The Falkirk Wheel
The Falkirk Wheel

Falkirk Wheel ready for trans-Atlantic challenge

One of Scotland’s most iconic tourist attractions is to take part in a cross-Atlantic battle.

The Falkirk Wheel, the world’s only rotating boat lift is embarking upon a challenge to see how many canoes and kayaks it can hold at one time as part of a revolutionary festival on May 13.

The Wheel has been challenged by Parks Canada to take part in Lock and Paddle – an annual event where the Canadian organisation tries to break the record for the number of paddlers that can fit in the Peterborough Lift Lock in Ontario.

The current record stands at 328. The Falkirk Wheel’s attempt – the first time a boat lift outside Canada has taken part – will form the centrepiece of the Scottish attraction’s Revolution Festival to mark its 16th birthday.

Featuring an array of unique events, performances, and try-out sessions, the festival on May 13 will offer fun for all the family. Visitors will be dazzled by the acrobatic antics of Circus Acts Scotland; walk on water in the Wheel’s zorbs; explore the history of the Union Canal by boot or boat; set off on a Segway safari; take a turn on the Wheel; dance the day away with live entertainment; or take a peek at the paddlers taking part in Lock & Paddle. The event will run from 11am to 5pm.

The Falkirk Wheel

For those looking to refuel during the festivities, there’ll be stone-baked pizza, artisan ice cream (including a specially-created ‘revolutionary’ flavour) from Falkirk-based parlour The Milk Barn, and an array of sweet and savoury treats on offer in the Wheel’s café.

Mark Smith, head of destinations and tourism at Scottish Canals, said: ‘We’re always up for a challenge here at The Falkirk Wheel and we’re honoured to be the first boat lift outside Canada to take part in Lock and Paddle.

‘As well as the battle of the boat lifts, we’ve got some great activities planned on the water, the banks and beyond for the Revolution Festival. I’d encourage everyone to come along and experience everything the world’s only rotating boat lift has to offer.’

Held at the Peterborough Lift Lock in Ontario for the past three years, Lock and Paddle is organised by the Peterborough Lift Lock National Historic Site of Canada in partnership with The Canadian Canoe Museum and The Land Canadian Adventures. A designated historic site of Canada, the Peterborough Lift Lock carries vessels on the Trent-Severn Waterway over a height difference of 19.8 metres. When completed in 1904, it was the highest hydraulic lift lock ever built.

Lock and Paddle at the Peterborough Lift Lock

Jewel Cunningham, director of Ontario Waterways for Parks Canada, said: ‘We are so pleased to welcome The Falkirk Wheel to the Lock and Paddle family. The challenge is a big one, but we have no doubt that they will represent Scotland with style.’

The Falkirk Wheel, a working sculpture which links the Forth and Clyde Canal to the Union Canal 35 metres above, has welcomed more than 6.5 million visitors – more than the populations of Northern Ireland and Wales combined – since its opening by Her Majesty The Queen in 2002.

One of Scotland’s busiest tourist attractions, The Falkirk Wheel attracts visitors from all over the world keen to marvel at the working sculpture which combines modern engineering and technology with ancient principles set out by Archimedes more than 2000 years ago.

When one of the structure’s gondolas is lowered, the opposite one rises, keeping the vast, 1800 tonne boat lift in perfect balance as it carries canal barges 35 metres into the air in a matter of minutes. Each gondola holds 500,000 litres of water – enough to fill an Olympic swimming pool. Incredibly, because of the design and application of balance and weight, it takes just 1.5kWh – the same power as it would take to boil eight domestic kettles – for each rotation.