By. Donna Long
The William Wallace Monument located in the Stone Age settlement of Stirling, Scotland, a city that surrounds the fortress Stirling Castle and the medieval old town of Stirling. Stirling, at one time was the capital of Scotland, is now a flourishing city for local government, higher education, retail and industry. Due to its strategic location near the Highland Boundary Fault between the Scottish highlands and lowlands it is considered as the “Gateway to the Highlands”.
The William Wallace Monument, also known simply as Wallace Monument is a very tall and impressive tower designed by Glasgow architect, J.T. Rochead built from 1861-1869. The massive tower built at the summit of the Abbey Craig dominates the landscape for miles and is a constant reminder of the fierceness that Scots have shown for their freedom and for their independence. The Abbey Craig is a tall hilltop that is comprised of quartz-dolerite. Archeologists have also found evidence of an early Iron Age fort on the Abbey Craig by the remnants of “vitrified” walls, walls that were created, not in the usual fashion of building out of rocks but by melting stones in a matrix of wooden posts which were then burned to form the ‘vitrified’ wall.
There are numerous walking paths that are used by locals and tourists alike. For those who are more physically fit and up for the challenge (or maybe for young kids who have energy to burn off!) you can hike up to the top of the Craig from the parking and visitor area via the trail (about 20 minute walk, uphill), or you could just take the shuttle bus as well and save your energy for other exploring, shopping, pub crawls…. you choose!. It is a very beautiful walk with awesome views and many picturesque opportunities, well worth your energy expenditure.
The Monument, which was built in the 19th century, commemorates Sir William Wallace, The Guardian of Scotland, a 13th century Scottish hero who gave his life for his country in the fight for freedom and independence. The tower was built in the Victorian Gothic style from sandstone and is an impressive 220 ft. (67 meters) tall and has a whopping 246 steps in its spiral staircase that lead you to each of the three exhibition galleries and the ‘crown’ or viewing platform at the top of the monument where you can see for miles.
The first gallery that you will encounter is the Hall of Arms. Here the walls are lined with banners and plaques that tell the story of the Battle of Stirling Bridge, how it was fought and won on September 11th in 1297. The Battle of Stirling Bridge had major significance in Scotland’s history and in the history of medieval warfare. Some have described the battle as marking the end of the Middle Ages because until 1297 armies of heavily armed men and mounted knights were unstoppable. The Battle of Stirling Bridge was commanded by Sir William Wallace and a common army of enlisted spearmen which defeated feudal knights in full armor.
This battle was of particular significance to the Scottish people because it was the first time that a major English army had been defeated since the Dark Ages. This victory destroyed the myth that the English were invincible and empowered the Scots drive and determination to triumph over the English.
The second gallery is the Hall of Heroes. Here there are 16 busts of men who are considered heroes in the fight for freedom and reform. These busts include some of the more historically important men such as King Robert the Bruce, 1274-1329, Robert Burns, 1759-1796, a poet who attacked various government establishments and the high taxes that were levied, James Watt, 1736-1819, inventor of the steam locomotive which was the springboard for the Industrial Revolution, John Knox,1510-1572, and other religious men who spurred reformation of the church.
The third gallery is the Royal Chamber. Here you can learn about the trials and obstacles that had to be overcome in the building of the monument. Obstacles included who would build it by having a competition to find a designer, where it would be built, what it would look like, funding and over budget woes to name a few.
For those who make the trip to the very top of the monument, the Crown, they will be rewarded with breath taking views of Scotland’s amazing country side, from the rugged mountain Ben Lomond and the Trossachs woodland glen in the West, to the city of Stirling and the Ochil and Pentland Hills in the East.
The William Wallace Monument is open most days January thru December from 10:00am until 4:00pm with a few exceptions listed here. Admission prices are Adults – £9.50, Children (5-15) – £5.90, Families (2 adults & 2 children) – £27.85, Students/Seniors – £7.60, Groups of 10 or more (contact NWM directly for price details) – 10% discount.