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The Stirling, Falkirk and Clackmannanshire areas are rich in arts and culture, much of it typically Scottish and of outstanding quality. Local Highland Games take place throughout the summer months and one of the oldest gatherings is the Bridge of Allan Highland Games held in the shadow of the gently rolling Ochil Hills 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 drawn from across the globe. Second only to the Bridge of Allan gathering in size and popularity come the famous Alva Games in Clackmannanshire, held in July, and featuring everything from cycling and athletics to Highland dancing, heavy weight events, and four tough hill races. Highland Games are held in Stirling and Airth too.
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.
For a taste of the region’s history, Callendar House set in its original 170-acre parkland, has a restored 1825 kitchen, an excellent museum of local history and the Falkirk Archives, housed in the original Victorian library. Two galleries also display contemporary visual art exhibitions.
There are also many festivals held in and around the area, ranging from the three-day Callander Jazz and Blues Festival in October, to the Big Roman Week held in September at various venues around Falkirk. Don’t miss Falkirk’s Fire and Light festival either!
Upper Colquhoun St, Helensburgh G84 9AJ
Hill House is considered to be Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s domestic masterpiece. Working to a commission from Glasgow book publisher Walter Blackie, up and coming architect Mackintosh and his wife, the artist Margaret Macdonald, created almost everything you see here, from the building itself to the furniture and textiles.
Think early 20th-century Scottish design and you’re bound to conjure up images of Mackintosh’s geometric lines and elegant purity. His creations were exquisitely simple and have become icons of the Glasgow Arts & Crafts movement. Outside, the beautiful garden has also been restored in line with some of the early designs and reflects the palette of Mackintosh colours. Visit website
40 Albert Pl, Stirling FK8 2RQ
Stirling’s most important venue is The Stirling 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 has the purrfect curator in the shape of Oswald Clingan-Smith, the museum cat! Visit website
Abbey Craig, Hillfoots Rd, Stirling FK9 5LF
Discover the life and legacy of William Wallace Patriot, martyr and Guardian of Scotland at The National Wallace Monument. The Victorian monument to Scotland’s “Braveheart” William Wallace is famous worldwide. But this impressive tower, overlooking the site of the Battle of Stirling Bridge holds a challenge of its own – can you count all the steps to the top? (there are 246). But don’t forget to stop and view Wallace’s famous sword! Visit website
Grangemouth, Falkirk FK2 7ZT
The world’s largest equine sculptures, The Kelpies stand more than 100ft tall and weigh an astonishing 300 tonnes each. Together they form the centrepiece of The Helix, a park offering more than 500km of connected cycle paths, water sports, walking opportunities, a splash play area, adventure zone, and more. But it is the magical Kelpies representing Scotland’s heavy horse heritage and modelled on two Clydesdale horses called Baron and Duke that present a wonderful photo opportunity. Visitors can also take a tour of the structures, and even venture inside. Visit website
Airth, Falkirk FK2 8LU
Probably one of Scotland’s best known architectural gems is The Pineapple in the garden of Dunmore Park, near Falkirk. Built as a folly in 1761, this bizarre pineapple-shaped building was once used as a garden retreat, and reflects the iconic status the exotic fruit enjoyed when first introduced to these shores and grown in hothouses on country estates like Dunmore. The actual mansion at Dunmore is now a ruin, but The Pineapple is in the custody of the National Trust for Scotland.
Stirlingshire, Falkirk and Clackmannanshire attractions
Stirlingshire, Falkirk and Clackmannanshire restaurants and cafes
Stirlingshire, Falkirk and Clackmannanshire shopping
Stirlingshire, Falkirk and Clackmannanshire nightlife venues
Image credits: ©Arkady Chubykin/stpock.adobe.com; James Stewart/Falkirk Community Trust; National Trust for Scotland; Roy Henderson/Shutterstock.com; Stirling: Alive with Scotland