Both Edinburgh and Glasgow are less than one hour from Alloa, easily reached by car, train or bus. The list of things to see and do in Scotland’s major cities is endless, castles, museums, cathedrals, historic houses, art galleries – everything at your fingertips. Our recommendations for day trips to both cities are listed at the end of this page.
However, there is loads to see and do much closer to home. Alloa is only 7 miles from Stirling with its castle, 6 miles from Dollar with the beautiful ruins of Castle Campbell. Have a look through our suggestions of places to visit while staying with us at Garvally House.
Scotland’s largest and oldest Keep, the ancestral home of the Erskine family, the Earls of Mar and Kellie. 700 years old and recently restored, the Tower is open to the public from Friday to Monday, 1pm to 5pm from March to October. Alloa Tower has a magnificent vaulted beamed ceiling as well as other interesting architectural features. Artwork including works by Henry Raeburn and Van Dyck are on display as well as precious china and silverware. Run by the National Trust for Scotland. 800m from Garvally House on foot. www.nts.org.uk
Local artists come together to work and exhibit their arts and crafts for sale in Ludgate, Alloa. See beautiful glassware, textiles, photography, handmade cards and pottery. There is a Bistro offering teas, coffees, home baking and light lunches. 500m from Garvally House on foot. www.themakersvillage.com
Braehead Golf Course
An 18 hole course, open to non members with fantastic views across the Carse of Stirling towards the west, with Stirling Castle and Wallace Monument. One mile from Garvally House by car. www.braeheadgolfclub.co.uk
Schawpark Golf Course
An 18 hole course open to non members, with breathtaking views towards the north and the Ochil Hills. 1.5 miles from Garvally House by car. www.alloagolfclub.co.uk
Telling the story of William Wallace, made internationally famous by Mel Gibson’s portrayal of him in Braveheart the Monument stands on a volcanic plug above Causewayhead and dominating the area. The Monument contains three huge rooms, one above the other, and the story of Wallace, soldier, patriot, martyr and Guardian of Scotland. There is a shop and coffee house on the site. Open all year round 5 miles from Garvally House by car. www.nationalwallacemonument.com
The Falkirk Wheel was built as a millenium project. The Wheel is actually a boat lift, allowing boats to move between the Union Canal and the Forth and Clyde Canal. It is a world renowned engineering feat. The Wheel is 35 metres high and only uses 1.5Kw of energy to run. The trip takes you from the basin up to the higher canal and through a tunnel before turning and coming back down. There is an exhibition, shop and restaurant. The Falkirk Wheel is open all year, though closed Mondays and Tuesdays in the winter months. 15 miles from Garvally House by car. www.thefalkirkwheel.co.uk
Callendar House and Park date from the 14th century, set in the nationally important historically designed landscape of Callendar Park, which also contains a section of the Antonine Wall Heritage Site. Callendar House permanently displays The Story of Callendar House, covering the history of the area and the house from the 11th Century to the 19th Century. In the restored 1825 kitchen costumed interpreters create an exciting interactive experience with samples of early 19th centry food providing added taste to stories of working life in a large household. Callendar House is open all year round and has a lovely tearoom in the old stable block.
The Antonine Wall is near by and was for a time the Northern Frontier of the Roman Empire in Britain, a wall built, not of stone, but of earth. 15 miles from Garvally House by car. www.falkirkcommunitytrust.org/venues/callendar-house
Founded in 1072 the Abbey was built by Kind David 1 of Scotland in honour of his mother, Queen Margaret. Though there was a church on the site since 800 AD. The Abbey is a magnificent building and is still in use as an Abbey Church. The Abbey is the burial place of Robert the Bruce. 14 miles from Garvally House by car. www.dunfermlineabbey.co.uk
The Abbot House Heritage Centre is set in its own gardens and is a stone throw from abbey, royal palace and monastery. This the perfect place to explore Dunfermline’s remarkable story at the heart of Scottish history. Open all year round, with a shop and tea room. 14 miles from Garvally House by car. www.abbothouse.co.uk
St Margaret’s Cave
Queen Margaret came to this cave to pray over 900 years ago, at that time it was a wooded path by a stream at the bottom of a valley. Now there is a tunnel with 87 steps leading deep underground. Margaret was a Saxon princess granddaughter of King Edmund Ironside of England. She was born in Hungary around 1047 and was married to King Malcolm Canmore in Dunfermline around 1070. Three of her sons became kings of Scotland – Edgar, Alexander and David. She lead a deeply religious and charitable life and was made a saint by Pope Innocent IV. St Margaret’s Cave has an atmosphere all of its own. The entrance to the cave is in the car park whose entrance is in Chalmers Street. www.mrphoebus.co.uk/st-margarets-cave-dunfermline
Townhill Country Park in Dunfermline is the home of Waterski and Wakeboard Scotland. Home of the National Governing Body of water skiing and wakeboarding in Scotland. State of the art, world class boats, open to all, from experienced to beginners, all are welcome. Competitively priced from as little as £15 for a come and try visit. 15 miles from Garvally House by car.
Strategically sited perched on a volcanic plug above the small city of Stirling, the Castle has been magnificently restored to show how life was lived by the Royal family before the union of the Crowns with James VI and I in 1603. Stirling Castle is one of the largest and most important of Scotland’s castles, both historically and architecturally. Sitting on top of Castle Hill and with steep cliffs on three sides, Stirling had a strong defensive position. Most of the castle buildings date from the 15th and 16th centuries. Mary Queen of Scots was crowned here in 1542. The castle is run by Historic Scotland. www.stirlingcastle.gov.uk
Old Town Jail
Temporarily closed. www.oldtownjail.com
Argyle’s Lodging is Scotland’s most complete and splendid example of a 17th century townhouse. Built in the Renaissance style by the founder of Nova Scotia, Sir William Alexander, it is situated below Stirling Castle. Bought by the Campbells of Argyle in the 17th Century, the original building was extended and the courtyard enclosed. The rooms have been restored to their original state and furnished with period furniture and tapestries. The museum is run by Historic Scotland and is open all year round. www.historic-scotland.gov.uk
Smith Museum and Art Gallery
The Stirling Smith Museum and Art Gallery has a permanent exhibition of life in Stirling through the ages. There is also a room for temporary exhibitions, always interesting. The Smith also has a small cafe with very good home made food. www.smithartgalleryandmuseum.co.uk/
Bridge of Allan
Stirling University MacRobert Theatre
Sheriffmuir Battlesite and Memorial. The battle of Sheriffmuir was fought between the Jacobite Highland Scotsmen and Lowland Protestant Scots on November 13 1715. In 1714 Queen Anne, the last of the Stuarts died, and George I, a German from Hanover was invited to take the British throne. The Jacobite cause wanted a Catholic king and supported the cause of Charles Stuart. Battlelines were drawn on Sheriffmuir, high and bleak above the town of Dunblane. www.historynet.com/battle-of-sheriffmuir.htm
Battle Site, Statue of Robert the Bruce
The battle of Bannockburn took place in 1314 and was notable as one of the very few won by the Scots. Robert the Bruce faced Edward the II. The new visitor centre will open in 2014 and will be a wold class visitor attraction using state of the art 3D technology visitors can experience medieval combat like never before. www.battleofbannockburn.com
Birthplace of Mary Queen of Scots, one of the principal residences of the monarchs of Scotland in the 15th and 16th centuries, the ruins of the palace are set picturesquely on the edge of the loch. The Palace is in the heart of the small town of Linlithgow with its charming streets and interesting shops. Linlithgow Palace is run by Historic Scotland and is open 7 days a week (closed for Christmas and New Year). Linlithgow is 20 miles from Alloa, easy travelling by car, less than half an hour. www.historic-scotland.gov.uk
Rob Roy Visitor Centre
Rob Roy is a controversial figure, cattle trader, cattle thief, blackmailer… The visitor centre is located within the Tourist Information Centre in an old church in the centre of Callander. The Visitor Centre shows two films as part of the exhibition, one of around 20 minutes giving the story of Rob Roy and another giving a 10 minute tour of the Trossachs. Callandar is 20 miles west of Alloa by road, around a 40 minute drive. Callandar is known as the gateway to the Highlands, in reality it is part of an area known as the Trossachs, with beautiful hills and lochs, very romantic. www.stirling.co.uk/attractions/robroy.htm
Days out in Glasgow
One lovely day out in Glasgow – Kelvingrove Art Gallery, a fabulous building housing a fabulous collection, with coffee shop on the ground floor and restaurant on the lower ground floor, it is possible to spend a whole day at Kelvingrove. However, within easy walking distance is Glasgow Cathedral and Glasgow University with its wonderful Hunterian Museum. The Hunterian Museum is the oldest public museum in Scotland founded in 1807, it houses the world’s largest collections by Whistler and Rennie Mackintosh. Here you will find collections of scientific instruments used by James Watt, Joseph Lister and Lord Kelvin. Wonderful Roman artefacts from the Antonine wall. Well worth visiting.
Another excellent day in Glasgow – The Burrell Collection and Pollok House. The Burrell Collection is an eclectic and enormous collection of arts and crafts gathered by a Glasgow ship builder over many years and left to the city. It is housed in a purpose built building sited with the extensive Pollok estate on the south side of the city. There is a restaurant within the Burrell building. Pollok House, which was home to the Maxwell family, is a short walk from the Burrell Collection and offers visitors an opportunity to see a traditional family house of the 18th century with both upstairs and downstairs rooms on show to illustrate how life was lived during that period. Some superb paintings are on display, though sadly in need of cleaning.
Days out in Edinburgh
I always recommend travelling to Edinburgh by train. Waverley station is right in the heart of the city and the open top tour buses leave from just outside the station, if you like to get an overview of the city’s main tourist hotspots.
Edinburgh Castle – fabulous, but always very busy, go to Stirling Castle instead, just as good but not as busy.
One excellent day out in Edinburgh – The Royal Mile. With Edinburgh Castle at the top and Holyrood Palace and the new Parliament Building at the bottom, the Royal Mile has a wealth of shops, museums and places of interest. Before the building of Edinburgh New Town in the 18th century, the city was crowded onto the volcanic plug with the Castle on the top, the Royal Mile was the main road leading down the spine of the rock. Visit Mary King’s Close to see the remains of whole streets built over at the beginning of the 20th century. Near the foot of the Royal Mile is the Museum of Childhood, full of toys you will vaguely remember www.bestofedinburgh.com
Another wonderful day in Edinburgh – Princes Street Gardens are an amazing feature of the Edinburgh cityscape, allowing you to admire the castle and the buildings leading up to it from all along Princes Street itself. However the Gardens are a lovely place to stroll and relax, right in the heart of the city. Half way along the Gardens is the National Gallery of Scotland with its internationally recognised collections. The National Portrait Gallery is located in Queen Street within the new town. Both are important collections and well worth seeing. www.nationalgalleries.org
The Royal Yacht Britannia, Leith. – Leith was the port for the city of Edinburgh, and is a short taxi ride from the centre of the city. The Royal Yacht is a fascination attraction to visit, moored just beside a large shopping complex at Ocean Terminal in Leith. Well worth a visit. www.royalyachtbritannia.co.uk