6 Feb. 2000 - Bridge of Allan, Stirling, Scotland A Walk around the Bridge of Allan
Bridge of Allan lies just north and east of Stirling, along the forth. It is the site of a great deal of Scottish history, including Cambuskenneth Abbey, the grave of King James III, The Wallace Monument, and the home estate of the Stirlings of Keir. Stirling University is also there, a wonderful campus and worth a visit.
The amazing thing about this abbey, is getting there. Take an exit off the A9 highway, drive through a couple of farmers fields off the side of the road, then a small housing development, and there at the very end is this abbey. The church is in ruin, but the foundation is still there, along with the bell tower and graveyard. To keep things interesting is a metal gate along one side with a sign saying "No Parking, Farm Entrance."
The place is wonderfully peaceful however. The river is flowing just behind the abbey, answering the question of why it is a way's away from the castle. It is very close to the edge of the river, I'm guessing the river is in the same channel now, but you never known for sure without checking. Due to the weather so far this winter the river is VERY high, but there is no immediate danger of flooding. King James III's grave is back toward the river, a rather unassuming location considering his status in history.
KING JAMES III
There is a tie to King James III and the Stirling family as he was a ruthless king, not well liked by many. His son rose up against him along with a number of nobles, including kinsman Archibald Stirling of Keir. History records that James III left the field of battle pursued by Archibald and two others, then was quickly dispatched to the next life in a thatch roofed crofters cabin nearby.( See his grave at right )
This rumor went on until 1950, when the so-called famous cabin burned. It was discovered that the cabin was constructed in 1600 or so due to the date stone normally covered by the thatch. At any rate, this is an interesting and peaceful place to visit, and it gives you a good perspective of geography for the region. The Wallace monument is due east, the castle due west, and Bridge of Allan and Keir hill is due north.
The Wallace Monument is a must visit location when coming to Stirling, but come prepared. It is quite a walk up to the top of this structure. You have a commanding view of the area from the top, IF you are up to climbing several hundred steps to get there. I wasn't, sorry!
LECROPT PARISH CHURCH OF THE STIRLINGS OF KEIR
This parish Kirk is just across the highway from the entrance to the Stirlings of Keir estates. It was built in 1857, largely funded by the Stirling family. However don't go looking for Stirling graves in the Kirk graveyard, because there are not any. That's because most of the Stirlings are buried at the old church location which is on the estate grounds and not open to the public, or are in the crypt below the church. Inside the Kirk are a number of fine marble busts of some of the Stirlings of Keir. Traditionally the Stirling family sat in the raised back portion of the chapel, a section reserved for the heritors or major contributors to the church. In modern times the parishioners sit together.
This parish and the one in Cawder (near Glasgow) look very similar, as they should. Cawder was also a parish Kirk where the Stirling family were heritors of the parish.
ENTRANCE TO STIRLINGS OF KEIR GROUNDS
So far this picture is as close as I can get to the estate. This entrance was made about the same time as the LeCropt parish church, as the old entrance is on the other side of the highway. You can still see where the old entrance to the Keir property was located, as a building and gate is still there. I've contacted the Keir office trying to get a pass to get on the grounds, keep your fingers crossed.
I had planned to take more pictures and even go up to the castle today, but we have run into a "Wee bit 'o Scottish weather". It's blowing the rain at a 60 degree angle, so I'm heading home for the evening.
If you are comfortable driving in Scotland, I suggest you rent a car for the day and drive around the countryside in this area. It's beautiful, the feelings you get driving and seeing the area where your family has lived since at least the 1400's is a very special experience indeed.