Situated close to Stirling, Bridge of Allan boasts many independent shops and businesses which are popular with tourists. Developed as a spa town in the 19thcentury (though its origins stretch back as far as the Iron Age), the town retains many Victorian villas and grand public buildings. Visitors can enjoy seeking out landmarks such as the painstakingly-repainted Fountain of Ninevah on Fountain Road, Pullar Memorial Park and Henderson Street’s Paterson Memorial Clock, built in memory of eminent local figure Dr Alexander Paterson by sculptor Alexander ‘Greek’ Thomson.
The town is home to the popular Bridge of Allan Golf Club on Pendreich Road, with its attractive nine-hole course, and visitors can also check in at the Allan Centre Sports Hall. Another popular destination is the Allanwater Brewhouse on Queens Lane, which offers tasting sessions and information about the brewing process in a welcoming and comfortable environment. Day tours around the town’s historical landmarks can be arranged from Outlandish Journeys, guided by a knowledgeable professional historian and genealogist, which cover a comprehensive range of facts about the local area.
A little-known fact is that the Beatles once performed at Bridge of Allan; the band played at Henderson Street’s Museum Hall in January 1963, the penultimate venue of their tour of Scotland. Though the Museum Hall no longer functions as a public auditorium, having closed in 1978 and since being converted into private apartments, the distinctive exterior of the building can still be seen to this day.
Walkers will also find much to enjoy on the University of Stirling campus, voted one of the most scenic in Europe, where they can take in the sights of beautiful Airthrey Loch which is the focal point of the university grounds. A wander around the extensive Aithrey Estate, which houses the campus, is highly recommended. The campus is also the location of the Macrobert Arts Centre, which houses a variety of live performance spaces and a cinema; check ahead to consult their schedule and see what’s on offer.
A little-known episode in Bridge of Allan’s history is that in 1864 and 1865 it was at the centre of a major gun-running operation. During the American Civil war, the Confederate Government’s illegal and clandestine gun-running operation had British support in the form of shipments of arms to the southern states, and it was being masterminded from a secret headquarters in a mansion in, of all places, Bridge of Allan. Their rural headquarters in a sleepy village was all part of the ploy to avoid detection and avoid raising suspicions. It’s a remarkable story that has just been uncovered by a maritime historian from Edinburgh University.
Bridge of Allan Highland Games (also known as the Strathallan Meeting), at the beginning of August each year, is one of Scotland’s most popular highland games events. Watch the traditional games events including, tossing the caber, throwing the weight over the bar, hammer throwing, running, cycling, plus pipe bands, highland dancing and wrestling. A visit to a highland games is a must-do activity for anyone touring Scotland in summer, and Bridge of Allan is one of the top-drawer games to see.
A popular walk from Bridge of Allan is to follow the Darn Walk from Bridge of Allan to Dunblane. This 4-kilometre walk, which dates back to Roman times, follows the River Allan for most of the way. Options for the return leg include walking it in both directions or taking a train or bus back to Bridge of Allan.