There is a great walking trail around Braehead & Broomridge that starts and ends at the Crawford Hall. It is part of the Stirling Heritage Trails and is one of seven heritage trails created by Stirling’s communities in 2014. You can download a leaflet to assist you on your walk here: Heritage Trail Leaflet. You can find out more by visiting www.stirlingheritagetrails.co.uk
Here’s some of the key heritage moment’s from Braehead & Broomridge’s past:
23rd June 1314
On 23rd June 1314, an army of 20,000 men led by the English King Edward II marched on Stirling Castle. The Scottish forces of Robert the Bruce lay in waiting along the old Roman Road, the only way into the Royal Burgh and close to the current National Trust Heritage Centre. After some initial fighting, Edward led his army onto the carse to camp for the night. A carse is a Scottish word for the low lying lands found next to a river. Although we cannot be certain, it is probable that Edward’s army camped on the other side of the present day railway line, within a few dozen metres of the Balquhidderock Wood. The thousands of soldiers, servants, cooks, armourers, stable boys and horses would have been spread out over a wide area. Despite this, not a single archaeological artefact has been found to confirm that the army were here.
24th June 1314
English morale in the camp was low after the first day of battle, with the army exhausted from its long march north and concerned that the Scots were more formidable than first thought. Sir Alexander Seton, a Scots noble in the English army, defected to Bruce to tell him this. Bruce decided to risk all to defeat the English and at dawn on 24th June, his forces emerged from the Balquhidderock Wood to take the fight to the English. Within hours, Bruce was victorious and Edward II galloped from the battlefield and on to Dunbar where a ship was waiting to take him home.
Most historians now agree that all of this action either took place on the carse, where the homes of Wallace Park are now built, or on the dryfield above the present day woods, in the grounds of what is now Bannockburn High School.
Scots Wa Hae
Before advancing onto the field of battle, the Abbott of Inchaffray is said to have blessed the Scots with water taken from the nearby Holy Well at Cambusbarron. Bruce also addressed his men with a rousing speech, said to be delivered in Broomridge at Balquihidderock Wood. In 1793, Robert Burns wrote the famous poem “Scots Wha Hae”; The lines imagine what Bruce might have said in that speech:
How’s the day and now’s the hour … see approach proud Edward’s power … Chains and Slaverie … wha will be a traitor knave … wha will fill a coward’s grave … wha sae base as be a slave … let him turn and flee.
Balquhidderock Wood is all that remains of a much larger ancient woodland that was once more extensive in this area. It is a nationally recognised site of special scientific interest. The woodland is privately owned and was once part of the Balquhidderock Farm, part of the larger Polmaise and Touchadam Estate. It is today managed by Stirling Council as a local nature reserve. The wood is known locally as “Bluebell Wood” due to the stunning spring blanket of blue flowers that carpet the area every year. Blue is just one of the many colours you’ll see in the wood. In early spring you’ll see the whites of the Wood Anemone and the bright yellow colour of the Lesser Celandine flowers. Almost all of the trees are deciduous, including oak, ash, alder and sycamore. Some of the oak trees could be 300 years old or more. The site supports a large number of birds, rabbits, grey squirrels and roe deer which have been sighted here. Roe deer are the smallest wild deer in Scotland and are very shy and spend much of the day hiding among the undergrowth. You can access the wood via a mix of surfaced paths and more natural trails – but these can become very muddy! Look out for the recently created ponds within the wood which are home to newts and frogs.
There is a small wooded rise at Millhall, which is all that remains of the Bing that once stood there. Bing is a Scottish word meaning to heap or pile up. In this case it refers to the material removed while digging a coal mine. The bing once towered over the landscape, as did the 37 metre chimney stack at the entrance to the pit. In 1902, Archibald Russell Ltd began sinking shafts into the ground and the mine was operational by 1904. There are two pits at Millhall and a further two at Fallin two miles away; all four on the Polmaise and Touchadam Estate, hence the mine here was officially “Polmaise 1 and 2 Colliery (Millhall)”. The mine shafts are 87 fathoms, or nearly 160 meters, beneath your feet. The coal produced was household coal and anthracite – the latter being very rare, accounting for just 1% of the worldwide coal reserves. This “miners’ path” linked the colliery with their homes in Bannockburn. Polmaise 1 and 2 closed in 1958; Polmaise 3 and 4 at Fallin closed in 1987.
Cutting across the middle of Braehead and Broomridge is the railway linking the city with Perth to the north and Edinburgh and Glasgow to the south. An Act of Parliament in 1845 allowed for the construction of a railway to Stirling, with the first trains rolling into the town in 1848. Until the Forth Rail Bridge opened in 1890, Stirling was the primary rail crossing point on the River Forth and as such, much of the country’s freight and passenger traffic converged in the city. There was once a railway link from the Polmaise pits which joined up with the mainline next to Millhall Road. The railway is no more, but its route is now a cycle and walking path to Fallin. Until the early 1990s, there was a freight marshalling yard between the railway and Pike Road. The miners’ path that links Millhall with Bannockburn passes under the railway at what is known locally as the “Thunder Bridge”, from the reverberations and sounds of the trains that cross there.