Forth Valley Tourist Route
|Forth Valley Tourist Route|
|From:||South Queensferry (NT124776)|
|Distance:||39 miles (62.8 km)|
|Old route now:||A904, A803, A706, A904, A803, A9, A91|
The Forth Valley Tourist Route is tourist route between Edinburgh and Stirling, running along the south side of the Firth of Forth, though not always following the coast as close as possible. It is signed with a white thistle. Anyone who has driven the M9 between these two cities may think this a rather dull part of Scotland, enlivened only by the recent addition of the Kelpies at Falkirk and the nearby towers of the Grangemouth refinery. However, if you have time to explore a little, there is plenty to discover.
Beginning at Echline Junction on the A90 in South Queensferry, the route heads west along the A904. However, South Queensferry is well worth the detour. For centuries this was a bustling town, with the Queens Ferry shuttling back and forth to North Queensferry in Fife. However, today it is somewhat more tranquil, and whilst favoured by locals and tourists alike for a pleasant afternoon stroll along the riverside, through the cobbled streets or even across the Forth Road bridge high above, there is plenty of room for everyone to enjoy the place.
It is possible to walk along the riverbank from Queensferry to Bo'ness, or take the cycle track which runs a little further inland, but the road route heads west on the A904, to the south of Hopetoun House, The House of the Binns and then on the coast via the B9109 and B903 is Blackness Castle, once a major munitions store but now an interesting attraction. At the T-junction with the A803, the tourist route turns left along the A803, crossing the M9 and running into Linlithgow. This historic town maybe far from the coast but it is another of the areas more interesting destinations with the evocative ruins of Linlithgow Palace stood above the loch, and a cobbled High Street packed with shops and cafes in interesting old buildings. The Parish Church has an interesting story and a little way up the hill, the canal towpath provides a pleasant stroll, watching the boats drift past.
Heading west out of Linlithgow can be a tedious suburban slog, but the tourist route avoids most of this by turning north in the town centre towards Bo'ness on the A706. This is another old town, with winding narrow streets in the centre and home to the Bo'ness and Kinneil heritage railway, which is the main attraction. At the coast in the centre of Bo'ness, the route returns to running westwards on the A904, taking it past Kinneil House which has a museum and the site of an Antonine Wall fort in its grounds. The route then sticks to the A904, through the unlovely industrial estates of Grangemouth to the town centre which has a bit more grace to it with tree lined roads and the spacious Zetland Park, but in truth there is little for the visitor to stop and explore.
The A904 then turns west again, crossing the M9 once more and passing the Helix Park, home of the Kelpies. The tourist route then runs into and around the centre of Falkirk, briefly returning to the A803, before taking the A9 northwards. Falkirk is a good town for residents, but there is little in the town centre for tourists to stop and explore except the normal high street stores found up and down the country. Just to the west, though, and missed by the signed route is the world famous Falkirk Wheel, a magnificent engineering achievement designed to lift barges from the Forth & Clyde to the Union Canal. The wheel offers rides to visitors and there are also pleasant walks along the canal and through the parkland.
Returning to the tourist route, the A9 heads north through Larbert and on to the edge of Stirling, a city which is rightly famous with many historic and more modern attractions to entertain visitors for a day or two, if not longer. As well as the castle, which can take a day to explore thoroughly, there are a variety of historic buildings both around the castle and in the city centre below, some of which are open to the public. To the north is the Wallace Monument, and the more genteel suburb of Bridge of Allan. Belkow the castle lies the Kings Knot Gardens, with the ruins of Cambuskenneth Abbey across the river. However, at Bannockburn village (the battlefield is to the west with a visitor centre), the route turns left and takes the A91 to the M9 at Pirnhall Interchange, where it ends, so missing the city centre completely.