Design RMJM with British Waterways
Built Ove Arup/ Butterley Engineering
Opened May 2002 by HM Queen Elizabeth
Cost £17.5 million
Height 35 metres
Weight 1500 tonnes
Capacity up to 4 boats in each caisson
Aqueduct 104 metres long
Tunnel 168 metres long
The Falkirk Wheel is a significant landmark, rising some 115ft above the Carron Valley – and could easily be described as a ‘Ferris Wheel for Boats’! In the space of one short week on your Marine Cruises canal holiday you can visit Glasgow & Edinburgh and take two exhilarating rides on the Falkirk Wheel, an experience not to be missed! This is the world’s first rotating boat lift, which gives boats and boaters an fantastic views as they move between the Union Canal and the Forth and Clyde Canal. It is 35 metres high and replaces a flight of 11 locks long since filled in.
When plans were drawn up to reopen the Forth and Clyde Canal and the Union Canal as part of a £84.5 million Millennium project one of the major obstacles to overcome was how to link the two canals, and thereby the cities of Glasgow and Edinburgh. The flight of eleven locks which originally made the link had been filled in in 1933, so plans were drawn up to replace them with a type of canal lift, quicker to use and more efficient with water use than a flight of locks. The last canal lift built in the UK was the Anderton lift in 1875, so it was felt that modern technology and design could create not just an efficient link between the canals but also an iconic sculptural structure symbolising the regeneration of the canal and area.
The impressive Falkirk Wheel Visitor Centre now sits at the bottom of the wheel overlooking the large circular basin. Boats enter a lift 'caisson' at the bottom of the lift, and others can enter a similar caisson at the top. The gates are shut and the wheel rotates, raising and lowering up to eight boats (depends on length) at the same time in about 15 minutes. At the top of the lift is an aqueduct which goes leads beneath the Roman Antonine wall in a tunnel to reach the Union Canal. Your passage must be booked in advance, we'll advise when you book your canal holiday.