In 12 short years it has become an iconic part of Scotland.
And as the sun glints off it on a sunny Sunday morning, it’s so easy to see why more than 5.5 million visitors have flocked for a look.
It’s impressive, imposing and magnificent but even that doesn’t really do justice to the world’s only rotating boat lift.
Towering more than 115 feet into the clear blue skies, the sheer scale and engineering craft take the breath away. And as boat master Alison tells us, the Wheel has now become a tandem attraction.
Increasingly, visitors to the Kelpies, the amazing 30-metre high horse head sculptures just a few miles along the Forth and Clyde Canal, are doubling up by heading to the Wheel.
And Falkirk visitors, having heard of the days when horsepower ruled the canals, are visiting the Helix to see the Andy Scott creations unveiled one year ago.
It helped make July the busiest-ever month with more than 90,000 visitors, adding to the rebirth of Scotland’s waterways that had fallen into sad decline.
The £84.5 million spent on the Millennium Link project to regenerate the Forth and Clyde and Union Canals reversed that in spectacular fashion.
Especially with the £17.5 million Wheel which links the centuries-old waterways.
It used to take a boat an entire day to painstakingly progress through 11 locks. Now they’re hoisted up, or down, in a mere four-and-a-half minutes.
So, too, are the big boats that take tourists from all over the world on the 50-minute trips up from the basin at the Forth and Clyde to the Union.
Like everything else at the Wheel, they’re a classy, friendly experience.
“We have to give this safety lecture but if there’s a problem with the boat going down and you’re over 5ft 6in, just stand up,” Alison tells us.
“The water’s only that depth and the boat’s already five feet down!”
Humour is obviously a universal language as guffaws ring around from visitors from all over the world.
You’re barely aware you’re moving as you swing up in one of the gondolas as the other comes down.
Together they hold enough water to fill an Olympic-sized swimming pool but it all takes only enough power to boil eight kettles.
In no time you’re at the top and set for a short cruise before the return.
The views are stunning and the Wheel is a year-round attraction, with wintery Santa special trips sounding like right good fun.
It’s £8.95 for the boat trip but for many the whole Wheel area has become a watery rave that needn’t cost a penny.
As the day wears on and the sun continues to shine, the grassy slopes and picnic benches are packed with families out for the day.
The ice cream and fast food stalls were doing a roaring trade but many had brought their own snacks.
There’s a water playpark area showing how water power works. But kids, some in swimming costumes, some wellies and some just going to face a soggy ride home, were just having a whale of a time.
Those who wanted to take to the water in fun fashion while still staying dry were queuing for a shot inside one of the big inflatable balls. Or you can hire a canoe. We did let’s just say navigation’s harder than it looks.
The whole area has been transformed and there are more than four miles of woodland paths to enjoy.
But there’s no more fitting way to see what’s at the heart of everything by just walking or taking to a bike like we did for a fiver-an-hour along the canal bank.
Boats chugged along at a stately pace with the occupants waving happily. They were in no hurry. After all, swapping canals is a matter of mere minutes.
Enjoy the convenience of having The Sunday Post delivered as a digital ePaper straight to your smartphone, tablet or computer.
Subscribe for only £5.49 a month and enjoy all the benefits of the printed paper as a digital replica.Subscribe