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Heritage Trail: Stirling Walks

Cambuskenneth Abbey

Heritage has a hugely positive impact on our wellbeing, and as we all recover from the pandemic, our wellbeing has never been more important. In fact, studies have shown that engaging with heritage improves your mental and physical health. Our shared cultural heritage also creates a strong sense of pride in place, bringing communities together and creating a sense of belonging. Visiting outdoor historic places is particularly good for us, so with this in mind, lets take a look at some heritage themed walks around Stirling you can enjoy.

Front cover of the SCHt heritage trail photographed in front of an image of Royal Gardens, a row of Victorian villas.
Stirling City Heritage Trust’s Heritage Trail

Heritage Trail

Our very own Heritage Trail, which can be picked-up at The Stirling Smith Museum & Art Gallery, takes you on an hour-long journey around Stirling city centre. It directs you to 10 buildings designed by Stirling architects McLuckie & Walker or John Allan, and encourages you to stop, look-up, and admire the details. When following the route, be aware of your surroundings and bear in mind some of the buildings on the trail are private homes.

Stone castle at the top of a wooded hill
Stirling Castle

The Back Walk

The Back Walk starts opposite Stirling’s Central Library (a fantastic Scots Baronial building), and it’s marked by a timber carving of a wolf. To learn more about the wolf’s connection to Stirling, check out our blog here. The Back Walk was created between 1724 and 1791, and it follows the outline of the old city walls. It was paid for by William Edmonstone of Cumbuswallace, so we’ve him to thank for the fantastic views, and it was a draw for tourists as well as locals. When Stirling Castle was used as a Barracks, the trees along this route were kept short for security purposes, but when the army vacated the Castle in the 1960s a forest has regrown.

Black and white image, two canons in the foregroud, looking down on the town. Rows of tenements and business buildings, curch spires and industrial structures.
View over Stirling from The Gowan Hill, 1960s. Image courtesy of The Stirling Smith Art Gallery & Museum

Gowan Hill

When you’re on the Back Walk, you can make a detour to visit the grisly Beheading Stone on Gowan Hill. The base and metal bars which surround the stone were designed by John Allan in 1887. The stone was being used as a butcher’s block in Bridgehaugh but the Stirling Natural History and Archaeological Society rescued it and put it in this protective cage. The stone was used on Gowan Hill in the public execution of many people, including treasonous nobles like the Duke of Albany in 1425. Mote Hill or Gowan Hill used to be called ‘Heidden Hill’, which makes a lot of sense given its gruesome past…

Stone clock tower in the foreground, river and a stone bridge in the background
Bridge Clock Tower by Jo Cound

Bridgehaugh

From Gowan’s Hill, you can head down to Bridgehaugh where you can walk across Stirling’s Old Bridge, and admire the views of the Wallace Monument and river. This bridge was built in the 1500s and was the main crossing point on the Forth, making it extremely strategically important. The Battle of Stirling Bridge was fought in 1297 near a much earlier wooden bridge during the Wars of Independence. It was located upstream of the Old Bridge, but the actual fighting took place on the shore not on the bridge itself.

A stone tower standing in a grass field
Cambuskenneth Abbey

Cambuskenneth Abbey

If you’d like to delve further into Stirling’s medieval past, you could walk along the River Forth and cross the footbridge bridge to visit the ruins of Cambuskenneth Abbey. Founded in 1147 by David I, the abbey is the final resting place of James III who was killed nearby in the Battle of Sauchieburn in 1488. The footbridge was built in 1935, so until then the village of Cambuskenneth, known as ‘The Abbey’ was accessed by a rowing-boat ferry, giving Ferry Road its name. It was so picturesque that the artists known as the ‘Glasgow Boys’ used to spend their summers here in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

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