The Falkirk Wheel is the world’s first and only rotating boat lift, and a masterpiece of engineering. It links central Scotland’s two canals: the Forth & Clyde and the Union Canal. There is a 115 ft (35 m) vertical gap between the two, the Union Canal (joining Falkirk with Edinburgh) being at the higher level. The Wheel replaced 11 locks which boats formerly had to pass through.
Built in Derbyshire and transported in sections on 35 lorries, the Wheel cost £17.5 million to design and build. It was opened by the Queen in 2002.
The Wheel takes just four minutes to rotate between the low-level boat basin and the high-level aqueduct leading to the Roughcastle tunnel and Union Canal. It has two giant arms each driving a gondola containing up to 8 boats afloat in 300 tonnes of water.The ascending and descending gondolas are always in perfect balance, regardless of the number of boats, so the Wheel needs very little power to rotate. The secret is as old as Archimedes: each boat displaces its own weight in water.
The Wheel features a strikingly curved visitor centre (with café, admission free), but it’s well worth taking a boat trip to enjoy a full rotation of the Wheel.