Completed in 1869 after eight years' construction, the 220 feet high Wallace Monument sits prominently on the Abbey Craig two miles north of the city of Stirling itself. It was from this prominent hilltop in 1297 that William Wallace watched the English army approach across Stirling Bridge before leading the Scots into the battle of the same name: and victory (see our Historical Timeline). A fitting, and striking, location for the national monument to a national hero.
Visitors to the Wallace Monument leave their cars at the foot of Abbey Craig, which they then climb to reach the foot of the monument. A minibus service is also available from the Pavilion Visitor Centre next to the car park.
In the entrance foyer of the Monument itself there is a display about Sir William Wallace and about the construction of the Monument. If you pause here you learn that it cost in excess of £10,000: all funded by subscriptions.
But you will probably want to head straight for the magnificent views awaiting at the top of the Monument, a mere 220 feet and 246 steps above you. The Monument has four levels above the ground floor, with Level 4 being The Crown or the top.
The first 71 steps up to Level 1 bring you to a display telling the story of the life of Wallace and of the Battle of Stirling Bridge. Here the highlight is a 3-D simulation in which Wallace appears at his trial at Westminster Hall, telling his own story via the 'William Wallace Talking Head'.
Also on display is what is said to be the 700 year old Wallace sword, some 5 feet 4 inches long. Coming face to face with such a magnificent piece of metalwork you wonder how anyone could have lifted or carried it, still less fought with it.
64 more steps will bring you to Level 2 and the Hall of Heroes. Here are displayed marble statues of notable Scotsmen, the result of a worldwide appeal by the custodians in 1885. An audio-visual display pays tribute to the heroes and heroines of the twentieth century.
62 steps further lead to Level 3 and the Diorama, an illustration of the geographical layout surrounding the monument marked with important local landmarks and various historical battlefields. This is an excellent way to gain your bearings.
The final pull leads to The Crown of the Monument with its breathtaking views bringing the Diorama to life and making every one of those 246 steps worthwhile.
To the north you are immediately struck by the closest of the Ochil Hills, Dumyat. East is the Forth Valley, with the river itself snaking away into the distance. To the south is the historic city of Stirling, dominated by its Castle. To the west are the Trossachs and Loch Lomond and, on a clear day, a far-reaching panorama of many of the southern highlands' most striking mountains.
Returning down the narrow spiral staircase to the ground level visitors can browse the Gift Shop or drop into the Victorian Tea-Room before descending the Abbey Craig on foot or by minibus to the car park.