On our two week road trip of Scotland, we saw a great mix of big cities, small towns, beautiful scenery, historical attractions, and so much more. After spending two nights in Glasgow, we picked up our rental car and hit the road.
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Between Glasgow and Stirling, there are two very intriguing attractions that are unlike any that you’ll see anywhere else. Visiting the Kelpies in Scotland is one of the most popular places to go sightseeing…and for good reason! We also added a quick jaunt over to the Dunmore Pineapple after our Kelpies tour.
A trip to Falkirk is a fabulous idea whether you’re taking day trips from Glasgow or day trips from Edinburgh. There are numerous Falkirk attractions, like The Kelpies, the Dunmore Pineapple, the Falkirk Wheel, the town of Falkirk, and more. While we’re going to see the Falkirk Wheel and the town itself on our next trip, here’s how to plan your road trip to The Kelpies and the Dunmore Pineapple house.
Visiting the Kelpies in Scotland
The Kelpies are the largest equine sculptures in the world, designed by Andy Scott. These two horse head sculptures stand 100 feet tall (30 meters), weigh 300 tonnes each, and they’re made out of stainless steel. There are 928 unique steel plates that overlap to give the illusion of horsehair. The holes in the plates allow light to travel through, meaning that they can light up at night. Can you believe that the Kelpies were built in only 90 days?
What is a Kelpie?
So, what is a Kelpie, anyway? A Kelpie is a water spirit in the form of a horse from Scottish folklore and legend, inhabiting the lochs and canals of Scotland. They haunt the rivers and streams of Scotland, usually taking the form of a horse (although sometimes appearing as a human). Visiting the Kelpies statues ensures that you’ll be witnessing the largest horse sculptures in the world.
Horses have played an important role throughout the history of Scotland. Clydesdale horses have assisted in labor roles both on the farm and pulling barges along the canals. Helix Park in Falkirk is the perfect location for the Kelpies as they’re positioned on the Forth and Clyde Canal. This public art exhibit of these mythical creatures honors the history of Scotland’s relationship to horses.
How to Visit the Kelpies
Visiting the Kelpies is a fun and free activity to do in Scotland. Anyone can walk right up to this massive public art display to admire it in person. There is a small fee to park your car, and there is a cost to the guided Kelpies tour. I recommend admiring the Kelpies from several angles, completely circling the sculptures. It’s really interesting to witness these gigantic horse heads from afar compared to the details up close.
While it wasn’t very busy when we traveled to Scotland in April, it is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the country. Over 5 million people are visiting the Kelpies each year, and I’m sure that the number will grow as tourism in Scotland continues to grow. They’re the largest horse sculptures in the world and an interesting display of public art.
The Kelpies Tour
Did you know that while visiting the Kelpies, you can also go inside them? It’s only possible if you book a guided tour. There are 30 minute walking tours that explore the engineering behind the sculptures. You’ll also get to view the interior of the Kelpies for an increased understanding of how Andy Scott made his vision into a reality. The Kelpies tour is operated by the Falkirk Community Trust. Visiting the Kelpies on a guided tour takes your trip to the next level.
The Kelpies at Night
Visiting the Kelpies at night is a completely new experience. Even though the visitor’s center closes at 5:00pm, you can walk up to the Kelpies at any time of the day or night. Each evening, the Kelpies are illuminated for magical sightings of these two gigantic horse head sculptures. While we didn’t have the chance to see the Kelpies at night, it’s on our bucket list for our next trip to Scotland. If you can manage to visit the Kelpies at night and during the day, go for it! Be sure to bring your camera to take some epic pictures.
More Things to Do at the Helix Park
Helix Park is home to the Kelpies, but there’s so much more to do there. It’s a large urban green space that’s important to local communities and visitors alike. There are 27 kilometers of shared pathways, including a 16 mile cycling route that connects the Kelpies, Callander House, and the Falkirk Wheel. At night, LED lighting illuminates at least 14 kilometers of paths. There’s also a wetland boardwalk to soak up your natural surroundings. For the kids, there’s a splash play area and an adventure play zone. As you can see, visiting the Kelpies is just one way to enjoy Helix Park.
Getting to the Kelpies and Helix Park
The Kelpies are 11 miles from Stirling, 25 miles from Edinburgh, and 25 miles from Glasgow. They’re located off the M9 in Falkirk. I recommend renting a car and driving to the Kelpies to have complete control over the timing of your visit. Reaching destinations by car on your own gives you the flexibility and control over your trip.
However, if you don’t have a car for this trip, you can take a tour of the Kelpies from Edinburgh. This tour stops at the Kelpies, Stirling Castle, Loch Lomond, and Doune Castle. You’ll get to see many iconic Scottish attractions all in one day.
Visiting the Dunmore Pineapple
The Pineapple at Dunmore Park is a 25 minute drive north of the Kelpies (9 miles away). Before you continue on to Stirling, I suggest adding a quick stop to the Dunmore Pineapple to see this unusual building.
History of the Pineapple in Scotland
The Pineapple house at Dunmore Park was constructed in 1761 by the Earl of Dunmore to serve as his summer house. Inspired by the pineapple, the center of this eccentric building features an elaborate stone pineapple as its roof. It’s likely that the construction of the building took place first, and the 37 foot high pineapple was later added. It is one of the most unique follies in Scotland, which is an ornamental or extravagant building serving no real purpose.
Pineapples were considered to be the most exotic fruit in Scotland, and they were first grown there in 1731. Within the Pineapple’s walled garden and expansive glass greenhouses, a variety of unusual fruits and vegetables were grown, including pineapples. Taking advantage of a south-facing slope of land, plants and fruits grown within this garden’s warmer climate could flourish.
How to Visit the Dunmore Pineapple
A trip to the Dunmore Pineapple (without spending the night) involves a stroll to admire the home and its gardens. When we went there in April, the flowers were just beginning to bloom. Once you’ve admired the architecture of the pineapple itself, wander around the property to the walled garden and surrounding woodland. This would also be a peaceful place for a picnic, too!
Can You Go Inside the Dunmore Pineapple House?
You won’t be able to go inside the Dunmore Pineapple unless you have booked it as your hotel accommodation. If you drive up to the Pineapple, you won’t be able to go inside. We weren’t able to see the inside of it. The Landmark Trust has restored the property and transformed it into a holiday home. The Pineapple House sleeps up to four people, and prices start at £257 for 4 nights. Check out the online booking form if you’re interested in booking your stay.
Getting to the Dunmore Pineapple
To visit the Dunmore Pineapple, its best not to rely on Google Maps or you might end up driving around some random farm land like we did. Instead, drive north on the A905 towards Airth. After you drive through the village of Airth, turn left onto the road signposted for the Pineapple. There’s a small, free parking lot where you can park your car.
Where to Stay Near Falkirk
While we visited Falkirk as a day trip between Glasgow and Stirling, you can extend your stay to spend a longer amount of time in town. Here are some Falkirk hotels to browse and compare prices, and here are some hotel reviews by travelers who have stayed in Falkirk. Here are the three properties we personally experienced and recommend in Glasgow, Edinburgh, and Stirling.
Where to Stay in Glasgow: Grasshoppers Hotel
The prime location of Glasshoppers Hotel makes it one of the top hotels in Glasgow, if not the best place to stay in Glasgow. You can walk everywhere in the city from here as you’re in the middle of it all.
The rooms have a soothing and warm atmosphere that make you feel immediately feel at home. They are spacious and inviting, featuring handmade wallpaper and engravings of Glasgow by a local artist. The king-sized beds have Egyptian cotton sheets and plush pillows for a restful night’s sleep.
There’s also delicious coffee, tea, snacks, and baked goods available at all hours of the day. We had a yummy breakfast to start each day off right, and you can even book dinner at the hotel’s restaurant, too. Be sure to book your stay at the Grasshopper Hotel in Glasgow, and you can also read more reviews from fellow travelers
Where to Stay in Edinburgh: The Glasshouse Hotel
The Glasshouse Hotel is one of the finest and most luxurious places to stay in Edinburgh. Why not treat yourself to the comfort and elegance of this beautiful boutique hotel while staying in this brilliant city? If you’re looking for where to stay in Edinburgh, our top choice is the Glasshouse Edinburgh for 5 star splendor.
The rooms feature stunning views of Edinburgh from the dramatic floor to ceiling windows, whether they overlook the city from a private terrace or face the central roof garden. Justin and I stayed at one of the Calton Hill Suites. Each suite is named for a favorite Scottish distillery.
One of my favorite places at the Glasshouse Hotel was the rooftop garden. We had access to the courtyard directly from our room, including a small seating area of our own. The perfectly groomed roof garden showcases lots of green space, plants, flowers, and garden decor. I loved the quirky outdoor furniture in the center of the garden where the chairs looked like giant faces or masks. Be sure to book your stay at the Glasshouse Hotel in Edinburgh and you can also read more reviews from fellow travelers
Where to Stay in Stirling: Stirling Luxury Apartments
Stirling Luxury Apartments consists of two beautiful apartments in a building on the River Forth in Stirling, Scotland. These apartments are inside a low-rise building where primarily locals live and go about their daily activities. We stayed in Apartment One during our two night trip.
Apartment One at Stirling Luxury Apartments is tastefully decorated and styled. The decor looks very fresh, clean, and new. There’s a seating area with couches and chairs that easily fits four people, as well as a kitchen table for four. You’ll find a flat screen TV with many channels if you choose to unwind and watch a couple of shows at the end of the day.
While Stirling is only a short drive from Glasgow and Edinburgh, you can easily make it your base for exploring the surrounding regions, too. You can drive to Loch Lomond and the Trossachs from Stirling for the day. And of course, visiting the Kelpies is always an option. We recommend staying at Stirling Luxury Apartments – check out these rave reviews from other travelers, too!
Visiting the Kelpies and the Dunmore Pineapple should be part of any Scottish road trip. If you’re making the trek between Edinburgh and Stirling or Glasgow and Stirling, make a detour to check out these two iconic attractions. They’re unlike anything you’ll see anywhere else in the world, and they’re perfect for those who love anything a little odd or offbeat.