We arrived in Clackmannan, and parked up on the high street, only a very short walk away from the historic landmarks that define the town…
Status: Clackmannanshire, Town, Scotland
Eating & Sleeping: N/A
Attractions: Clackmannan Tower, Parish Church, Mercat Cross, Tolbooth, Stone of Mannan etc
You can just pick out our car (the red one behind the cross), and you can see how close we parked to the remains of the beautiful old Tolbooth. Today only the tower survives, but is in perfect condition. In 1592 the Tolbooth was constructed, and for 200 years it was the city Gaol, or old jail. By 1795 the building was described as “a heap of ruins” but what was left was preserved, and recently more renovations were carried out by Clackmannanshire Council, and the roof replaced.
It’s amazing how many ancient monuments are in this small square of land. You can see the Stone of Mannan at the back next to the tower. It is this that gave the town (and the wider county) it’s name. The stone is incredibly old and is said to be pre-Christian, so over 2000 years old!
The third monument is the 17th century Mercat Cross, with it’s original shaft (but a replaced base). This site was it’s original location, and it has a shield with the Scottish Saltire and arms for Robert the Bruce himself. One unusual fact about the cross is that a punishment back in the day for prisoners was to be tied to it with chains, and the wear from this can still be seen.
After taking a while to just gaze in awe at all the history in front of us, and the beauty of it all, we continued a bit further along the road and found the entrance gate to Clackmannan Parish Church. The gate looks very traditional, and I like old churches that have a porch to go with them.
The church itself was shut so we started heading further up the hill, to get a better view of the church as we passed it, and as we did so we stopped for a sec and looked back at the high street. It’s great to see a quaint old town with the ancient monuments in the centre, and they blend together so well, to create a historic town.
Moving up the hill, we got the better view of the church we had imagined, and it’s a fine building to look at. There has been a recorded place of worship here since 680 AD, but the real break through came in the 1240’s (although a stone church was in residence by then) when the current Pope was concerned that a lot of the churches in Britain still had their Celtic consecration, which weren’t considered proper. A Papal Legate was sent to England to dedicate the church buildings. Scotland had a different system so the legate never made it there but instructions were sent to Scotland and over the next 5 years 140 churches were dedicated in Scotland by David de Bernham, the Bishop of St Andrews. These buildings included St Giles Cathedral in Edinburgh, and St John’s in Perth.
The last church to dedicated was the new Clackmannan Church, that would go on to last for 600 years, until 1795 when plans were considered to replace it. Using an interesting method, the new church was built around the old one, using it as a template, until it reached roof height at which point the old church was demolished, although the foundations remain underneath the current church.
The church is a fantastic addition to the heritage of Clackmannan, which despite it’s small size, has more noteworthy buildings than many other larger places we have visited.
It was on our way to Alloa that we first spotted the beautiful Clackmannan Tower (very similar to Alloa Tower), as from the road it really stands out on the top of the hill. It is only a few minutes further up from the church so it wasn’t long until we reached it. It is a National Trust Property, however due to subsidence you can’t go inside any longer but there is no danger going to look at the exterior of the building from where we were.
The 5 storey, 14th century tower house was constructed by King David II (1324 – 1371), and sold on to his cousin Robert Bruce, the 2nd Baron of Clackmannan (died 1403) in 1359. By the 1500’s the Bruce family had built a mansion to stand alongside the tower, but it was relatively short lived, and was demolished in 1791. It is thought some of the stone was reused for the Parish Church in 1815. As I mentioned before, subsidence (due to mining) has forced the closure of the tower, and caused damage to the tower when a section of it collapsed in 1955. This has been repaired and the eventual goal is to reopen the tower to the public but it’s probably a long way off yet.
The tower is at the top of a hill overlooking the surrounding valleys, and moving off to the side you get a fantastic view of the River Forth which winds its way through the valley below. Clackmannan once had a thriving port, but the river has receded and the town now stands around a mile from the river itself.
Looking east along the river, we spied the Clackmannanshire and Kincardine Bridges we had crossed earlier, spanning the river in the distance. Check them out in my post here. Behind them is the Oil Refinery at Grangemouth on the far side of the river.
The views from up here are incredible, and looking west they are even more impressive…
As I said, looking west provides more amazing views, and you can see the entire skyline of the town of Alloa, which we visited earlier. You can see the spires of the various churches, as well as Alloa Tower, sat in front of the tall cream building in the centre of the picture. A walk from here will take you all the way to Alloa and hopefully we will come back one day and try it.
In the background, standing proudly on top of a hill called Abbey Craig, is the Wallace Monument in the city of Stirling. It was completed in 1869, as a monument to Sir William Wallace (died 1305) a famous commander during many battles with the English in Scottish History.
Although not featured on this picture, if you look further over to the left you will be able to see the Glass Works at Alloa, and between the different chimneys the outline of Stirling Castle is visible, which sits atop a hill in the centre of the city. Find out more about Stirling in my post from our previous visit to the area here.
Alas our time in Clackmannan had come to an end, so we made our way back to the car, and started along the road out of the town. As we passed through, we spotted one last feature, and stopped for a quick look.
The towns stone War Memorial is sat in a small garden, and was constructed after World War I, with names on the panels around the base for fallen soldiers. Further names were added after World War II.
Clackmannan is a beautiful little town, and very well preserved in it’s ancient state. There is no station in Clackmannan but you could try taking a train to Alloa and doing the few mile walk to Clackmannan. Local bus services call at the town, and its a great stopping point for exploration of the area, or Stirling.
From here we headed into the county (or Kingdom, as it says on the signs) of Fife, and our first stop was the small town of Kincardine…