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Europe > Britain and Ireland > United Kingdom > Scotland > Central Belt > Stirlingshire and Clackmannanshire

Stirlingshire and Clackmannanshire are counties in the Central Belt of Scotland. They're lowland, with a mix of farmland and urban industry, but with hills rising steeply nearby. The big attraction is Loch Lomond and the Trossachs.


Map of Stirlingshire and Clackmannanshire
  • 1 Stirling, the only city, is a pocket-sized Edinburgh, with a historic town centre and the castle perched on a crag.
  • Bridge of Allan, effectively a northern suburb of the city, hosts Stirling University. A short walk leads to the dramatic lookout of the Wallace Monument.

Upper Firth of Forth is tidal, with sea-going vessels, and oil and other industries along its banks.

  • 2 Polmont is a small commuter town for Edinburgh.
  • Grangemouth near Polmont is an oil town, a dystopian landscape of metal towers and flares.
  • 3 Falkirk has the ingenious Wheel, a boat lift connecting two canals.
  • 4 Alloa, the administrative centre of Clackmannanshire, is at the navigable limit of the Forth.
  • 5 Dollar at the foot of the hills has a scenic glen.

North of Stirling:

  • 6 Dunblane has a fine cathedral, a museum, and the fortress-like Hydro hotel.
  • 7 Doune has an imposing and much-filmed castle.
  • 8 Callander is a small market town, a good base for exploring the Trossachs.
  • 9 Crianlarich on the northern edge of the county is on the road to Oban, Glencoe and Ben Nevis.

West of Stirling:

  • Campsie Fells are the hills bounding the Forth Valley. The main villages are Strathblane, Blanefield, Lennoxtown, Torrance, Killearn and Fintry.
  • Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park is the prime reason to visit this area. The Trossachs are a scenic glen (accessed from Callander or Aberfoyle), above which is Loch Katrine, the reservoir supplying Glasgow. This is set among beautiful hills; a traffic-free lane winds along its bank, and a little ferry putters across it. Loch Lomond is a long fjord scooped out by glaciers but later cut off from the sea, so it became fresh-water.
  • 10 Drymen is the turn-off to reach the east shore of Loch Lomond.
  • 11 Balmaha is on the loch shore. The road continues to dead-end at Rowardennan, start of the climb up Ben Lomond.


Ochils rising behind Stirling Castle

This is where you think you've reached the Highlands. Not quite: the Ochils east and Campsie Fells west are an outlying ridge, with a gap at Stirling where the River Forth finds a way through. But they're close, and Stirling Castle sits on its crag to guard the historic route between Edinburgh and the Highlands. Several important battles were fought in the vicinity.

Scotland was divided into shires (meaning the jurisdiction of a sheriff) in the 11th century, and both Stirling and Clackmannan figure in a royal list of shires of 1305. Down the centuries these underwent various changes of boundary and of function, to adopt something like their present shape after 1889. By then the eastern lowland portion of Stirlingshire was industrial and urbanised, while the rugged west was depopulated as farm smallholdings had been cleared away for sheep, grouse moors and forestry plantations. Those leaving the land headed to Glasgow or further for factory jobs, but already there was a counter-tide as city dwellers had leisure time, transport and disposable income. Loch Lomond and the Trossachs became tourist destinations: Loch Katrine was converted into a reservoir for Glasgow, and prettified with a leisure steamer and Baronial waterworks.

Clackmannanshire is by some margin the smallest county in Britain, having a fifth of the surface area of Rutland, England's smallest county. It's often referred to as "Clacks", to avoid being longer to say than to drive across. It too became industrial, with mills powered by streams rushing out of the Ochils, coal mining, and shipping on the navigable Forth. Clackmannan town was outgrown by Alloa so in 1822 this became the county town.

A re-organisation of local government in 1975 merged Stirling, Clackmannan and Falkirk into the unloved entity of Central Region, a name redolent of brutalist concrete public buildings, flared jeans and mullets in the rain. In 1996 this devolved into three districts, so the counties more-or-less reverted to how they were in the late Victorian era.

Get in

On guard at Stirling Castle

The nearest airport is Edinburgh (EDI IATA), and this is west of the city so you drive straight onto M9 and reach this area within 30 min. Glasgow (GLA IATA) is far side of that city so it would take an hour.

There are frequent trains from Edinburgh and Glasgow to Stirling and Dunblane, then north to Perth, Inverness, Dundee and Aberdeen. Trains from Glasgow also run west of Loch Lomond to Crianlarich, where they branch for Oban (for ferries to the Hebrides) or Fort William (for Ben Nevis).

M9 from Edinburgh and M80 from Glasgow meet at Stirling and continue north as A9 to Perth. There are regular inter-city buses along these routes.

By bike follow the canal towpath from Edinburgh or Glasgow as far as Falkirk.

Get around


The train links Polmont, Falkirk, Stirling, Bridge of Allan and Dunblane. There are also regular buses along that corridor and to Doune and Callander.

You need wheels to explore Loch Lomond, the Trossachs and Campsie Fells, as there's sparse public transport.

The Pineapple grew tropical fruit
  • Castles: Stirling and Doune are the best preserved, but the walk up to Dollar castle is through a scenic gorge.
  • Dunblane has a fine cathedral.
  • Loch Lomond is a fjord that has become a freshwater lake. Its east shore is the more attractive.
  • Falkirk Wheel operates in summer and you can ride a boat between the two canals.
  • The Pineapple at Airth north of Falkirk is a weird hothouse of 1761 for rearing tropical fruit.
  • Climb Ben Lomond, the most southerly of the Munroes, 974 m / 3196 ft high. The well-marked path starts at Rowardennan on the east shore of Loch Lomond.
  • Blair Drummond is a safari park near Doune.
  • Highland Games are held in many towns in summer.
  • The West Highland Way is a long distance walking route from Milngavie north of Glasgow to Fort William. It passes through Drymen and Balmaha then hugs the east shore of Loch Lomond.
  • Ride the ferry across Loch Katrine. At the far end Stronachlachar, either ride back, or bike back along the traffic-free lane, or cycle up the public road past Loch Arklet to reach Loch Lomond at Inversnaid.
  • Stirling has the best selection - Hermann's Scots-Austrian restaurant is the tops.
  • All the other towns have eating places. Pubs and hotels are often your best choice.


Falkirk Wheel connects two canals
  • All the settlements have pubs serving meals.
  • Breweries: several, best known being Williams Brothers in Alloa.
  • Distilleries include Glengoyne in the hills south of Drymen, two in Falkirk, and Callander.

Stay safe

  • Standard care over road safety (especially on winding country roads) and care of valuables.
  • The mountains are of no dizzy height but they're on a similar latitude to Newfoundland and can be hazardous in bad weather.
  • Water safety: Loch Lomond especially is big enough to get rough when the wind funnels along the valley.

Go next

  • Perthshire northeast is mostly highland, with attractive towns along A9 including Perth, Dunkeld and Pitlochry.
  • Highlands northwest bring you to Glencoe, or Oban for ferries to the Hebrides.
  • Fife to the east has Culross, Dunfermline, Falkland Palace, East Neuk fishing villages and St Andrews.
  • The Lothians southeast have Linlithgow, but the star attraction is Edinburgh.
  • Glasgow deserves a few days to explore.

This region travel guide to Stirlingshire and Clackmannanshire is a usable article. It gives a good overview of the region, its sights, and how to get in, as well as links to the main destinations, whose articles are similarly well developed. An adventurous person could use this article, but please feel free to improve it by editing the page.