The Stirling and Clackmannanshire areas are rich in arts and culture, much of it typically Scottish and of outstanding quality. Culturally the area has much to celebrate its proud heritage. If you’re lucky you’ll see a local wearing the kilt as everyday dress, but it’s more common when heading off to a Scottish international football or rugby match.
Weddings, especially, are when kilts are sported in all their finery by Scotsmen. If you hear bagpipes skirling outside a hotel, chances are it’s to welcome wedding guests to the reception, so go along and watch the guests arriving.
People also wear kilts to the many ceilidhs held across the region, and to local Highland Games, that take place throughout the summer months. One of the oldest gatherings is the Bridge of Allan Highland Games held in early August at Strathallan Park. Here, following the traditional caber-tossing, piping and highland dance competitions, the climax is a march-past of up to 100 pipe bands from all over the world, warming up before the pipe band world championships usually held in Glasgow during the same month.
Second only to the Bridge of Allan gathering in size and popularity come the Alva Games in Clackmannanshire, which usually take place during July, but there are also Highland Games at Stirling and Airth.
Not to be missed is a local agricultural show, where farmers from the fertile Forth Valley celebrate their ancient skills and modern achievements. Here is where to see the best of Scotland’s farming produce, from local breeds of sheep, cattle, and horses to the finest cheeses, bakery products, vegetables and local crafts such as shepherds’ crook-making or horse shoeing.
Here, following the traditional caber-tossing, piping and highland dance competitions, the climax is a march-past of up to 100 pipe bands from all over the world, warming up before the pipe band world championships usually held in Glasgow during the same month
At some events there is also the spectacle of horse and pony-riding competitions, highland dancing and vintage tractor displays. The biggest agricultural shows within easy reach are held at Dunblane, Braco, Blackford, Crieff, Drymen and Stirling.
There are also many festivals held in and around the area, ranging from the three-day Callander Jazz and Blues Festival in September to Craft Beer Discovery and Gin Festivals in Falkirk and Stirling, as well as and the annual Scribbler’s Picnic music festival held in aid of cancer charities at Stirling Albion Football Club.
Falkirk Football Club also runs an annual Rock the Stadium festival, which attracts star names each summer, while the three-day Dunblane Fling in late May usually includes a jazz night, concert, ceilidh, talent show, music sessions in pubs, a family day by the River Allan and a hilarious ‘duck race’. May also sees the Falkirk Tryst Festival, an annual celebration of visual and performing arts including theatre, music, dance, drama, writing and even magic.
Also popular is the annual Stirling Whisky Festival, held each May. Several distilleries are within easy reach of Stirling and Clackmannanshire, including the Deanston near Doune, the award-winning distillery at Glengoyne near Killearn and the Glenturret distillery at Crieff.
There are also many festivals held in and around the area, ranging from the three-day Callander Jazz and Blues Festival in September to Craft Beer Discovery and Gin Festivals in Falkirk and Stirling
Impressive art collections
There are festivals, shows, and events in the area to celebrate many interests. For example, the Scottish Railway Preservation Society regularly holds steam locomotive events and trips ranging from Thomas the Tank Engine days to Santa Trains from their depot and workshop at Bo’ness, just beyond Grangemouth. There’s also the Stirling and District Classic Car Show held every May in Bridge of Allan.
There is an excellent choice of art and culture indoors. Stirling’s most important venue is the Smith Museum and Art Gallery in Dumbarton Road. As well as an excellent museum of local history, there’s an impressive art collection including portraits, watercolours, oil paintings, stained glass, prints, drawings, sculpture and pewter. It also the cuddliest curator in the shape of Oswald Clingan-Smith, the museum cat! The Smith is open from Tuesday to Saturday, has free entry, good car parking and an excellent cafe.
Close to the Smith is the Albert Halls, which runs a programme of events from music events, stand-up shows, and ceilidhs to wedding shows and antique fairs. There’s a good restaurant but parking is limited. Another popular Stirling arts venue is the Tolbooth, in Broad Street, where the old courtroom has been transformed into an auditorium offering an intimate performance area. This is the place to hear good traditional and alternative artists, as well as jazz, comedy and small theatre shows.
As well as an excellent museum of local history, there’s an impressive art collection including portraits, watercolours, oil paintings, stained glass, prints, drawings, sculpture and pewter
Stirling University is an important cultural centre for visual art enthusiasts. It has a renowned art collection including paintings by the Scottish Colourist JD Fergusson as well as works by artists such as David Donaldson, Joan Eardley, William MacTaggart, Alberto Morrocco and Anne Redpath. These are mostly displayed in The Pathfoot Building, itself an impressive example of modern architecture, but there’s also a notable sculpture trail in the campus grounds.
The university’s Macrobert Arts Centre also hosts performances ranging from ballet, drama, comedy, jazz, symphony concerts, the local amateur operatic society, choral events, children’s workshops and much more. There is a casual cafe bar at Macrobert and excellent parking.
The Falkirk area is also well served for art and cultural venues. The biggest attraction is undoubtedly The Kelpies, the now iconic 30m high sculptures of horses’ heads, set into The Helix parkland area at Grangemouth. Take the 30-minute guided tour to find out more and even go inside the sculptures to witness the engineering required to make something so big AND beautiful.
Their creator, Andy Scott, has created numerous example of public art, with a sculpture trail of six works that runs through Clackmannanshire, starting in Alloa Town Centre and taking in the villages of Tullibody, Clackmannan, Sauchie and Alva.
The Falkirk area is also well served for art and cultural venues. The biggest attraction is undoubtedly The Kelpies, the now iconic 30m high sculptures of horses’ heads, set into The Helix parkland area at Grangemouth
Contemporary visual art
For a taste of the region’s history, Callendar House, set in its original parkland, has a restored kitchen of 1825, an excellent museum of local history and the Falkirk Archives, housed in the original Victorian library. Two galleries also display contemporary visual art exhibitions.
Callendar House is run by the Falkirk Community Trust, which also operates the Grangemouth Museum (accessed through the Library on Bo’ness Road) and the Hippodrome in Bo’ness – Scotland’s oldest purpose-built cinema, opened in 1912 and now an A-listed building. The Grangemouth Heritage Trust also runs a heritage centre with an excellent collection of old photos, models and memorabilia of the town, open every day except Sunday.
The National Trust property at Alloa Tower, ancestral home of the Earls of Mar and Kellie, offers an impressive art collection including precious china, silver and paintings by Van Dyck and Henry Raeburn. Clackmannanshire Council’s own collection is displayed in the Spiers Centre, originally the town’s public baths and gymnasium of 1898. It has a fascinating display of the town’s industrial heritage, including the oldest glassworks in Europe. The gallery is open Tuesday to Thursday afternoons. Take time exploring this area of central Scotland, which truly has some of the country’s hidden gems.
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