The spiral staircase to the top of the monument is narrow, so it can be tricky with people going both ways. Go early to avoid congestion!
Pointing skywards from a crag in Stirling, near Edinburgh, the Wallace Monument commemorates William Wallace, who was immortalised by Mel Gibson in the film ‘Braveheart’. Both Edinburgh and Glasgow wanted to be home to the monument, and Stirling was chosen as a kind of neutral ground between the two.
An early proposal for the monument had been a colossal statue of Wallace, like New York’s Statue of Liberty. In the end they opted for a dramatic medieval tower — a Gothic exclamation mark over Forth Valley. It was completed in 1869 and stands at 67m, atop its 91m crag, offering spectacular views over the the floodplain of the River Forth, a deep green valley that includes the site of Wallace’s 1297 victory over the English at Stirling Bridge. Its panorama of the southern highlands’ striking mountains is unrivalled.
William Wallace was a key figure in the Scottish bid for independence. He opposed the efforts of King Edward I of England to impose his will over Scotland in the years around 1300. But in fact he only fought two battles, of which he won one and lost one, and he spent a fair bit of time in France before he resigned from his job and in the end was betrayed and executed.
Over the years his image has been polished somewhat, variously by the bard Blind Harry in his epic 1470 poem, ‘The Acts and Deeds of Sir William Wallace’, and subsequently by Hollywood. But the historical accuracy is perhaps less important than that the people wanted a national hero, and Wallace’s legend reflects attributes they admire: grit, pride, independence.
In 1997 a statue of Mel Gibson from Braveheart, called ‘Freedom’, was installed in the car park at the foot of the crag. It was regularly vandalised by locals, before it was caged to prevent further damage. The statue was removed in 2008.
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