WITH impeccable timing, Falkirk Steeple re-opened to the public for the first time in 200 years this spring.

The famous landmark adorns the shirts of the town’s football team, who this season battled to the semi-final of the Scottish Cup. It is just one sign of a town on the up, home to three of Scotland’s top tourist attractions and so much more.

To many Scots – me included – Falkirk is normally a place you flash through on the train, a hub perfectly positioned halfway between our largest cities.

The Romans thought so too, running their Antonine Wall right through; the best preserved fort is at Rough Castle on Falkirk’s fringes. As did the canal builders with the Forth and Clyde Canal from Glasgow and Union Canal from Edinburgh meeting in Falkirk.

I’m arriving thanks to the Linlithgow Union Canal Society (www.lucs.org.uk), who sail back through history with trips from Linlithgow along the Union Canal.

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We eke along in style with bacon butties and coffee, waving to the joggers, strollers and dog walkers on a canal that was reborn as a Millennium project.

Onboard with me is Stewart Douglas, the Falkirk born and bred lead singer of emerging band Wrest, who have just secured their first headline Barrowlands gig.

As we tunnel through the darkness in the final approach to Falkirk, Douglas treats me to an acoustic version of new single Keep Going. It could have been written with the stoic spirit of the Falkirk “Bairns” in mind.

The old ironworks – Carron Works used to be the world’s largest – are long gone and Falkirk struggled its way through the 1980s and 1990s, but Douglas is positive about the future: “Falkirk is on the up. It has so much going for it at the moment and you can feel it in the town.”

The rebirth of the Falkirk canals has been critical to the town’s comeback, but there was a problem as the canals lay a seemingly insurmountable 34m apart in height.

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The solution tied back into Falkirk’s reputation for innovative engineering: Britannia would have struggled to rule the waves without the Falkirk-forged cannonades that gave the Royal Navy the upper hand in close combat.

The Falkirk Wheel was created, an icon that all of Scotland can be proud of, the world’s only rotating boat lift.

I come down in the Falkirk Wheel – a dramatic experience peering over Falkirk, the Forth and the Ochil Hills – next to a boat of delighted tourists. I meet them again in the superb café at the visitor centre, a collage of international accents showing the appeal of this remarkable piece of Scottish engineering.

You can see another Falkirk engineering icon from the top of the Falkirk Wheel.

Andy Scott’s startling Kelpies are a collage of the Scottish folklore of the old kelpie tales and the grand old Clydesdale horses who used to work around here. Duke and Baron soar 30 metres into the heavens.

The National:

The Kelpies startle from all angles, but I recommend getting inside too.

Tour guide Kirstie leads the way, telling me that although the steel (harking back to the past again) took a year to fashion, they impressively managed to heft up the Kelpies in only 90 days. Kirstie points out that they are not alone.

“Today The Helix eco park opens up all around. We’ve just won a Gold Green Tourism award and it’s a real oasis where everyone is welcome.”

She is right – I wander the trails, check out the lagoon and make a mental note to come back with my kids to the Adventure Zone and the Splash Zone.

In the mood for walking now, I follow a section of the John Muir Way, which steers me into Callendar Park. I’ve fond memories of this 170-acre green lung from when I came to play here with a friend who is no longer with us. Back then I remember us always wanting to see what is inside grand Callendar House.

My days of wondering are over. Callendar House is now open to the public with no admission charge. There is a superb exhibition on the history of this remarkable house; another on the town’s story.

The National:

History pulses through Falkirk’s veins – I look out over grounds where once Mary, Queen of Scots and Bonnie Prince Charlie roamed. The Romans too – another section of the Antonine Wall runs right through the park.

Those are Falkirk’s three big hitters, but there is more

That Falkirk Steeple has just re-opened to the public. Local historian Ian Scott is delighted.

“History runs deep in Falkirk,” he tells me. “We were the scene of Wallace’s last battle in 1298 and also of the last major Jacobite victory in 1746. The return of the Steeple is a sign of how much we value history in our town.”

The more time I spend in Falkirk, the more positive I feel. The Falkirk Distillery has brought whisky back to the town and will soon be joined by the return of the Rosebank Distillery.

The Bairns may not have made the Scottish Cup final, but Wrest play the Barrowlands next year and there is a new positivity here in the heart of Scotland.

As Douglas told me on the canal: “I just wouldn’t want to live anywhere else.”