The legend of the Kelpies

As well as being the largest equine sculpture in the world, the famous water horses of Falkirk have an interesting story to tell…

Two large metal sculptures of horses heads.
The kelpies are iconic metal sculptures and a unique attraction in central Scotland.

The Kelpies are in fact shape-changing and malevolent creatures of Scottish myth. Legend has it they appear as tame horses to entice and trick unsuspecting children. Beware the magical hide of the Kelpies… you might find yourself unable to dismount and heading straight for the depths of the nearest loch!

Kelpies skin is sticky so their victims cannot escape them, so the story goes…

Mythology tells us Kelpies can also take the form of a beautiful woman to lure young men into the water or even hairy beasts appearing to weary travellers.

There is dispute over the origin of the Kelpie mythology and even the origin of the name. The name is believed to be either from the Gaelic (pronounced Gah-lic) calpa or cailpeach, which means “heifer” or “colt”.

The most famous reoccurring location for the story of the Kelpies is Loch Ness. Perhaps this is where the legend of the Loch Ness Monster comes from.

Black and white image of Maryhill around 100 years ago. People in boat on canal looking at workman pulling horse on bank. Tenement flats in the background.
Work horses were essential to the Scottish canal system as they pulled boats along the water. You can still see the horses paths along the sides of most Scottish canals.
Image from the Herald Photo Archive.

The Kelpies sculptures in Falkirk celebrate the mythical creatures. They are situated at the connection of the Forth and Clyde canals as a tribute to the work horses had previously done pulling the boats on the canal.

Want to learn more and see the sculptures of these magical beasts for yourself?

Check out our Loch Lomond, the Kelpies and Stirling Castle day tour.