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Queen opens new canal during barge journey to view Kelpies sculptures

The Queen Elizabeth II Canal forms the eastern gateway to the Forth and Clyde Canal and flows right up to the acclaimed horse-head sculptures.

The Queen and Duke of Edinburgh have led a small flotilla along a new canal as they visited one of Scotland’s most popular attractions.

The royal couple completed the last stretch of their journey to the Kelpies sculptures in Falkirk by barge – and formally opened the new canal section in the process.

Named after the monarch, the Queen Elizabeth II Canal forms the eastern gateway to the Forth and Clyde Canal and flows right up to the acclaimed horse-head sculptures.

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The royals visit the Kelpies structure (Andrew Milligan/PA)

Cheered on by hundreds of onlookers, the Queen and Philip boarded a bunting-covered Seagull Trust boat named The Wooden Spoon, which took them along the canal for the final five minutes of their trip.

Upon arriving to music from a pipe band at the 30-metre high landmarks, the royal couple met Kelpies sculptor Andy Scott.

The Queen smiled as she was introduced to two horses, Duke and Dan, who, as Clydesdales, are the same breed of horse which inspired Mr Scott’s landmark sculptures.

They then toured the inside of the “head down” Kelpie to view the engineering work involved in its construction and unveiled a plaque to open the canal section.

Large crowds of onlookers, including many children, waved Union flags as the royal party passed by, with an aerobatic display from the Global Stars stunt flying team taking place above the sculptures.

Mr Scott said: “The Queen was asking me about the history of the project and the relationship with the Clydesdale horses. The Duke was particularly interested in the internal structure, the engineering, the fabrication that went on.”

Of the sculptures, inspired by the horse-drawn barges of the canal in the past, Mr Scott said: “They’ve had an amazing transformative effect on the area with over 2.5 million visitors to see them (since opening in April 2014).”

Andrew Thin, chairman of Scottish Canals, said: “We are honoured that Her Majesty the Queen was able to join us to celebrate the naming of the Queen Elizabeth II Canal in her honour.

“The Kelpies and the Queen Elizabeth II Canal are helping put Falkirk and Grangemouth on tourists’ ‘to see’ lists the world over.”

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