A popular festival will open this year with the launch of Scotland's new cultural landmark, The Kelpies.

The John Muir Festival will launch its 2014 celebrations with a night-time arts event on the theme of Scotland as home in Helix Park, Falkirk, on April 17 and 18, which will include the international launch of the sculpture.

Artist Andy Scott's colossal 300-tonne, 30-metre high horses heads' will be brought to life with a light, sound and flame performance by Groupe F, the internationally renowned pyrotechnic company which famously lit up the Eiffel Tower at the Millennium, during the event.

The Kelpies form the centrepiece of the £43 million Helix development, which is expected to attract an additional 350,000 visitors per year and add £1.5m in annual tourism spend to the Falkirk area. They pay homage to the tradition of the working horses of Scotland and stand where horses used to pull barges along Scotland's canals and worked in the fields.

Ian Scott, Chairman of Falkirk Community Trust said: 'The Home event, produced by UZ arts, will announce both the arrival of The Kelpies to the international stage and the inaugural John Muir Festival in suitably dramatic fashion. It is a pleasure to welcome Groupe F to Scotland to create an installation that will animate Andy Scott's remarkable sculptures. They will work alongside Scottish artists to create, through a series of commissioned artworks, a unique experience on the theme of Scotland - our Home.'

The international launch marks the start of a series of exciting John Muir Festival events over nine days and is a signature event in the Year of Homecoming programme.

Alex Salmond will officially open the new national pathway, John Muir Way, in Dunbar on April 21 following the opening of the festival. There will be daily events at ten hotspots along the 134-mile route, before the festival reaches Helensburgh on the same Clyde coast 11-year-old Muir and his family sailed en route to a new life in America. A street ceilidh and firework Festival finale is planned at Scotland's national park at Loch Lomond for April 26.

Mike Cantlay, Chairman of VisitScotland, said: 'The John Muir Festival, which will launch with the official opening of this fantastic new landmark, will form a key part of our Homecoming Scotland celebrations, honouring an iconic, brilliant man from Scotland's past as well as celebrating our country's breath-taking landscapes. The Helix is set to be a major attraction in Scotland, bringing thousands of people - and real economic benefit - to the local community. The impressive Kelpies also offer a fitting tribute to Scotland's strong industrial past, as well as celebrating the myth and folklore that has encapsulated the imagination of visitors to Scotland for centuries.'