Steel Shots: The Kelpies

The KelpiesTowering 100 ft above Scotland’s new Helix Parkland and weighing more than 300 tons each, The Kelpies — the world’s largest pair of equine sculptures — are not only a stunning piece of public art but also a prime example of the diversity of steel, modern computer modeling and excellent structural engineering. Photo: Courtesy of SH Structures

Forming a gateway at the eastern entrance to Scotland’s Forth and Clyde canal, and the new canal extension built as part of The Helix land transformation project set to open this spring, The Kelpies are a monument to horse-powered heritage across the country.

Designed by sculptor Andy Scott, the 100-ft sculptures are built of structural steel with a stainless steel cladding, designed to withstand the elements as they guard the new canal tunnel under the M9 motorway. Construction began last June and was complete by October. The process, however, involved eight years of planning and one year of fabrication and assembly. The steel was fabricated in Yorkshire and transported to Falkirk, where the structures were pieced together using 3D modeling software.

More than 9,842 ft of steel tubing and 600 tons of structural steel was used in the construction process, and more than 10,000 special fixings were used to secure the ’skin’ of the two horses heads (one looking up and one looking down) to the steel framework.

The Kelpies are positioned on either side of a specially constructed lock and basin, part of the redeveloped Kelpies Hub. Dramatically changing the landscape around Falkirk, The Kelpies and the new canal link into the Forth & Clyde Canal are expected to open up the inland waterways to more and bigger vessels and lead to an increase in boating traffic throughout Central Scotland.

Scott’s 1:10 scale models, known as maquettes, have been displayed at various events and locations around Scotland and the U.S., including the Field Museum in Chicago.

To learn more about The Kelpies, visit The Helix website (