Central Scotland’s tourism has until recently been dominated by the nearby Stirling which offers both the castle and the neighbouring Wallace Monument. That has all changed!
In 2002 the Falkirk Wheel was opened and is a globally unique engineering structure as the World’s only rotating boat lift which transfers boats the 115ft height level between the Union and the Forth & Clyde Canals. Beside the wheel there is an inter active visitor centre, restaurant and shop which will entertain any age of visitor.
A short walk from the centre of Falkirk is Callendar Park and Callendar House. A magnificent building which has hosted in the past Mary, Queen of Scots, Bonnie Prince Charlie and Oliver Cromwell. A truly different museum where there is a “living” 1825 kitchen, an exhibition, café/restaurant and so much more.
Passing by Calendar House is the Antonine Wall which was built by the Romans in the first century to protect their Legions from the hostile natives of Caledonia. It runs east to west joining the River’s Forth and Clyde. Although parts of the wall remain, possibly the best site is at Bo’ness in Kinneil Woods.
Bo’ness, only a 15 minute drive from Falkirk, also offers the Bo’ness & Kinneil steam railway boasting the largest collecting of railway artefacts in Scotland. The clay mines at Birkhill and the very recently renovated Hippodrome which was the very first public cinema in Scotland in the early 20th century.
Heading east and less than 10 minutes in a car we arrive at Blackness and the magnificent Blackness Castle; a 15th century fortress located immediately on the banks of the River Forth and was the setting of Mel Gibson’s castle in his film version of ‘Hamlet’.
The area beholds much historical significance often overlooked; William Wallace’s army were defeated by the English under the reign of Edward 1 at Falkirk in 1298. Falkirk’s other battle was in 1746 when Bonnie Prince Charlie defeated the Hanoverians.
Amongst the other local attractions is the Park Gallery situated in the stable block at Callendar House, opened in 2002 also, this gallery exhibits a varied collection of contemporary art. The Falkirk Council ran Muiravonside Park, set in 170 acres, Muiravonside offers much for those seeking history, industrial and wildlife interests.
What if you want to create your own entertainment? As Falkirk is so central and the immediately local terrain is not excessively demanding, it can offer so much for those seeking outdoor pursuits. These include walking, cycling, horse riding and so much more.
On a personal level, one of my favourite bike rides is from Bo’ness to Blackness castle along the River Forth’s coastline. A brief ride through Carriden area of the town and then onto a well maintained track with the woods on your left and views of the Forth looking over to the Kingdom of Fife to your left.
There is a wealth of activities available for the tourist and I recommend the area to anyone looking for diversity and something a bit different.