September 15, 2011
GREENOCK, Scotland –After two rambunctious days at sea we arrived today in Scotland and after a foggy morning the day turned out gorgeous, with blue skies and white puffy clouds. Our tour guide Lesley thanked us for bringing good weather, noting that the weather has been gray and rainy of late.
Today we took a ship excursion to see the Falkirk Wheel and visit the small city of Stirling. This turned out to be a great outing all around. Princess did an excellent job of getting everyone gathered and off on time and from then on the day progressed perfectly. Our bus drove around Glasgow and on into the countryside to Falkirk.
The Falkirk Wheel is considered to be an engineering marvel. Basically, it is a large counter-balanced wheel which rotates to raise or lower boats. It replaced a system of 11 canal locks. Opened in 2002 as a Millenium Project (it received funding from the lottery), it connects the Forth and Clyde Canal with the Union Canal. It lifts or lowers boats 35 meters (approximately 105 feet) in 4-1/2 minutes using a minimum of electricity.
It is pretty amazing to look at and even more interesting to ride. Although it was designed primarily to revitalize the canal system in Scotland it has also become a tourist attraction which raises funds for the British Waterways Scotland system. The tourist aspect is that you can ride a boat as it is lifted…and then lowered…in the wheel for 8£ (7£ seniors).
It was the beginning of a huge transformation of Scotland’s canal systen, which was originally developed for commerce and fell into disuse after the railroads took over distribution. Now the canals have been reopened and are primarily used for recreation and tourism. Bike paths, small marinas, restaurants and other facilities have developed along the long-disused canals. To learn more, go to www.thefalkirkwheel.co.uk
After our visit to the wheel, we then went to the city of Stirling, which is dominated by a lovely medieval castle. Most people opted to get off the tour at the castle and walk down into the town area. There we had lunch and then browsed the shops in this charming village.
After, we rode back to the ship through the countryside rather than on the motorway as Lesley regaled us with facts about the country. Altogether it was a satisfying tour and it took most of the day.
This evening we did manage to see the production show of Cole Porter hits, called “What a Swell Party” and then headed to bed early knowing we were going to have a full day in Dublin.
Photos by Chet Janssens