falkirk
There is a good selection of accommodation in Falkirk from the hotels, guest houses and B+B's to chalets, lodges and Airbnb apartments. Airth Castle is a stunning exclusive retreat, the castle dates back to the 14th century and was once owned by the family of Robert the Bruce. You can stay in the castle or for a cheaper price at one of the onsite lodge rooms, check prices and availability here.
The MacDonald Inchyra Hotel and Spa is another luxurious option, check prices and availability here. The Best Western Park Hotel has is only 5 minutes from the town centre, these hotels are always reliable, clean and have great service, check prices and availability here. I've stayed in all three hotels and I can recommend each, however, there are so many other options. Have a look at the map below to see what else is available.
Places to eat in Falkirk
Some of my favourite restaurants in Falkirk
Shopping in Falkirk
There are a few places to go shopping in Falkirk although if you're a wee shopaholic you'll perhaps prefer a trip to Edinburgh or Glasgow. If you are staying in or around Falkirk though you'll find all the shops you need to pick up food and bits and bobs you might need. Two big shopping centres, The Howgate and Callander Square are in the city centre and on the outskirts the retail park has a huge cinema, a Tesco supermarket (like Walmart's), lots of chain restaurants such as Frankie & Benny's, Nando's and Costa, and a few good shops like Hobbycraft (think Micheal's), Smiths (toy shop) and TK Maxx (TJ Maxx).
So now you know how to get there, when to go and where to stay let me show all the best things to do in Falkirk and around about.
Guided tours of Falkirk
This tour from Get your Guide leaves from Glasgow and visits both the Falkirk Wheel and the Kelpies. Guides are local and really know their stuff!
Things to do in Falkirk
1. The Kelpies
Undoubtable one of the most popular things to do in Falkirk. Sculptor Andy Scott created these two 30 meter tall Kelpies, mythical beasts which transform and have the strength of 10 horses, on the banks of the Forth and Clyde Canal. Made from steel these beauties are officially the world's largest equine sculptures. The Kelpies are situated in the Helix Park, a huge new greenspace with 27km of pathways, a splash zone for kids, the Kelpies and a lovely visitor centre where you can learn more about the history of the sculptures, enjoy a cuppa and a slice of cake and book a tour which allows you inside the Kelpies.
2. Visit Falkirk Wheel
The world's only rotating boat lift is a unique structure that just has to be seen. It connects the Forth and Clyde Canal with the Union Canal by lifting boats 27 metres in a circular motion. The boats then pass through two locks at the top of the wheel. You can visit the wheel and it makes an excellent day out. There is a brilliant visitor centre with a cafe and plenty for the kids to do, you can also take a boat trip to experience the wheel.
3. Callander House
A beautiful, grand French chateau-style 14th century house with a restored Georgian kitchen and permanent displys where you can learn more about the history of the house and of Falkirk and the Antonine Wall, a section of which can be found in Callander Park. This house is absolutely stunning and has been visited over the centuries by none other than Mary, Queen of Scots, Bonnie Prince Charlie and Queen Victoria. It was once home to Alexander, the 5th Lord Livingston, who was Mary, Queen of Scots's Guardian and it was here that her marriage agreement to Frances II of France was signed.
4. Visit the Dunmore Pineapple
the Pineapple is a weird and fascinating structure, exactly my kind of thing! Dunmore Park is the ancestral home of the Earls of Dunmore and it was John Murray, the 4th Earl of Dunmore, who built a hothouse to store exotic fruits, including pineapples. John eventually left Scotland for America where he became the last Colonial Governor of Virginia. After he returned to Scotland he created this bizarre 14 metre high pineapple shaped structure on the roof of the building. There isn't much to do here other than ogle this funky fruit but you can have a stroll around the walled gardens so it's worth setting aside an hour.
5. The Antonine Roman Wall
Parts of the Antonine Wall can still be found in several places across Falkirk and the surrounding area. As well as Callander Park you can see the remains of the wall in the Kinneil Estate, Polmont Woods and Rough Castle (which can be reached from the Falkirk Wheel). Now a UNESCO World Heritage Site this wall was a massive project, back in AD142! It was the north west frontier of the Roman Empire.
6. Falkirk Heritage Trail
I found this trail around the town of Falkirk suprisingly fascinating. Beginning at the Steeple on the High Street the route takes you around 25 sites of historical interest. Highlights include the site of the old Barrs Irn Bru factory and the shop where John Logie Baird spent much of his time inventing the television!
7. Bo'ness Railway
This cute steam railway isn't in Falkirk but it's not far away and worth the journey, after all, who wouldn't like to spend the afternoon on a classic steam train? Not only can you take a standard (but beautiful) trip on the line from Bo'ness to Manuel or you can splash out and enjoy afternoon tea, a meeting with Santa (for the Christmas period) or if the kiddies are fans of Thomas the Tank Engine you can take a themed trip they will absolutely love where they can meet the characters, play on the fairground rides at both stations, enjoy puppet shows, help the Fat Controller water the engines and dine on a massive buffet.
8. Blackness Castle
Another thing not technically in Falkirk but well worth the detour is Blackness Castle. This mighty and slightly intimidating castle was once a prison, a fortress and a weapons store during umpteen battles. Run by Historic Scotland it's fun to explore and if you take the path out the back you get a gorgeous view of the Forth Bridges.
Does this make you want to add Falkirk to your Scotland itinerary? I'm glad this area is beginning to get a bit of attention. It's a lovely place to spend time.
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Map of Falkirk