The tower was constructed following a fundraising campaign, which accompanied a resurgence of Scottish national identity in the 19th century. In addition to public subscription, it was partially funded by contributions from a number of foreign donors, including Italian national leader Giuseppe Garibaldi. Completed in 1869 to the designs of architect John Thomas Rochead at a cost of £18,000, the monument is a 67 metre (220 feet) sandstone tower, built in the Victorian Gothic style. The tower stands on the Abbey Craig, a volcanic crag above Cambuskenneth Abbey, from which Wallace was said to have watched the gathering of the army of King Edward I of England, just before the Battle of Stirling Bridge in 1297. The monument is open to the general public. Visitors climb the 246 step spiral staircase to the viewing gallery inside the monument's crown, which provides expansive views of the Ochil Hills and the Forth Valley.
Some of the contents of the house are original, and others were chosen for authenticity, based on archaeological evidence and the personal recollections of people who knew the Robertson family that lived here until 1968. As well as the Longhouse itself, you can also see an exhibition in the Display Hut next door that contains examples of clothes found in the house, some archaeological finds, and information, documents and photographs on the building's history and restoration. The Display Hut was previously a tool store for the farm.
It’s hard to imagine the Abbey Craig – the rock on which the Monument stands, being surrounded by water, but this volcanic outcrop once projected into a prehistoric sea loch, from which even whalebones have been washed up! As this sea silted up to create a bog, it formed a barrier to movement, assuring Stirling of its place in history as the lowest crossing point of the Forth, with the land to the north referred to by the Romans as “an island apart”. Given the significance of this crossing point, a series of fortifications were built to control it, including of course the castle, and three hillforts, one of which was on the Abbey Craig. It comprised three sets of ramparts, and it is quite likely that the innermost (still visible behind the Monument) was used by Wallace ahead of the Battle of Stirling Bridge. The hillforts had been destroyed in the 7th Century AD in a fire of such intensity that the stone melted as the temperature soared over 1,000°C, a process known as vitrification. Prehistoric finds uncovered by archaeologists on the site have included an axe and a hoard of bronze spears. Stone quarried from the Abbey Craig was used in the building of the Monument, and it is still possible to see some of the quarries. The final two blocks extracted (but not used at the time) form the base for the Wallace Sword in The Hall of Heroes.
The Quarries. In the late 18th Century a Mr. James Brownhill from The Alloa Mill Company discovered that the coarse stone from the Abbey Craig was ideal for making millstones, and subsequently over 300 pairs were carved during the years of the Napoleonic Wars, when normal sources in France were unable to meet demand. The Trees. The woodlands of the Abbey Craig have a mix of broadleaved trees including Oak, Ash, Sycamore and Birch; conifers such as Scots Pine, Norway Spruce, and Yew; and Holly, Hawthorn and Blackthorn shrubs. Plant Life. The Abbey Craig woodlands have a rich ground flora, with Dog’s Mercury covering the land in spring (indicating an ancient woodland), and Ramsons (Wild Garlic) can be smelt, crushed underfoot. In early summer, Bluebells carpet the woods and abundant mosses, lichens and fungi grow from the trees. The Wildlife. The Abbey Craig is home for many different animals – including roe deer, which can be seen year-round. Bird life is also an important feature of the Abbey Craig, and its trees provide food to support over 30 different species.
Over 700 years ago tyranny and terror were the tools being used by England to rule Scotland. Occupied and oppressed, the Scottish nation sought a hero to challenge the cruelty of King Edward I. Someone to take the campaign for freedom into battle, and on to victory. When the two countries faced each other at the Battle of Stirling Bridge in 1297, Scotland was led to victory by a figure destined to become a national hero – William Wallace. Sir William Wallace, a hero of Scotland and a true patriot, had a burning desire for peace and freedom which united the country’s clans, gained the loyalty of its people, struck fear into his enemies and defied the cruel hand of an evil, warring and invading King – Edward I of England. All the drama of Wallace’s campaign for freedom is captured at the world-famous National Wallace Monument – proudly standing on the Abbey Craig, overlooking the city of Stirling.
Much of William Wallace’s life remains a mystery as historians disagree over the facts surrounding the hero’s eventful life. The exact circumstances of the patriot’s birth are unknown but it is believed that he was born around 1270, either at Elderslie near Paisley or Ellerslie in Ayrshire, into a minor noble family. As a result of Wallace’s rising, John de Warenne, the Earl of Surrey, was ordered to march north by King Edward I in September 1297. Warenne had a huge force of heavy cavalry and was anticipating a victory. Stirling was the main entry point to the north of Scotland, so it was here, just north of Stirling Bridge, on the Abbey Craig that Wallace encamped with his army. The bridge (which stood 180 metres upstream from the 15th century stone bridge that still stands today) was only wide enough for two horsemen to pass abreast, and it would have taken the English army hours to cross. On the 11th September the battle began as the English were forced to cross the bridge. Wallace and Andrew de Moray waited until more than half the English had made the crossing before springing their trap. Scottish spearsmen charged down the causeway. Those on the right flank forced their way along the river bank to the north end of the bridge, preventing the English from escaping. Those on the south bank of the river, including Warenne, retreated to Berwick. From those trapped on the north side, more than 100 men-at-arms and 5,000 Welsh infantry were caught and slaughtered by the Scottish forces. Wallace’s comrade Andrew de Moray was wounded in battle, and died two months later. After his betrayal and capture, Wallace was taken to London, where he was tried. He was found guilty, hanged, disembowelled, beheaded, and quartered on 23rd August 1305.
The Hall of Arms. The stakes could not be any higher. The forces of William Wallace and Andrew de Moray face the army of King Edward I across the River Forth. In this gallery the story is told of how the Battle of Stirling Bridge was fought and won, with an illuminated map showing exactly where the events of 11th September 1297 took place, whilst Wallace and de Moray are depicted in a film, discussing the aftermath of the conflict, and what it means for Scotland. Once inside the Hall of Arms you will discover more about Wallace’s early years and what happened following the victory of the Battle of Stirling Bridge. Visitors can also see the medieval armour and weaponry used by both armies, such as the heavy chain mail shirts and arrow shafts.
The Hall of Heroes. The second floor gallery tells the story of how Wallace’s life has inspired generations of Scots through the centuries. The Wallace Sword. The striking centrepiece on this floor is the Wallace Sword, a powerful symbol of his courage and skill, presented on stone quarried from the Abbey Craig when the Monument was being built. The sword measures 1.67 metres, and weighs approximately 3 kilos. Wallace’s sword was brought to the Monument in 1888 from its historic resting place in Dumbarton Castle. The Busts. There are a total of 15 white marble busts and one bronze bust in the Hall of Heroes. The busts were donated at different times, sometimes by subscription and at other times by a single donor. The idea of the hero has been taken beyond the traditional notion of brave freedom fighters to include heroes of 19th century endeavour and reform. The heroes: King Robert the Bruce, Robert Burns, David Livingstone, Thomas Carlyle, Adam Smith, James Watt, Robert Tannahill, Sir Walter Scott, Allan Ramsay, William Murdoch, Hugh Miller, John Knox, William Ewart Gladstone, Thomas Chalmers, George Buchanan, Sir David Brewster.
The third floor gallery is where you can uncover some of the facts and figures behind the building of this Victorian masterpiece, now recognised and admired as a national landmark. The story starts with the competition which was held to appoint a designer for the construction of the Monument – and it reaches a climax with the opening in September 1869 – almost 150 years ago. After opening in 1869, the Monument very quickly became established as an important heritage attraction, and many of those who came to follow the story of William Wallace wanted to take home a souvenir of their visit. Examples of the items which have been produced over the years are displayed in two exhibition cabinets, including a number of interesting souvenirs and gifts. A miniature version of the Tower in this gallery allows children to get to grips with building their own Monument. From this level you only have one further set of steps to climb before you reach the Crown. When you reach The Crown at the top of the Monument the view will take your breath away. It’s one of the finest sights Scotland has to offer, from Ben Lomond and the Trossachs in the West, and through the Forth Valley past the city of Stirling and the Ochil Hills to the Pentland Hills in the East. The panoramic display panels identify the site of the famous Battle of Stirling Bridge and highlight other prominent geographical features in the area.
Facilities in the Visitor Reception Building include Legends Coffee House, toilet facilities and a retail area. Toilet facilities, The Keeper’s Lodge (a lounge area with light refreshments) and a souvenir/gift shop are available at the entrance level in the Monument. The Visitor Reception Centre (including Legends Coffee House), which is situated at the Car Park level, is fully wheelchair accessible, and bathroom facilities are available in this building. Access to the Abbey Craig and to the Monument itself for visitors with restricted mobility is limited. Assistance dogs are welcome.
Location : Abbey Craig, Hillfoots Road, Causewayhead, Stirling, FK9 5LF
Transport: Stirling (National Rail) then bus (62A, 63A). Bus Routes : 62A and 63A stop outside.
Opening Times: Daily, Jan.,Feb.,Nov.,Dec., 10:30 to 16:00; March 10:00 to 17:00
Opening Times: Daily, April - June, Sept.,Oct., 09:30 to 17:00; July, August, 09:30 to 18:00
Tickets : Adult £9.99; Concession £7.99; Child £6.25
Tel. : 01786 472140