Helix Park

History and Culture of Central Scotland

This part of Scotland is rich in history and Inchyra’s story is very much entwined with that of the local area. Built as a mansion house in the late 19th century, this was a time when Falkirk thrived due to its excellent transport links (the Forth & Clyde and Union Canals and the vibrant port at Grangemouth) and the area’s successful iron and steel industries.

Owned by the Marwick family, the house was requisitioned as a billet for aircrew during WW2 when the air base at Grangemouth became a training centre for young pilots learning how to fly Spitfires.

In the late 1950’s, the mansion was turned into a hotel and was still being run by Elizabeth Marwick when it was bought by Donald Macdonald. One of the first hotels in the Macdonald hotel group, Inchyra has since benefited from considerable investment and sympathetic development. You’ll see the original external sandstone wall proudly preserved and very much an integral part of the beautifully designed dining room.

The Kelpies

Embodying all that is unique about the area and less than 15 minutes’ drive from the hotel, you’ll find the iconic Kelpies – the world’s largest equine structures – which have stood proudly within the outstanding Helix Park since 2014.

At over 30 metres tall and made entirely of steel, the award-winning Kelpies celebrate the industrial and economic heritage of Falkirk and Grangemouth - a nod to a time when horses towed coal ships and barges with goods from the iron works. The Kelpies also reference the mythical spirits of Scottish legend who are said to haunt river and streams, often in the shape of a horse. As a more realistic tribute, the heads were modelled on a pair of live Clydesdale horses, Baron and Duke, who provided inspiration for artist, Andy Scott.

Visit by day for free and easy access to the Kelpies in all their glory - and if you’re interested in learning more, take a 20-minute tour inside the structure (free for children – two per adult). By night, illuminated in bluey-green hues, the Kelpies are at their most magical and, towering over the Forth & Clyde canal, truly appear as guardians of the water.

Kelpies at the Helix

Falkirk Wheel

It’s a mechanical masterpiece! – and the world’s only rotating boat lift which links the Forth and Clyde Canal with the Union Canal is only 20 minutes by car from the hotel.

The coast-to-coast navigation of canals had once been crucial to industry in the Central Belt of Scotland. Its two main canals, the Forth and Clyde canal and the Union Canal met at Falkirk and were linked by a ladder of 11 locks, which allowed boats on the Forth and Clyde Canal to climb the 35m to the level of the Union Canal.

The arrival of the railway spelled doom for canals and for decades, they were unused and unloved. By the 1990s, however, canals were proving increasingly popular as a leisure option and a desirable backdrop to 21st century living and working. The idea for the "Millennium Link" - the complete refurbishment of the Forth and Clyde Canal and the Union Canal - was born.

You can either watch the spectacle canal side from the Visitors Centre or take a special ‘trip` boat where you ride onto the wheel and experience the 360-degree rotation.

Falkrik Wheel

Bo’ness and Kinneil Railway

There’s nothing like a proper train ride and the Bo’ness and Kinneil Railway offers a scenic ten-mile trip on an authentic steam train or a heritage diesel locomotive. You’ll enjoy marvellous views through the window as you take in the atmospheric sights, sounds and smells of traditional train travel! Admire the woodlands and waterfalls of the Forth Estuary before crossing the Avon Viaduct and arriving at Manuel. After a short stop you’ll be on your way back, with the round trip taking just over an hour.

At Bo’ness, check out the Model Railway and if you want to see and learn more, visit the Museum of Scottish Railways. Scotland’s largest railway museum is perfect for railway buffs but there’s a lot to keep children amused, including becoming a signal operator and sorting mail on a Post Office Coach.

If you’re travelling by car, it’s less than 10 minutes’ drive from the hotel and there’s a large, free car park at Bo’ness station. 

Bo’ness and Kinneil Railway

Antonine Wall

Centuries before the Industrial Revolution transformed the world, the Romans were forging a legacy of their own and a fine example of this is the Antonine Wall – built around AD142, as the northwest frontier of the Roman empire. It is the largest relic of the Roman occupation of Scotland and is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Unlike Hadrian’s Wall, the Antonine Wall was not built from entirely stone, but from layers of turf on a stone foundation, rising to three metres high and banked by a ditch, 5 metres deep in some places. The Wall was entirely built by members of the three Roman legions stationed in Scotland - around 7,000 men. During construction, the soldiers lived in leather tents or wooden huts situated inside temporary camps.

You’ll find one of the best-preserved stretches of wall at Rough Castle, which is walkable from the Falkirk Wheel in about an hour or can be reached by car. If the car park is not accessible, there is space to park at the end of the track.

Antonine Wall

Stirling Castle

Stirling Castle was the key to the kingdom of Scotland, sitting on a gigantic volcanic rock above the River Forth – the point where the Lowlands and Highlands join. It was a significant royal residence from the late 11th century into the early modern period, permanently occupied due to its location in relation to the river and nearby roadways and its formidable defensive qualities, provided by the sheer cliffs.

The coronation of James V of Scotland took place at the castle in 1513 and his daughter, Mary Queen of Scots, followed suit in 1543. Mary's son, James VI of Scotland became James I of England and moved to London in 1603 but although this ended Stirling Castle’s days as a primary royal residence, it remained important, especially strategically, during the wars to come.

The Castle became home to the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders from the mid-18th century until the 1960s. but with a purely military function, many of the residential buildings were neglected. On the plus side, the lack of refurbishment left older structures intact, which archaeologists have since found invaluable in reconstructing the evolution of the castle.

Stirling Castle