This week, the Wee Walking Tours team is bringing you on a virtual journey to explore a large concentration of sculptures in Clackmannanshire. All the sculptures were created by the famed Andy Scott who is perhaps most well-known for the Kelpies. Since this journey goes beyond our usual daily walking tours– we are going to need a car for this trip. So, please buckle up and join us as we go on a scavenger hunt for magnificent works of art.
Before we hop in the car, I want to provide bit of information about the artist, Andy Scott, whose works we will be looking at. A graduate of the Glasgow School of Art, Scott has become one of the most famous Scottish public artists. In his prolific career he has already produced over eighty sculptures for private and public clients from all over the world. His works can be found in countries such as Australia, Spain, Northern Ireland, and the United States. In fact, his studio from which he works internationally is in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
As I noted before, his most notable sculptures are perhaps the Kelpies that hold court at the Helix Park in Falkirk. They have been extremely popular since they were installed, receiving hundreds of thousands of visitors annually. The equine motif is evident with many of Scott’s works, however, on this journey we will see a broader variety of his works. In fact, we will see sculptures on the Public Art Trail in Clackmannanshire as well as squeeze in a few additional ones as a bonus.
As we are getting ready to hit the road, we obviously need some directions and advice on the locations of the sculptures. For that, we turn to the ever so reliable resource – Visit Scotland. You can find a bit more information about the trail on their website.
Most importantly, it has a link to a PDF from the Clackmannanshire Council, which has the maps and directions to the sculptures that are invaluable for our road trip. Be sure to print it out if you decide to do this trip on your own.
It is finally time to get in the car and head on to the open roads. Quick question– you are not allergic to dogs, are you? I only ask because our Wee Walking Tours canine team- Finn & Sawyer- are coming along for this ride.
As we head out of Edinburgh and make our way across the Queensferry Crossing, I realise that we have forgotten one of the most crucial supplies for any successful road trip – coffee and donuts! No worries, we’ll make a quick pit stop at Tim Horton’s in Dunfermline! (Full disclaimer: this is not a sponsored post by Tim Horton’s, although I am not opposed to the idea! Although, I am not sure if a daily diet of Timbits would be good for my health, but today we will enjoy them heartily!)
Fueled by caffeine and sugar (from the moose donut above), we are on the road again and making our way through western Fife into Clackmannanshire where our sculpture trail begins. More specifically, we are heading to the Mary Wood Roundabout on A907, with a piece called: ‘This Journey’s End’. It is two statues that bridge the gap between two shores. The male figure holds the crown from the Clackmannanshire coat of arms while the female figure holds a circle of 23 stars representing the European Union. This stunning work of art was unveiled in 2009.
As it is in a roundabout, it is better admired from the vehicle. But, if you so desire, it is possible to park somewhere in the town and then walk over to get a longer look of the sculpture. We still have a long journey ahead of us, so we must leave ‘This Journey’s End’ and head towards our next sculpture.
As we leave the town of Clackmannan, we punch in the directions of our next statue, located in the village of Fishcross. The second statue on our trail, is also in a roundabout, so again, it is best admired from the vehicle. This one is located at the Collylands Roundabout on B9140, and is a stunner…
She is called the ‘River Spirit’. The statue is a beautiful female figure who seems to be coming out of a tree base with her hands forming the foliage in a shape of a ribbon. However, the ribbon represents the River Forth which flows nearby. The river Forth has had major historical significance to the history and the development of this whole region.
‘River Spirit’ was so well received by the public after its installation in 2011, that it encouraged the Clackmannanshire Council to commission more sculptures- which we will explore in just a bit. When asked about “River Spirit”, this is what Andy Scott had to say: “I could never have anticipated the fantastic response which followed the installation of River Spirit at Collylands. This inspired Clackmannanshire Council to commission a further five pieces in the area which has allowed me to create a series of works that have a relationship with one another while making individual statements about their particular locations.”
After circling around ‘River Spirit’, it is time to head about a mile southwest towards the town of Alloa for our next two sculptures. The first one of these is in yet another roundabout (Shillinghill Roundabout on A907), but the second one is at Station Square by the Alloa train station.
Next up, roll down the windows, and get your camera ready, as we approach “Lifeline”. ‘Lifeline’ is one of my personal favourites, and not only because of its impressive size and beauty, but also because of what it represents. The statue is that of a giant hand holding and supporting a mother and a child. It pays tribute to people working in emergency services who put their lives on the line to help others. I personally can’t think of a more appropriate tribute in these current trying times.
The statue also includes, on the back of the hand, words from a Scottish poet Jim Carruth: “Life-line Reach Out, Hold, Close, Cradle, Cushion, Shelter, Protect, Support, Lift Up.”
If you are doing this trail on your own, you can easily find parking around the many store car parks in this area of the town. You can then walk closer to ‘Lifeline’ to get a better look at this magnificent statue. As for us, we will make our way back to Station Square and park our car there for a bit. Now that we have reached the halfway point of our trail, it’ll be nice to stretch our legs and for Finn and Sawyer to get a wee walk around the square as well.
It is also a convenient stop because it is here, we find the next work of Andy Scott. ‘I Can See for Miles’, is an inspirational sculpture that depicts an adult who is propping up a youngster. It symbolizes both the industrial history of Alloa with the adult worker, and the opportunities that Alloa has for the child – the future generation. It is a nod to Alloa’s significance in various industries including coal, glass, and textiles.
After admiring Scott’s artistry and skill in storytelling through metal-sculpting, we decide to hop back to the car and to get on the road again. Next up, we input Muirside Roundabout on B9140, in Tullibody to our GPS.
In just a few minutes we approach the next sculpture on our journey. This one is a companion piece to the ‘River Spirit’ and it is called the ‘Air Spirit’. ‘Air Spirit’ (also known as the Muirside Man or the Striding Man) was designed to honour the beautiful landscapes of the Clackmannanshire. A quick side note- if you ever do decide to check this art trail for yourself, please take the time to not only enjoy the artistry of Andy Scott, but also the sheer natural beauty of the area.
With that in mind, if there isn’t any traffic in the roundabout – why not drive around in circles couple of times? Once to inspect the impressive ‘Air Spirit’, and another the equally impressive surrounding landscapes. But, before you get too dizzy from driving around in circles, make sure to point your car north as you exit the roundabout, because our last stop in Clackmannanshire is in the beautiful town of Menstrie.
The sixth sculpture on the trail – ‘Fox Boy’- is in the Nova Scotia Gardens in Menstrie. To visit it we decide to park our car in the car park right off the Main Street in Menstrie, and then to make our way into the gardens on foot.
You may have noticed that the sculpture is in the Nova Scotia Gardens, and there is a reason for it – there is a great historic connection between Menstrie and Nova Scotia, Canada. However, I will delve into that story in another article in the future. So, just make sure to subscribe to our free weekly blog, so that you can learn more about Menstrie later. For now, we will just count that as the second reference to Canada in this article– remember those Timbits? Anyway, back to the trail.
As we walk along Main Street in Menstrie and make our way towards the gardens – the ‘Fox Boy’ sculpture comes quickly into our view; it is located right at the entry into the gardens. This almost whimsical statue harks back to the old tales of local children keeping foxes as pets. However, it does hold some deeper meaning to it as well– as evidenced by the maple leaf kept in the Fox Boy’s hand – yet another connection to Canada! So, in hockey terms, I guess it is fair to say that we have now scored a ‘hat-trick’ with this article!
After enjoying the gardens and refueling (more coffee) it is time to continue our journey. We have now covered all the works on the Public Art Trail in Clackmannanshire. However, the next stop is also included on the Visit Scotland and Clackmannanshire instructions that we mentioned earlier– and is in Cumbernauld, North Lanarkshire. So, on we go, and we are heading south, pass Stirling and onto the M80 towards Glasgow.
The statue that we are next in search of is ‘Arria’. I am certain that anyone who has ever driven on the M80 motorway will have seen her- well, after her installation in 2010. However, we don’t want to just see a glimpse of her while speeding 70mph past her. We’ll stop and park so that we can get closer. If you want to do that, you need to input Eastfield Cemetery in Cumbernauld into your GPS.
The Eastfield Cemetery is rather close to the location of Arria. Once you park, it is a quick walk the rest of the way on nice cleared paths to this incredible work of art. Although officially named ‘Arria’, she has also been referred to as the "Angel of the Nauld". She is in the form of a tall (10m) female figure. Her arms form two large swooping arcs, from the palms of her hands to the hem of her dress. The arcs are meant to represent the Gaelic name for Cumbernauld: ‘comar nan allt’, which translates as ‘the meeting of the waters’. Which waters that refers to is still debated. Is it the fact that Cumbernauld sits in the middle of the watersheds to both rivers – Forth and Clyde? Or perhaps it just refers to the spot where Red Burn meets with the Bog Stank Stream. Or is it because both Red Burn and Luggie Water flow through Cumbernauld (although those two never meet)?
But before we head further into that debate– we should get back to admiring the sculpture. It also has something in common with one of the previous sculptures on the trail, because just like ‘Lifeline’, ‘Arria’ is also inscribed with a poem by Jim Carruth. As you walk around her, you can read the poem called “Watershed”. It reads:
The first sounds spoken from the spring’s core are of a new beginning of people and place a poetry that bubbles and gargles to the surface to leave this watershed flow east and west in a rush of words that tumble and fall to join the conversations of two great rivers a voice calling out I belong I belong adding to the language of sea and ocean.
It would be fair to say that it has already been a long road trip, but with petrol still in the tank and coffee in our travel mugs– we decide to continue our scavenger hunt of Andy Scott sculptures, and get back on the road. Now, we know that there are few amazing sculptures around Glasgow, but we decide to save those for another day, another trip, and maybe another article on Glasgow (read more about Glasgow here). Instead, we decide to head back east.
We could have gone via the M8 towards Edinburgh but decide to backtrack a bit and make our way to the M9 instead. Why, you ask? Well, we wanted to drive by the Kelpies of course. This time we didn’t stop in the Helix Park to say “Hi” to Duke and Baron, but we do give them a respectful nod as we drive by. Speaking of nodding, our backseat drivers Finn & Sawyer have both nodded off to dreamland. But that is okay because we still have a way to go. That’s because we are going to bypass Edinburgh altogether and head out towards Dunbar in East Lothian.
Dunbar is about 30 miles east of Edinburgh, and it now has one of the more recent sculptures by Andy Scott – the ‘DunBear’! This remarkable five-metre tall statue of a bear was unveiled just last year– on 19th November 2019. It is in Dunbar, because Dunbar is the birthplace of one of Scotland’s favourite sons – John Muir. Of course, he is even more well-known in the United States, as he played a major role in the development of America’s national parks, including that of Yosemite National Park.
Once we make our way to Dunbar, we want to get close to the statue, because we have seen it numerous times from the A1, but never up close and personal. So, to do that we need to get off the A1 and make our way towards the ASDA supermarket car park. Once there and safely parked, it is time to wake up our canine team and go meet the DunBear. There is nice footpath behind the supermarket, and it is a relatively short walk along the thistle lined path to the bear-who is just magnificent! We are beyond delighted that we extended our road trip because this bear is worth seeing in person.
I mentioned in the beginning that one of the common themes for Andy Scott was equines. Well we have not really seen any on our journey today. Sure, we drove by the Kelpies and gave them a quick nod. But don’t worry if it is a horse statue that you have been waiting for– you are in luck! We can find one of those for you close to our home in Edinburgh.
Just a short distance south from the city centre is the Royal School of Veterinary Studies of the University of Edinburgh. It is located between Straiton and Penicuik, in Easter Bush. This is where we head out for last and final stop of our journey because on the campus lies the sculpture called ‘Canter’.
Canter is a striking sculpture of a horse’s head. The horse pays homage to the original purpose of the school that was started as veterinary clinic to help and take care of the Scottish working horses in the early 1900’s.
Well, the caffeine has worn out and the Timbits are long gone. Therefore, I think this is as great of a place as any to conclude our long, yet extremely fascinating hunt for all the incredible works of art. Thank you for joining us on this journey. Please visit Andy Scott’s website for information about these and many other works of art by Andy Scott.
Until next time – Explore and Discover!