PARKS & GARDENS IN & AROUND FALKIRK
Back in 2007, The Helix project was awarded the maximum £25 million grant from Big Lottery - one of only three UK projects selected to receive cash from the Lottery's Living Landmarks programme.
Since the first phase opened in 2013, The Helix has realised its dream to transform 350 hectares in Falkirk into a recreational green space, enhancing the local community as well as attracting visitors. The result is a wonderful eco-park that includes a lagoon, wetlands, splash play area, kids play park, trails and outdoor event space. Kids will love the Adventure Zone play park in the Lagoon area and whatever you do, don’t miss the Kelpies – the world’s largest equine structure and a unique tribute to the heritage of Falkirk. .
For those who love a ramble, the Helix also offers a fantastic path network – 26 kilometres, to be exact. There are enough scenic routes to suit every level and its wide, flat paths are tailor made for runners and cyclists too.
The Helix is less than 15 minutes’ drive from the hotel and there are several free parking options, depending on which area of the development you are visiting.
This fabulous estate has everything – from the French chateau-inspired architecture of the magnificent 14th century Callendar House, to the brilliantly designed Natural Play Trail and a traditional activity area for children featuring a bouncy castle, go carts and crazy golf – but the Park grounds alone are worth the visit.
The estate encompasses 170 acres of land and contains a section of the Roman-built Antonine Wall, a World Heritage Site that dates from the 2nd century. The Park is listed in the Inventory of Gardens and Designed Landscapes of Scotland as being historically significant, with some planting and pathways almost 300 years old.
If you want take advantage of the wonderful expanse of parkland, canine companion in tow, follow one of the waymarked walks or trails that you can pick up from the park. You can also take advantage of the estate’s cycle trails if you prefer to explore by bike.
Callendar House has a colourful history that includes ownership by the distinguished Livingston family. Their 200-year association with the royal family featured several visits by Mary Queen of Scots. Now, the house is Falkirk district’s principal museum and has been restored in its original Georgian style. Make sure you head ‘below stairs’ where costumed interpreters create an interactive experience of life in a working Georgian kitchen, offering samples of early 19th-century food.
Dunmore Park is home to the Dunmore Pineapple – the extraordinary pineapple-shaped dome that tops the estate’s lovely summerhouse.
But why a pineapple? The dome extension was added after 1777 when Lord Dunmore returned from serving as the Governor of Virginia. Some say that it was commissioned as an eccentric interpretation of one of their traditions, where sailors would place a pineapple on the gatepost to announce their return home. Others see the pineapple as paying homage to a more local trend. Scotland had started to grow pineapples as early as 1731 and alongside many unusual fruits and vegetables grown in the glasshouses on the estate, there were also pineapple pits (a way of growing pineapples in colder climates) in the walled garden.
After admiring the playful architecture of the folly, present day visitors can also enjoy the immense walled garden, with its crab-apple orchard and a pond where you might spot newts and frogs from the viewing platform. The woodland beyond is well worth exploring and makes the perfect picnic location.