This post is part of a paid partnership with Film on Forth, to try out their filming location itineraries and write about my experience.
I vividly remember sitting in the cinema watching Braveheart and leaving with the overwhelming urge to learn more of my country's history and explore the many places mentioned that were still a mystery to me. Before you start shouting about its gross historical inaccuracies and Irish backdrops, I'm well aware, but to this day I still love that movie and I'm not ashamed to admit it!
In more recent years I've joined the swelling rank of Outlander fans inspired to track down some of the atmospheric filming locations in Scotland that starred in the TV show. From Harry Potter to James Bond, the dramatic and characterful Scottish landscape has not only attracted countless film crews, but also fans, creating a growing industry centred around film tourism.
From my personal experience I know that destinations on screen can ignite a powerful desire to not only visit a place but also to find out more about it. Featured attractions are almost always even more interesting in real life than their fictional alter egos.
When I was invited to visit some of the Scottish filming locations less than an hour from Edinburgh and Glasgow, I jumped at the chance, especially as there were a few places that I had never been before.
Film on Forth is a project that encourages visitors to explore filming locations across West Lothian and neighbouring Falkirk through a range of self-guided itineraries. Many of the places have featured in Outlander, along with some other well known Scottish films.
You don't have to be a TV or movie buff to enjoy these places as they are all attractions in their own right, but if you are a fan, you'll definitely love seeing these screen stars for yourself.
Filming Locations in West Lothian
Taking in the historic town of Linlithgow and views of the famous Forth Bridges, spend a day or two exploring the old and the new attractions of West Lothian.
Midhope Castle aka Lallybroch or Broch Tuarach is instantly recognisable to any fan of the Outlander TV series and is the holy grail among Scottish Outlander filming locations. You can't go into the castle but it is a 'must photograph' spot for any fan and an astute entrepreneur has designed these Lallybroch keys which make for a brilliant photo prop. You can buy them for £1 in an honesty box next to the castle and they make a fun souvenir to take home too, so you know I just had to have one!
Midhope Castle dates back to the 15th century but has been derelict since the 20th century. However, thanks to its TV fame and funds raised from the entrance fee, it is due to get a new lease of life with plans to restore the building, adding visitor accommodation and a new whisky distillery in the grounds.
The castle is located on the sprawling Hopetoun Estate and close to Hopetoun House which has also made several Outlander appearances so you might want to add a tour of the house to your itinerary if you have the time.
On a recent short break in the Falkirk area I was impressed by the many places I visited that welcomed dogs. I didn't have my own furry adventure buddy with me on this particular trip but I did think it would be a destination that I could take her to in the future and not feel like I was having to compromise on too many things that I wanted to see and do.
As a dog owner myself, I know how frustrating and time-consuming it can be having to research dog friendly options when I'm visiting somewhere so I thought it would be helpful if I put together this guide to the places that I came across that welcome dogs in the Falkirk area.
I'm sure there will be other options out there that I have missed and if you are a dog friendly business or know of a business that is definitely dog friendly in the Falkirk area, do drop me an e-mail and I'll add it to the list.
For those with furbabies, I hope you find this blog post helpful.
DOG FRIENDLY WALKS IN AND AROUND FALKIRK
From town parks to country estates and canal side strolls, there is a huge variety of walks around Falkirk where furry members of the family can enjoy a good leg stretch. It might surprise you to discover that Falkirk has been crowned Britain's best walking neighbourhood.
There are 383 miles of signposted and well-maintained paths so it would take me a while to list all the walking options but here are a few of my top picks with nice walking trails.
DOG FRIENDLY PLACES TO EAT & DRINK IN AND AROUND FALKIRK
I don't know about you but I don't really class places that make you sit outside as dog friendly, I mean, realistically, how often is the weather nice enough to dine al fresco in Scotland?!
From personal experience and feedback from other dog owners, the following places all allow your dog to join you inside for a drink or a meal so you will be made to feel welcome come rain or shine. Some even keep treats and water bowls for four-legged visitors which we all know is a way of bribing your dog to bring their owners back again!
DOG FRIENDLY ATTRACTIONS IN AND AROUND FALKIRK
It is always good to be able to add a bit of sightseeing when you're travelling with your dog and Falkirk has a few great options, including its most famous sites!
This post is part of a paid partnership with Visit Falkirk who invited me to explore the region and write about my experience.
If, like me, you are a bit guilty of only gravitating towards The Kelpies or The Falkirk Wheel on trips to the Falkirk area, you are missing out on much of the fascinating history and outdoor activities that the region has to offer.
Recently I spent 2 days expanding my horizons and explorations to include the historic heart of the town and the surrounding green spaces. I made many surprising discoveries along the way and my perception of Falkirk has drastically changed. For example, did you know that Falkirk won Britain's best walking neighbourhood award, partly due to having 383 miles of well-maintained and signposted paths? The number of walking and cycling options definitely came as a surprise to me.
Less than an hour from Glasgow and Edinburgh, it makes an ideal day trip from either city, although after reading this blog post I hope you might be inspired to spend a bit longer there. However, if you do only have one day, I've put together an itinerary that covers the best of Falkirk imho!
If you are planning a trip with your furry companion, you might want to check out my guide listing dog friendly things to do in Falkirk.
Here are my recommended things to do if you only have 1 day to explore Falkirk
STOP 1 - CALLENDAR HOUSE AND PARK
This is a superb starting point for any trip to the area as it reveals Falkirk's many historical layers and gives you a deeper appreciation of the places you will visit later in the day.
The exhibition at Callendar House was much bigger than I anticipated and I had only set an hour aside which is enough if you don't spend too long in each room, but if you have the time, you might want to add on another 30 minutes.
From medieval beginnings to Roman invasion and industrial expansion, every significant period of local history has a dedicated space - and the best thing? It is free to visit which is brilliant as it is a real gem. It feels more like a museum and there is lots and lots to see!
The exhibition is located inside Callendar House, a 14th century mansion house set in beautiful parkland. As you follow the displays, you also pass through the Georgian kitchen which might be familiar to Outlander fans as it was used as the Duke of Sandringham's House in Season 2.
Outlander Fan? Then you might also want to check out these local filming locations -
Visit the Film on Forth website for more film and TV locations in the area
When I absorbed as much history as I could handle, I grabbed a takeaway coffee from the shop and followed one of the paths around the park which gave me a nice morning boost before my next stop.
Discover more - In the park you will also find ornamental gardens, a small loch, a family mausoleum and sections of the Antonine Wall.
STOP 2 - FALKIRK TOWN CENTRE HERITAGE TRAIL
Alva Glen is situated next to the village of Alva which is only about a 20 minute drive from Stirling. This makes it a great option for those looking to combine a day of history with an outdoor hike. The trail is very much a walk of two halves which is one of the reasons why this is another one of my favourite walks in Scotland.
Alva is one of several settlements at the bottom of the Ochil Hills which are collectively known as The Hillfoot Villages. There is a 21km walk that passes through the villages known as The Hillfoots Diamond Jubilee Way. It is also possible to do this longer trail and include diversions to the various glens along the way including Alva Glen. The route is based on the old King's Highway.
The first section of the Alva Glen trail takes you through a shaded waterfall-filled wooded gorge, with a designated path that follows the Alva Burn upstream. In many ways this is also a heritage trail as you pass various structures dating back to the period when Alva was at the heart of the textile industry.
This area is now a haven for nature thanks to the hard work of the Alva Glen Heritage Trust which was set up in 2003. Their aim is to restore and regenerate the glen which was once an industrial centre. However, the dams, weirs and sluice gates that were built to ensure a year round water supply to the numerous mills still remain. You can also see the pipe that fed the water to the mills in order to drive the machines.
The second section of the walk opens up and involves some proper hill-walking. From here you can visit the viewpoint at Smuggler's Cave and access the surrounding Ochil Hills which feel a million miles away from the bustle of Stirling and even the shady gorge below.
Along the way you can read about the history of the glen on various interpretation boards. I love the stark contrast on this route despite it covering a fairly short distance. It definitely ticks my box of a walk where the reward outweighs the effort.
Alva Glen Walk Details
DISTANCE - Approx 2 miles return journey from the designated free car park, although there is the option to reduce the distance or continue further if you wish
TIME - The walk takes on average 1 1/2 hours depending on how often you stop to admire the scenery!
TERRAIN - A mixture of designated pathways, bridges and rough, rocky terrain. Walking shoes or boots are advised.
DIFFICULTY - Most of the walks I feature on my blog are easy to moderate as I want to include options that most people can manage. I would say that the first half part of this walk is suitable for most levels of fitness. However, the second part involves some steep and rough hill-walking in places so falls more in to the moderate category.
If you enjoy the outdoors, be sure to check out my other recommended Scottish walks.
DISCOVER THE TEXTILE HERITAGE OF ALVA
As you walk from the car park to the start of the Alva Glen walk, look up and you might spy a curious figure of a prehistoric man. Textile mills were not the only industry in the glen, rock and gravel were quarried from here and silver was also mined along with other minerals.
The figure commemorates a prehistoric human skeleton that was discovered in the quarry that you walk past. Uncovered by one of the workers, James Murdoch, examinations concluded that the person was placed there after death. A few days later James Murdoch was killed at the same spot after a stone slab fell on him leading to conspiracies that he had been cursed for disturbing the burial!
The trail continues past a series of waterfalls with obvious man-made features. This water supply was vital in powering the textile mills in Alva Glen. The first mill was opened in 1798 and by 1830 nine mills relied on the water. Controlling the flow of the Alva Burn was necessary to ensure that water was available all year.
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