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.
Although the Wallace Monument is the main reason people visit Abbey Craig, few take the time to think about the volcanic outcrop itself which has an interesting history spanning back much further than the stone tower that now draws people to it's peak.
Once surrounded by a prehistoric sea loch before it silted up to create a bog, the surrounding area became highly significant as the lowest crossing point of the Forth. A series of fortifications were built to control movement including the castle and three hillforts, one of which sat on Abbey Craig and was subsequently destroyed by fire in the 7th Century.
Today there are woodland walks to explore and it is fascinating to think about the people that have walked that same spot for well over 1000 years previous, including Wallace himself.
If you are in search of the true facts about Braveheart and William Wallace that inspired the Hollywood depiction then the National Wallace Monument is a great place to start. While you are in the area I also highly recommend a visit to the Battle of Bannockburn (booking advised) and Stirling Castle. Visiting these attractions can be done in a day although I would recommend at least a couple of days.
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