TIME was – and not all that long ago, either – when guide books to Scotland skipped lightly over all that the town of Falkirk had to offer.

The 1999 edition of the Lonely Planet guide, for example, noted Callendar House, and not much else; the 1996 Blue Guide described Falkirk as “an industrial town, known historically for two battles”.

All that has since changed for the better. First, in 2002, came the opening, by the Queen, of the Falkirk Wheel, “the world’s first and only rotating boat lift”; then, in 2014, came the photogenic Kelpies, sculptor Andy Scott’s mammoth horse heads, rearing over Helix Park, near the M9 motorway.

The world’s largest equine sculptures, they were, it’s fair to say, an instant hit, and they remain hugely popular with visitors from home and abroad. “The Kelpies have transformed the area into a five-star tourist destination,” ventures the VisitScotland website.

Not everyone likes the Kelpies, it has

to be said.

The Guardian’s art critic, Jonathan Jones, writing in 2014, observed: “Scott’s horses are neither well observed nor powerfully imagined – they are simply stale equine symbols... The Kelpies is just a kitsch exercise in art “for the people”, carefully stripped of difficulty, controversy and meaning.

“... I feel like crying”, he added, “that someone spent £5m on this piece of trash. Imagine the boost that bounty might have given to Falkirk’s public libraries. Instead, school kids will be bussed to a park to gaze on brainless dreck”.

It’s a point of view, certainly. But visitors’ remarks on sites such as TripAdvisor are much more admiring

and appreciative of the Kelpies’

arresting scale. “Awesome” is a word frequently used.

The Kelpies can be glimpsed from various vantage-points in the town

and beyond: you can, for example, be strolling along the canal bank behind Falkirk High station, the Falkirk Wheel but a short walk away, and suddenly

spot the horses’ heads, a couple of miles away, down in the valley, glinting in the pale sunshine.

Their size, their pleasing, enigmatic presence, always make you smile. Up close, they are even more impressive.

What to watch

There are lots of entertaining videos about the Kelpies on YouTube, including a full-length documentary, and drone/GoPro footage of the Kelpies and the Falkirk Wheel.