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.
Can it really be 20 years since the cry of 'Freedom' echoed in cinemas across the globe? Apparently so (which makes me feel quite old!) and two decades later Braveheart continues to inspire people to uncover the facts from the fiction of the legendary William Wallace and how he rose to become Scotland's National Hero.
Most people interested in this era of Scottish history make their way to Stirling and the area of his most famous victory at the Battle of Stirling Bridge.
Shadowing over the battlefield is the volcanic outcrop of Abbey Craig with the National Wallace Monument pointedly rising a further 220ft skywards. Erected in the 1860s to commemorate one of the most recognised figures from Scotland's past, it is currently also commemorating the film that helped create international awareness of his story.
I went along to one of their special free events that are running throughout 2015 with costumed actors and historians taking you back to one of the most dramatic periods in Scottish history as they tell tales from the battlefield and stories about the man himself.
I really enjoyed the 'Scotland's National Hero' talk and it provided an entertaining insight into the life of William Wallace before I embarked on the 246 monument steps to observe the landscape that was so significant not just during the time of Wallace but also for hundreds of years previous.
Constructed with money from a fundraising campaign and designed by the Scottish architect John Thomas Rochead, the monument is based on a combination of a traditional Scottish tower house castle with a stone crown spire on the top.
Today you can follow the spiral stone staircase and the story of the famous Scottish warrior at the various floors with exhibitions as you climb upwards, be sure to stop at the Hall of Heroes where you will see the famous Wallace sword on display, said to have been used by him during battle! It also includes busts of some of Scotland's other notable figures including Sir Walter Scott and King Robert the Bruce.
Just when you think that your staircase workout is never going to end, you step out into the crown and are rewarded with impressive 360 degree sweeping views spreading into the distance. Look out for Stirling Castle, perched on another volcanic outcrop before you, the Ochil hills stretching in the other direction and of course the looping river that played a vital role in the victory for the Scots at the Battle of Stirling Bridge.
If like me you are a fan of The Kelpies then you should really visit the numerous other public sculptures designed by Andy Scott that are dotted around Central Scotland.
I was lucky enough to attend the opening night of The Kelpies and it really brought these magnificent creatures to life with fire, light and sound. Ever since I have made it my mission to visit and photograph his other works of art.
In common with The Kelpies they all capture the history and mythology of the area they represent. One of the best ways to view six of his sculptures and some lovely Scottish scenery is by following the The Andy Scott Sculpture Trail through Clackmannanshire.
This is my photoblog of my tour along the trail, for more info on the meaning of the sculptures I have added the appropriate links. Unfortunately I had mixed weather for taking photographs but that's Scotland for you!
First stop is 'This Journey's End' which is situated on Marywood roundabout on the approach to Clackmannan and Alloa. It celebrates the opening of the Clackmannanshire Bridge and represents crossing and meeting.
If there was one Scottish event I wasn't going to miss this year, it was the launch of The Kelpies. These two 30 metre, 300 tonne, stainless steel horse heads have captured my heart from the beginning.
I love that there is something mystical and ethereal about them as they shimmer in the light and give the impression that they could come to life at any moment.
The opening night saw a clear blue sky over Falkirk which slowly coloured to orange as the sun began to set. I stood in a snaking queue with excited anticipation at the much hyped fire, light and sound show which was about to take place.
While everyone stood waiting in the now chilly evening, we were entertained by poets, musicians and street performers, all setting the mood for the event ahead.
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