We were in Falkirk to follow a leisurely two-day itinerary. The first day’s activities were designed to introduce us to Cycling Without Age Scotland and Accessible Falkirk, and it didn’t disappoint.
Throughout the day, we explored The Helix on a trishaw, ate lunch in an inspiring social enterprise and rode the marvel of engineering known as The Falkirk Wheel.
I am writing this post in an itinerary style because doing so means you can visit accessible Falkirk and follow in our footsteps.
This trip was designed with The Bimblers in mind. All activities were complimentary, and reasonable expenses were to be reimbursed. However, we have complete editorial control over the content of this post.
Accessible Falkirk Itinerary – Day One
Our first activity was exploring The Helix with Cycling Without Age Scotland.
We met up with Christine and Ray at The Helix visitor centre.
We were introduced to the trishaw. Ours was called Duke, named after one of the Kelpies, modelled on real Clydesdale horses. The other trishaw is named Baron.
The trishaw is best described as a three-wheeled bike with two seats on the front.
Of course, they are much more than that. I’ll take you through the technical details in a minute but let me explain what the trishaw meant to us.
The trishaw meant that Bridget and I could have the same experience as we were sitting side by side for the first time on our travels. This was an unexpected benefit of the trishaw, one I hadn’t considered.
Instead of viewing places from the car or short bimbles, we were able to explore the whole area and even went off-piste at one point, which is unheard of for The Bimblers.
Cycling Without Age Scotland in Falkirk
I will be writing an entire post about Cycling Without Age Scotland because it deserves much more space than I can give it in this overview.
As an introduction, here is the current list of places where trishaws are available in Scotland: Trishaw Locations
What is Cycling Without Age Scotland in Falkirk?
Cycling Without Age Scotland in Falkirk is a free project designed to help the elderly and people with mobility problems see more accessible Falkirk’s attractions, countryside and historic houses.
Cycling Without Age Scotland best describes the scheme as:
Trishaws in Iconic Placeshttps://cyclingwithoutage.scot/
From our point of view, it enabled us to visit iconic places in Falkirk and see them from angles we wouldn’t ordinarily get to see them from, and we loved it.
Cycling Without Age Scotland Falkirk Chapter
The Falkirk chapter of Cycling Without Age Scotland is available in several locations and several care homes. We visited two of them:
- Helix Park
- Callendar Park
Without question, exploring these locations from the comfort of a trishaw enhanced our visit.
We saw more of the location, learned more about the area, and saved much energy. As you know, as a disabled traveller, conserving energy goes hand in hand with enjoyability.
After speaking with Christine (our pilot), it was clear that trishaws can be made available in other Falkirk locations. The team, within reason, will do whatever they can to help you get the most out of your visit.
What is a Trishaw?
Despite my feeble attempt at describing a trishaw as a three-wheeled bike with two seats on the front, what is a trishaw?
We had the pleasure of using the Triobike Taxi.
Bridget could access the Triobike because it has a removable footplate, meaning she was able to walk inside the footplate and then make one step up.
Two strong supports steady the trishaw, so there’s no need to worry about getting on a wobbly trishaw.
Once you settle down onto the comfortable premium cushioned bench, there are individual seatbelts or harnesses for your safety.
The open-top cabin lends itself to the wind in your hair experience. But, the waterproof blanket and optional hood with viewing windows ensure you do not succumb to the changeable Scottish weather.
Van Raam Velo Plus
The Van Raam Velo Plus is designed to carry people in their wheelchairs. The benefit is there is no need to transfer from your chair.
A low tilted ramp gives easy access to the platform. Your wheelchair is then anchored with a secure wheelchair lock.
The Velo Plus is further stabilised by wide front wheels and an electric motor using a low centre of gravity design for stability.
The Van Raam Velo Plus isn’t available in all Cycle Without Age Scotland chapters. You are advised to contact the branch you would like to visit: Velo Plus Locations.
Note: There is a wheelchair weight limit on the Velo Plus.
How Safe are Trishaws?
As you would imagine, safety is paramount when using a trishaw.
Safety starts with your guide, and they will talk you through the features of the trishaw. Then, they’ll demonstrate the safe way of boarding and disembarking the trishaw.
With an individual seatbelt or harness, you will be securely fastened into the trishaw.
You will be advised of the do’s and don’t while the trishaw is in motion. For instance, please keep your hands in and don’t try and get out while moving.
The trishaw is fitted with a horn which is helpful for warning pedestrians you are coming. This helps by keeping the trishaw in motion and avoiding excessive braking.
And finally, as well as your expert pilot, the trishaw is power-assisted by an electric motor to ensure a smooth ride even on inclines.
How Comfortable are Trishaws?
The trishaw is designed for the elderly and people with mobility problems, and comfort is built-in.
When we were invited, I gave explicit instructions that we could not travel on uneven ground as Bridget cant be tossed about.
Before our visit, our route was checked for any hazards. Bridget’s needs trumped any other consideration while planning the route.
Then, of course, the expertise of your pilot ensures your ride on the trishaw is comfortable throughout.
Who Pilots the Trishaw?
I’ll be honest. I was worried I had to peddle the trishaw. Thankfully, each trishaw comes with an experienced, fully-trained pilot.
Our pilot was Christine, who just so happens to be the Chief Executive Officer of Cycling Without Age Scotland.
I hope she won’t mind me saying, but her passion for the scheme is infectious. Christine made us feel so welcome and planted the seed that we must visit other chapters around Scotland.
I can’t think of an easier way to see iconic places in Scotland, and we definitely will.
Ordinarily, a trishaw is piloted by a volunteer. Cycling Without Age Scotland couldn’t run without volunteers, and they are their most significant asset.
As well as being trained and competent cyclists, volunteers are a fountain of knowledge about their local area. They know facts and stories you wouldn’t get in a guidebook.
The volunteers are proud of the scheme. They brim with enthusiasm and love what they do.
Asked to describe how they feel about the scheme, here’s a flavour of what volunteers said:
Empowering, Life-affirming, Rewarding, Fun, Engaging, Exciting, Heart-warming, Life-extending, Happinesshttps://cyclingwithoutage.scot/what-we-do/
A recurring theme from both passengers and volunteers is the positive effect a trishaw ride has on mental health.
I can agree, especially after the last few years. Simply being out in the fresh air, meeting new people and experiencing new things gets those endorphins flowing.
Both Bridget and I came away feeling invigorated and optimistic about the future.
What Else Do You Need to Know?
So much for my short introduction to Cycling Without Age Scotland in Falkirk. It’s hard to stop writing when you’re so invested in the scheme, its people, and purpose.
Okay, I’ve told you what the scheme is, where you can hire a trishaw, how fantastic the people are and that it’s free. All that is left is to tell you how to book your next trishaw ride, so here you go:
How to Book a Trishaw Ride in Falkirk
Book a Trishaw Ride Here – Cycling Without Age Scotland – Falkirk
Website: Cycling Without Age Scotland
Cycling Without Age Scotland and The Bimblers at The Helix – Watch the Video
The Helix Park and The Kelpies
This was our second visit to Helix Park and The Kelpies.
However, this visit was much more rewarding because the trishaw meant we could explore more of the park.
We met Christine at the visitor centre. After a safety talk, we hopped onboard Duke the trishaw and explored.
The surprising thing was how smooth the ride was. I know we were on flat paths, but the smooth ride was noticeable.
We first headed to the lagoon. Crossing the wooden slatted boardwalk was a breeze. Yes, there was some vibration but nothing to write home about.
We rode right around the lagoon, passing the Adventure Play Zone, Splash Play Area and Plaza Cafe on our way.
We wouldn’t manage this distance under our own steam in simple terms. And, we wouldn’t have the commentary either.
We then headed off to The Kelpie area, but instead of heading straight for The Kelpies, we went off-piste past the marina, along the canal and into the woods.
It was here we saw the sundial. No big deal, you might say, but I learned a fascinating piece of information about why the sundial looks rusty?
The sundial is made with Corten Steel. Corten Steel, anybody? No, me neither.
Corten Steel, often referred to as weathered steel, develops a rust-like appearance quickly. It is popular with public statues, art installations and the like because it effectively cleans its surface. This means that it will fall off if graffiti is on it; how cool is that?
We then rode past the Abbotshaugh Sentinel (Love & Kisses). At first, it’s hard to tell what it is, but you can see it’s a big pair of lips from different angles.
Without the trishaw, we wouldn’t see these areas of The Helix.
And then, the finale, The Kelpies.
As I’ve already said, nothing prepares you for how impressive The Kelpies are!
What is The Helix Park?
The Helix Park opened in 2013. It is described as an eco-park, and it’s a vast expanse of regenerated green space to engage and connect communities.
From speaking to them, I know the locals are proud of The Helix and rightly so.
With its network of accessible paths, open spaces, canal-side walks, canal marina, picnic areas and woodland art installations, the Helix is a jewel enjoyed by young and old.
Despite being a popular visitor attraction, it doesn’t feel overcrowded due to its size. There is always space to breathe, relax and soak up the outdoors.
What are The Kelpies?
The Kelpies are two breathtaking statues of horses’ heads.
It doesn’t matter how many photos you have seen or how many descriptions you have read, and nothing will prepare you for the sheer majesty of these beautiful equine monuments.
Modelled on real horses, Duke and Baron encapsulate Scottish folklore, celebrate Scotland’s horse-powered heritage, are art at its finest and test human ingenuity.
They take pride in place on The Helix and, standing at 30 metres tall, can be seen from miles around.
There is a guided tour inside The Kelpies, but I don’t think it’s suitable for people with mobility problems.
What Else Can You Do on The Helix Park
A modern visitor centre houses a museum which tells the story of the park and The Kelpies. It also has video and audio presentations and interactive activities for the children.
There is also a cafe and gift shop inside the visitor centre but be warned they’re very popular so plan your visit to less busy times.
Children’s Adventure Play Zone
The impressive timber play zone is perfect for letting the children play and burn off excess energy.
Also, The Helix has an accessible play area for children of all abilities. It includes sensory chimes, ball tumbles, rubber matting for safety and a wheelchair friendly roundabout and see-saw – fantastic!
And if that’s not enough, your little ones can always run the gauntlet in the splash play area. Watch them dodge water jets as they squirt into the sky and cascade back. Oh, and bring a towel and dry clothing for the journey home.
Accessibility at The Helix
From our point of view, accessibility at The Helix was good. We were able to access everything we needed to.
There are several car parks with disabled parking. However, if you pass through the entry barrier by using the intercom, there is disabled parking on the side of the visitor centre.
However, we know our access needs may differ from yours. But don’t worry; there is an extensive accessibility statement on The Helix website. Here is the link: Accessibility Statement.
Address: The Helix, Falkirk, FK2 7ZT
Facebook: @HelixFalkirk and @thekelpiesatthehelix
Website: The Helix
Summary of Morning Activities
The Helix and The Kelpies as an attraction are great, and there is enough there to fill a whole day and well worth a visit.
What made the visit for us was Cycling Without Age Scotland. Having the ability to explore most of the park without exerting too much energy and running commentary was brilliant.
When you visit The Helix, I recommend doing it the same way we did.
Lunch in Arnotdale House and Cafe
After an exhilarating morning, it was time for lunch.
A short drive away is Dollar Park and inside the park is Arnotdale House and Cafe.
Arnotdale House and Cafe is a social enterprise that supports the Cyrenians charity. Cyrenians is a charity that supports the local community and tackles the causes and consequences of homelessness.
You can park outside the house and cafe in an accessible parking space. There is a slight ramp to automatic doors, then a small ramp to the cafe entrance. There is also an accessible toilet in Arnotdale House.
Before I tell you about lunch, let me tell you about the staff, especially Alison. They are so enthusiastic and get a lot of satisfaction from what they do. Oh, and they make great food too.
For lunch, Bridget had an Egg Mayonaisse Sandwich that was more like a meal.
And I had Chicken Broth with a Smoked Salmon and Cheese Sandwich.
Pay it Forward
Arnotdale Cafe runs a “Pay it Forward” scheme. You collect stamps each time you buy a hot drink. When you have five drinks, your sixth one is free. Or, you can pay it forward, and Arnotdale House will ensure someone who needs it will receive a hot drink and a meal on them.
After lunch, to walk off a bit of what I’d eaten, I went for a bimble in the gardens. The renovated house looks fantastic in the sun.
Address: Dollar Park, Camelon Road, Falkirk, FK1 5SQ
Facebook: @ArnotdaleHouse and @cyrenians
Website: Arnotdale House
An Afternoon on the Falkirk Wheel
I don’t know what it is about Falkirk, but they don’t do things by half. I have already told you how breathtaking The Kelpies are. But wait till you see the Falkirk Wheel.
What is The Falkirk Wheel?
During the 19th century, eleven lock gates were in place to connect the Forth and Clyde Canal with the Union Canal. The problem with these locks was they took nearly a day to traverse, and they have long since been demolished.
In their place is what can only be described as “genius”.
I’m not even going to try and explain how the Falkirk Wheel works. Nor how it lifts a boat 35 metres in the air using less electricity than boiling eight kettles.
But what I will say is, “The Falkirk Wheel is just as much a work of art as it is a practical solution to a problem”.
If you want the facts and figures about the Falkirk Wheel, you’re in luck: About the Falkirk Wheel
I am not a boat person or an engineering person, for that matter. You don’t have to be to appreciate the ingenuity that’s gone into creating the Falkirk Wheel. I mean, look at it:
What Can You Do at The Falkirk Wheel?
Accessibility at The Falkirk Wheel
First of all, let’s talk about accessibility at the Falkirk Wheel.
There are several public car parks, but if you drive down to the visitor centre, you’ll find several dedicated accessible parking spaces. These are available for Blue Badge holders.
Entering the site is easy because it’s flat and well paved. Getting around the Falkirk Wheel basin is much the same, and there is plenty of seating dotted around for a rest.
For us, the visitor centre and boat tour were wheelchair accessible, and the visitor centre also had an accessible toilet. You can see more accessibility details on the Falkirk Wheel website and the Visit Falkirk website.
Electric Bike Hire
Cycling is popular in Falkirk, and rightly so. It has an impressive network of cycle paths and a healthy amount of e-bike stations.
There is a Forth Bike e-bike station at the Falkirk Wheel. You can hire an e-bike from here and then cycle to other top attractions in Falkirk without going near a road.
There are numerous e-bike trail maps on the Visit Falkirk website.
Falkirk Wheel Visitor Centre
The sizeable accessible visitor centre houses the ticket office, gift shop and cafe. I was impressed with their lowered counter for wheelchair users, and you don’t often see these.
There are manual wheelchairs available for hire at the visitor centre, but you should book them as they are limited.
Falkirk Wheel Boat Tour
No trip to the Falkirk Wheel would be complete without taking a boat tour. Bridget was reluctant when I first mentioned it because she’s not a fan of heights. But, she overcame her fear and loved every minute of it.
The boat is wheelchair accessible, and you can also fit an average-sized mobility scooter on board.
Our boat was named Antonine after the Antonine Wall, the furthest Roman wall in the UK. Who knew? I always thought it was Hadrian’s Wall? I’ll talk about the Antonine Wall in my next post.
The boat has plenty of seats and wraps around windows, so everyone gets a good view.
There is an audio description of the tour and a knowledgeable guide sharing interesting facts about the boat, wheel, tunnel, and canal throughout the journey.
Once onboard, you are given a safety brief. Before you know it, the boat enters a gondola and starts lifting. The thing is, it’s that smooth; you don’t even notice until you see the ground getting lower.
During the lift, the guide gives a talk on the magic of the wheel. Then you reach the aqueduct at the top, and there are great views over Falkirk from here.
The boat then cruises through the Roughcastle tunnel, lit with multi-coloured lights. Once at the end of the tunnel, the boat reaches the start of the Union Canal, turns around and comes back.
The whole trip takes about 60 minutes. It’s not the longest boat trip we have taken, but nothing can replace the experience of riding the Falkirk Wheel.
Activities at the Falkirk Wheel
There are many other activities at the Falkirk Wheel, most of them not for us. But, if you are visiting with family, especially children, you can have a fun day out:
- Mini Golf
- Stand Up Paddleboarding
- Water zorbing
- Peddle Boats
- Bumper Boats
- Splash Zone
- Kids Activity Zone
Summary of the Falkirk Wheel
As disabled travellers, we often visit tourist attractions and are limited in what we can do. Not the Falkirk Wheel; we were able to do everything we wanted to.
As well as being blown away by the wheel, what struck me was the cleanliness and enthusiasm of the staff. I am sure I said it earlier in the post, but the team are so proud of the Falkirk Wheel.
Whether you like boats or not, if you’re in Falkirk, I think you have to visit the Falkirk Wheel.
Address: The Falkirk Wheel, Lime Road, Tamfourhill, Falkirk, FK1 4RS
Facebook: @thefalkirkwheel and @ourscottishcanals
Twitter: @FalkirkWheel and @scottishcanals
Website: The Falkirk Wheel
The Bimblers at The Falkirk Wheel – Watch The Video
Summary of Day One in Falkirk
I am sure you’ll agree that it was an exciting and fun-packed day.
We saw and did everything we wanted to do. And, thanks to Cycling Without Age Scotland, we didn’t overexert ourselves.
I think this one-day itinerary is well-paced, varied and enjoyable. I am confident that you’ll have as much fun if you follow in our footsteps.
For more information about accessible days out in Falkirk, visit the official tourism website:
A Sneak Peek at Day Two in Falkirk
Day two in Falkirk was fun, but for different reasons. As a sneak peek, here’s what you have to look forward to:
- Cycling Without Age Scotland at Callendar Park
- Callendar House and Tearoom
- Bo’ness and KinneilRailway Museum
- Kinneil House and Estate
- Falkirk Explorer App
- Where to Stay in Falkirk
Read about our second day in Falkirk now: Accessible Falkirk – Wheelchair Accessible Things to Do
As always, we hope you found this post helpful. Don’t forget to leave us a comment, especially if you intend to visit Falkirk.
*This was a hosted trip. All opinions are my own.