The Descent down Wallace Way
The path down is reasonably steep but is surfaced with tarmac and quite suitable for those with a wee one in a buggy.
The Wallace Way has been adorned with wood carvings created by Iain Chalmers. The walk takes visitors on a journey through time to learn more about Stirling's fascinating history.
As we are descending the hill we seeing the sculptures in reverse order – going back in time.
The first carving up is an excellent representation of the National Wallace Monument standing about 7ft tall (2.1m) and carved from a single piece of wood.
Mind your heads - low flying aircraft...
Further on down the hill is an image of a pilot holding the propeller of his aircraft. This is in celebration of Frank and Harold Barnwell who were born in Lewisham, London and moved to Balfron aged 2. They set up the Grampian Engineering and Motor Company in Causwayhead (just at the foot of the hill) in 1907 and produced their first aircraft there in 1908. However they had problems getting their aircraft airborne. It wasn’t until 1909 that they managed to fly to the recorded height of 13ft (3.9m) – landing after 80 yards in a field near Caurwayhead. This short hop was Scotland’s first powered flight.
At the junction of the footpath and the minibus route there is a carving celebrating the Battle of Stirling Bridge (1297) William Wallace’s tactic at the Battle of Stirling Bridge was aided by the narrowness of the bridge at the time. Only two horses could pass each other. This meant that it took ages for the English army to cross the bridge heading northwards. When more than half the English army had crossed the bridge Wallace sprung the trap and surrounded them on the north bank of the Forth whilst at the same time blocking their escape over the bridge. This resulted in slaughter and a bloody victory for Wallace.
One impressive thing about these sculptures is that many, if not all, appear to be fashioned from a single piece of timber.
Other carvings on the route represent the flora and fauna of the area, a bench with three characters carved sitting on it – a Roman a Pict and a Viking. The heads are missing so visitors may stand behind and place their own heads at the top of the mannequins for photographic purposes. A man holding a hammer above a modern looking anvil depicts Scotland’s First Metalworkers
Semi domesticated animals - comprising a sheep, a pig and a very nice pair of highland cows remind us of Scotland’s first farmers.
A large whale sculpture tells us that whales abounded in 5000bc whilst a collection of wild animals including a bear take us back to the ice age 10,000 years ago.
More information about the Wallace Way can be found here: https://www.nationalwallacemonument.com/the-monument/the-abbey-craig/woodcarvings/
By this point we are back at the visitor centre where we’ve parked our car.
Had we had more time we could have explored some of the many other paths and trails on Abbey Craig – all of which are free. However it was nearly time to go home.
Corrieris Cafe, Causwayhead
Just before going home though we popped into one of our favourite cafes which lies adjacent to the roundabout at the foot of the hill: Correris. An Italian ice cream parlour and Italian restaurant founded 40 years ago and still producing excellent food and friendly service. More about Correri’s can be found here: http://www.corrieris.co.uk
Appletree Self Catering Cottage, Loch Lomond
After a beautifully cooked meal we drove the 35 minutes back to Appletree Cottage:
Appletree Cottage - luxury fully en-suite catering for eight people situated in the beautiful Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park
Find out more about us at www.lomondappletree.co.uk
At the roundabout at Causeway head we turn up the hill (just before Correllie’s excellent restaurant and ice cream parlour.)
We follow the road up the hill and park in the free car park at the visitor centre.
Tickets to climb the monument can be bought either at the visitor centre or at the foot of the tower itself.
In the end some of us took the bus up, Some walked. We all walked back down.
Once we arrived at the base of the monument the views were already terrific over the Fourth Valley towards looking south over Stirling to the castle and westwards over the village of Bridge of Allan
Inside the National Wallace Monument
The Hall of Arms
After a short climb we come to the first room – The Hall of Arms.
This large room with its high vaulted ceiling contains an exhibition of the remarkable life of William Wallace and his victory at the Battle of Stirling Bridge There are video enactments information boards and many artefacts around the room.
There was a good amount of stained glass commissioned with the building in the monument and the windows of this chamber and the ones above testify to the skill of craftsmanship employed.
Hall of Heroes
After a good browse around we climb the stairs again and this time arrive at the Hall of Heroes – an identical vaulted space to the Hall of Arms but this time with a collection of busts of famous Scots – poets, writers and inventors who transformed the story of Wallace into the legend we know today. Quite fascinating.
Also within the Hall of Heroes is a replica of Wallace's sword - nearly 7ft long - a huge thing to manhandle.
The Royal Chamber
Details about the monument are fascinating – for example that it was built for £13,000 with walls 1.5 meters thick at the top and 15meters (yes 15 meters!) thick at the bottom.
The design was put out to competition and 106 entries were received. Unfortunately only the runner up entry plan and J.T. Rochead’s winning design survive on paper.
Construction began in 1861 with private subscription. It took eight years to build with local stone from Abbey Craig until completion in 1869
The sighting of the structure on Abbey Craig is significant for a few reasons –
1. It was midway between Edinburgh and Glasgow – each city was vying to have the monument within their boundary.
2. Abbey Craig is supposed to be the point from which Wallace is supposed to have surveyed the lie of the land prior to the battle of Stirling Bridge and the place where he and his men camped the night before the battle.
A summary of the Battle of Stirling Bridge can be found here: https://www.nationalwallacemonument.com/sir-william-wallace/
Wallace himself came to a nasty end in London being hung, drawn and quartered on the orders of his old adversary Edward 1st of England. In 1305. His sword however survives and a replica can be seen in the hero’s chamber of the monument.
After the Royal Chamber we make our final climb up to the top of the structure – thus completing the full eight of the 246 steps to the top.
At the top the narrow spiral staircase opens out into the sky and a walk way around all four sides of the building.
The views to the north, south, east and west are all stunning – and the clearer the day the better.
To the west Ben Lomond on the shore of Loch Lomond can be made out.
To the east the river Fourth mianders towards the more open waters of the estuary. Grangemouth and Alloa were clearly visible on the day we were there and we thought we might be able to just see one of the towers of the new Fourth Bridge.
To the north lies the white buildings of the University of Stirling with the Ochils rising above it.
To the south far below us is the city of Stirling with the castle clearly rising above the old town.
There can be quite a breeze at the top so its worth considering whether to take a coat or hat & scarf.
After about twenty minutes of viewing from the top we decided to make our way back down again and make our way westwards and home to Appletree Cottage.
This took us down the Wallace Way and to Correri's excellent restaurant / cafe.
Please see our next blog!
Find out more about us at www.lomondappletree.co.uk