Landscape Character Assessment: Central Region - Landscape Evolution and Influences
A PDF version of this document is available at the foot of the webpage
A PDF version of this document is available at the foot of the webpage
This document provides information on how the landscape of the local authority area has evolved. It complements the Landscape Character Type descriptions of the 2019 dataset.
The original character assessment reports, part of a series of 30, mostly for a local authority area, included a “Background Chapter” on the formation of the landscape. These documents have been revised because feedback said they are useful, despite the fact that other sources of information are now readily available on the internet, unlike in the 1990’s when the first versions were produced.
The content of the chapters varied considerably between the reports, and it has been restructured into a more standard format: Introduction, Physical Influences and Human Influences for all areas; and Cultural Influences sections for the majority. Some content variation still remains as the documents have been revised rather than rewritten.
The information has been updated with input from the relevant Local Authorities. The historic and cultural aspects have been reviewed and updated by Historic Environment Scotland. Gaps in information have been filled where possible. Some reports have been combined where original LCA area coverage was very small.
The new documents include photographs. They do not include the maps or sketches from the original LCAs, but these are still available from the NatureScot Information Library. Additional information can be obtained from the websites of:
The content of this document was drawn from the background chapter information in “NatureScot Review 96 – Clackmannanshire landscape character assessment”, 1998, ASH Consulting Group, “NatureScot Review 124 – Stirling to Grangemouth landscape character assessment” 1999, David Tyldesley and Associates, and “NatureScot review 123 – Central Region landscape character assessment” 1999, ASH Consulting Group.
If you have any comments, please email [email protected]
The Central Region LCA covers the Stirling, Clackmannanshire, and Falkirk Council administrative areas. It encompasses the land from Killin in the north to the Slamannan Plateau south of Falkirk, and from Killearn in the west to Blackness and Muckhart in the east, but excludes the areas within Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park. The total land area of the part of Scotland covered by the Central Region LCA is approximately 1550km2.
The area embraces both Highland and Lowland landscapes, with the dominant physical division of these in the wider region by the Highland Boundary Fault. On the broad scale, the lands to the north of this form part of the geological region known as the Highlands, composed mainly of old, hard, metamorphic rocks, while the lands to the south lie within a separate geological unit, the Central Lowlands, formed predominantly of younger sedimentary and volcanic rocks.
Within the Highland landscapes are mountains which include the areas of highest ground, rising to 1039 metres around Glen Lochay in the north, and frequently sculpted by glacial action into well-defined corries and shapely summits. There are also river valleys, which include the deep U-shaped valley of Glen Lochay.
The Central Lowlands have hills rising to over 700 metres, and include the major Devonian and Carboniferous volcanic hill groups, which form the distinctive escarpments of the Campsie Fells and Ochil Hills overlooking the Stirling Plain, and the less unified hill ground of the Uamh Bheag group, interrupted by rocks of the Highland Border Complex. The hill fringes consist of a group of transitional landscapes, differentiated from their parent hill groups by clear variations in slope, landform and land cover type. Two plateaux landscapes, at Slamannan and Kippen Muir, form distinctive areas. There are 11 lowland river valleys in the Central region LCA area, ranging in nature from the broad agricultural carselands of the Carse of Forth, to the narrow gorge-like eastern reaches of the River Devon west of Rumbling Bridge. The valley fringes consist of a further series of transitional landscapes, of generally subdued relief, which link together adjoining valleys, or valleys and adjoining high ground.
The area is densely settled in places, being home to almost 250,000 people. Several settlements have populations of 30-35,000, these are Stirling, Alloa and Falkirk. There are also a large number of smaller towns and villages in lowland areas.
Basic geological and morphological differences throughout Scotland have resulted in an established division into the Highlands, the Central Lowlands and the Southern Uplands. Straddling the northeast to south-west line of the Highland Boundary Fault, the area covered by the Central Region Landscape Character Assessment spans the divide between the ancient, folded and metamorphosed mountains of the Highlands and the younger igneous and sedimentary rock assemblages of the Central Lowlands.
The mountains which form the north-western part of the area have been carved from some of the oldest and most intricate geological formations in Britain. Laid down over 800 million years ago in Pre-Cambrian times, they originated as a complex pattern of sedimentary and igneous strata, including layers of sands, muds, limestones and volcanic ash. During the subsequent Caledonian Orogeny, or mountain-building era (495-435 million years ago), heat and pressure transformed the sedimentary deposits into harder slates, phyllites and schists. Towards the end of this period these metamorphic rocks were intruded by pulses of molten lava, broken by fault lines and uplifted, thus completing the division between the Scottish Highlands and Lowlands.
By early Devonian times (415 million years ago), Scotland lay south of the equator and experienced a tropical climate. Weathering and erosion had reduced the uplifted Caledonian mountains, and to the south-east stretched a vast alluvial plain, braided by numerous large river channels. The finer floodplain silts were mostly carried away, resulting in the deposition of coarser sedimentary rocks, mainly sandstone and conglomerate. These processes were accompanied by volcanic activity, as andesitic and basaltic lavas erupted through the sediments, becoming interbedded with ash and conglomerate to form the hills now known as the Ochils.
During the earth movements of middle Devonian times, the older rock formations were crumpled, uplifted as mountains and eroded; only a few low hills interrupted the low-lying landscape. In the late Devonian period, the area lay within a braided alluvial plain which periodically dried up, allowing the formation of sand dunes and deserts.
In early Carboniferous times, layers of mud were deposited on a coastal floodplain, alternately becoming flooded by seawater during stormy periods or drying out into salt-encrusted baked muds and cementstone lake beds. Rivers later flowed into the area from the north, depositing sandstones. Volcanoes also became active 340 million years ago. Lava flows and volcanic ashes erupted along fissures and fault lines, forming the Campsie Fells, and the Gargunnock and Kilpatrick Hills.
Scotland remained in equatorial latitudes during the Carboniferous era (335 to 300 million years ago), within which the region consisted of a small section of a vast, low-lying, constantly changing coastal plain, usually clothed in dense tropical rainforests. The decay of these forests resulted in the formation of thick layers of peat, now remaining as coal seams straddling the eastern Forth valley, between which rivers deposited sand and silt along their floodplains. The accumulation of peat deposits was halted by submergence of the coastal plain under tropical waters, eventually creating a new land surface of deltaic deposits. The end of the Carboniferous period was marked by further volcanic activity, and the land was uplifted, folded and faulted once again.
From the Permian to the Quaternary periods (250 to 2.4 million years ago), continental drift carried Scotland northwards, from equatorial to temperate latitudes. The arid climate of the Permian and Triassic periods led to the formation of the landscape under desert conditions, within which a few volcanoes remained active. During the Jurassic period the climate gradually became warm and humid, followed by the deposition across the land of shallow layers of chalk by the warm seas of the Cretaceous era, which then became dissolved. The cooling climate during Paleogene and Neogene times (60 to 2 million years ago) led to extensive weathering and erosion of the area, during which time the outlines of the river systems of today were established.
The cooler, wetter climate of Scotland, over two million years ago, led to the commencement of the lce Ages. Small ice sheets began to develop across higher and wetter ground, eventually coalescing to cover all of the country, melting in warmer periods and then reforming in a series of cycles. Where mountain peaks rose above the ice sheets, freeze-thaw action broke the rock into scree and boulders. Corries were formed and hollowed out on the northern slopes of hills and mountains; river valleys were deepened and widened to form u-shaped valleys, many of which are now occupied by lochs in the Highlands; and ground-down rock was deposited as undulating sheets of till or boulder clay, particularly in Lowland areas. The erosive power of the ice also altered the main drainage system, causing many rivers to reverse their flows.
Around 16,000 years ago the ice sheets across Scotland began to recede, disappearing entirely by 13,000 years ago. As the ice melted sea-levels rose, flooding the Forth valley. Large deltas and terraces built out into the sea where retreating ice left deposits of marine sediments. Removal of the ice caused the land to rise, so that by 11,000 years ago sea levels had dropped to below their levels today. These fluctuations created raised beaches along the edges of the Forth.
Ice sheets once more occupied the Scottish Highlands during the deteriorating climate of 11,000 to 10,000 years ago. They advanced only as far as the head of the River Teith, and the lower Blane valley, before depositing their end moraines.
Between 10,000 and 6,500 years ago the climate became warmer, and the lower Forth valley was flooded by rising sea-levels to a level of about 16 metres above current sea-level. In the Forth estuary, initial deposition of peat after the retreat of ice was halted by the rising waters, which deposited the tidal clays and silts which cover the river floodplain today. The development of the river floodplain continued, as meanders formed in unconsolidated sediments along valley floors, the changing courses of which can be traced in the oxbows evident along the River Forth and Devon Water today.
Topography and Hydrology
The central region, in its sweep from west to east and from Lowlands to Highlands, encompasses a broad range of representative Scottish landscapes.
The mountains to the north-west of the study area lie along the border of the Grampians and rise to over 900m in several instances. Evidence of glacial erosion, in the form of hollowed-out rocky corries, and u-shaped valleys dividing the mountain ridges, contrasts with the hummocky deposits covering some strath floors
The south-eastern part of the study area is characterised by gently undulating lowlands, river valleys, and surrounding hilly ground. The northern perimeter of the region reaches heights of over 700m, contrasting in form between the shallow slopes of Uamh Bheag to the west and the spectacular scarp slopes of the Ochils to the east. Below them, the dramatically flat carselands of the Forth and Devon rivers lie close to sea-level. The Forth and Devon valleys are separated by a low interfluve of strongly undulating relief rising to over 60 metres, drained by the Black Devon. To the south, the volcanic outcrops of the Campsie Fells and Gargunnock, Touch, Fintry and Kilsyth Hills form an abrupt boundary to the Region, reaching almost 600 metres in places.
The processes of erosion and deposition have also played a part in fashioning the topography of the Lowland parts of the study area, resulting in features such as the raised beach deposits along the Forth valley, the humped blanket of moraine across the Braes of Doune, and the corries cut into the northern face of the Campsie Fells.
The erosive action of glaciers during the Ice Ages determined the water catchment pattern of the study area today. A multitude of minor streams, arising in the mountainous uplands, flows into the south-eastwards trending valley of the Lochay. In the southern part of the study area, most watercourses, including the Teith, Allan, Avon, Carron, Bannock Burn and Devon, travel from the higher surrounding ground towards the eastwards-flowing central spine of the River Forth. To the southwest, the Endrick and Blane Waters coalesce and feed into Loch Lomond.
River flooding is a recognised source of flood risk on the flood plain of the River Forth and the floodplain exhibits a range of important riverine features including acute meanders and large river islands such as the Alloa Inches.
The distribution of soils throughout Central Region consists of south-west/north-east bands of soil associations influenced by the underlying parent material. The interaction of numerous other factors, in particular climate and topography, with the basic properties of the parent material, defines a wide variety of soil types within each association.
To the north of the Highland Boundary Fault the bedrock is predominantly uniform, consisting of the hard metamorphosed schists and grits of the Dalradian Rock Assemblage, and resulting in the dominance of soils of the Strichen association. Extremes of climate on the exposed waterlogged mountain summits and plateaux have restricted soil formation to skeletal sub-alpine soils and frequent yet dispersed areas of thin hill peat. Poorly draining peaty gleys and peaty podzols are the most common soil type across the upper and mid-slopes, giving way to more freely draining humus-iron podzols and brown forest soils at the interface between mountain and valley. The prevailing brown forest soils and podzols along the valley floors are derived from the hummocky terrain of morainic drifts. Fluvio-glacial deposits also influence the valley soils.
Raised beach silts and clays are the parent materials of the fertile non-calcareous gleys of the Stirling/Duffus/Pow/Carbrook association which form a well-defined band coinciding with the Carse of Forth and the lower Devon Valley. Within the Forth Valley, Ochtertyre Moss is a remnant of once extensive basin peat. Elsewhere throughout the lowlands within the study area, river valley floors are dominated by recently deposited alluvial soils, with significant areas present along the floodplains of the Rivers Teith and Carron, and the Endrick, Blane and Devon Waters. Localised occurrences of fluvio-glacial sands and gravels give rise to thin, freely-drained brown forest soils of the Doune association in parts of the Teith Valley.
The many undulating lowland ridges, plateaux and valley fringes within the main body of the study area are mantled by tills derived from a variety of parent materials. Both Lower and Upper Old Red Sandstone rocks underlie the Balrownie soils of the borders of the Forth and Teith Rivers and the Allan Water, and the mainly Kippen/Largs association soils of the edges of the Gargunnock Hills and Campsie Fells. Carboniferous sandstones, shales and limestones are the dominant parent material of the Rowanhill/Giffnock/Winton soils west of Falkirk and east of Alloa. Gleyed brown forest soils of varying fertility are the principal soil group throughout these lowlands, with non-calcareous gleys and peaty gleys occurring in poorly draining hollows. Remnants of raised bog lie within the Carboniferous plateaux to the east of the region.
From the Slamannan Plateau, through Falkirk, Grangemouth and Alloa, the solid geology is Carboniferous Westphalian Coal Measures which are overlain by glacial tills. These areas have moderately good soils and tend to support a range of agricultural activity from poor grazing (where soils are wet or thin) to productive arable land, capable of growing a relatively wide range of crops.
The hills which enclose the study area south of the Highland Boundary Fault have a variety of geological origins. The Darleith/Kirktonmoor soil association of the Gargunnock/Touch Hills and the hills of Stirling is underlain by basaltic lavas of Carboniferous age; the Ochils comprise lavas of Old Red Sandstone age which support soils of the Sourhope association; and Uamh Bheag lies at the junction of the Foudland soils of the Highland Boundary Fault with the Balrownie soils of the Old Red Sandstone sedimentary rocks. The highest slopes and plateaux are commonly dominated by extensive areas of blanket peat, giving way to poorly-drained peaty podzols, peaty gleys and gleys. Shallow gleys and brown forest soils occur at lower altitudes.
The approximate total area of land covered by the area is 155,000 hectares. Agricultural land accounts for substantial parts of the total land area of the region, concentrated in carse, plateaux and coastal areas. This comprises arable, improved grassland and rough grassland. Areas of arable land correspond generally with the fertile soils of the Carse of Forth. Barley, wheat and oats are the most commonly grown grains. Turnips and potatoes are also cultivated, with fields of rape, beans and biomass becoming more common in recent years. Timothy grass is another important crop, grown for either hay or seed. Varying qualities of rough grassland dominate throughout the mountainous north-west section of the study area and the hills and upper hill-slopes to the south. Across the lower hill-slopes, river valleys and undulating lowlands, good-quality pastureland is the most common agricultural land-use.
Heather moorland and peatland cover occurs in small areas on mountain tops, as well as on lowland mosses (such as Flanders and Letham Mosses) and areas of the Slamannan Plateau (e.g. Gardrum and Darnrigg Mosses, and Fannyside and Garbethill Muirs).
Woodland occurs throughout the region. Conifer forests are concentrated on lower slopes of the hill ranges, the west of the Slamannan Plateau, in the Carron Valley (3000 hectares forest surrounding Carron Valley Reservoir) and around the Lake of Menteith. Newer areas of conifer planting are generally smaller in scale, and tend to have been carried out by the private sector, e.g. Bowsmuir Forest on the Braes of Doune (220 hectares) and Earlsburn Forest in the Touch Hills (400 hectares). Several forests are currently being restructured.
Within the southern parts of the study area, long-established estate woodlands are numerous, consisting mainly of mixed coniferous and deciduous trees. Examples include Leckie and Gargunnock Estates, sited on the northern slopes of the Gargunnock Hills; Kippendavie and Keir Estates, close to Dunblane; Duntreath Estate, to the west of the Campsie Fells; Tor Wood south of Plean; and Sauchie Estate, on the fringes of the Touch Hills west of Stirling.
The region has, as a whole, relatively high levels of urban and rural development compared to the national averages. Much of this is concentrated in the south and east of the study area around Falkirk, Grangemouth, Bo’ness, Alloa and Stirling.
The influence of humans upon the evolution of the landscape character of the region, dating from earliest times to the present day, is assessed within this chapter.
The Mesolithic Period (6000 – 4000BC)
The earliest evidence of human infiltration into Scotland dates back to the period following the retreat of the last ice-sheets. During this time, climatic improvement enabled the establishment of birch and pine forest throughout the Highlands and mixed deciduous woodland across the Lowlands. Together with the riverine, lacustrine and estuarine habitats of the region, the arboreal landscape supplied a range of animal and plant resources to the first nomadic hunter-gatherer communities. Their itinerant lifestyle is reflected in a lack of field monuments as conspicuous evidence of their existence. Drainage of the carse clays for agriculture in the 19th and early 20th Centuries led to the discovery of a number of important Mesolithic finds, attesting to the occupation of the area. These include an antler mattock from Meiklewood, Stirling, a biserial harpoon from Carriden, Falkirk and a dugout canoe from the River Carron. A number of Mesolithic shell middens also survive within the raised beaches near Grangemouth. The drainage efforts also revealed whale skeletons in the Forth dating from approximately 7,000 years ago.
The Neolithic Period (4000 - 2500BC)
The arrival in Scotland of new groups of settlers, coming from the south or from Ireland, heralded major impacts upon the landscape. The activities of these early farmers accelerated the loss of woodland cover in the area, through small-scale forest clearances which allowed the cultivation of cereal crops such as wheat and barley, and the creation of enclosures for livestock.
A small number of excavated sites, and chance finds of Neolithic pottery and stone axe-heads, attest to human occupation during the Neolithic period. The remains of domestic settlements are slight and hard to identify without excavation. One example of an excavated settlement at Cowie, dating to both early and later Neolithic periods, was characterised by timber built circular and oval buildings. A pit defined cursus monument is located nearby. And at Claish, in Callander parish, there may be indications of a Neolithic timber building.
In Clackmannanshire, excavations in advance of the building of the new Kincardine Crossing the remains of Neolithic settlements were identified through the presence of a large number of pits containing middle/late Neolithic pottery.
The Bronze Age (2500 – 700BC)
The progression from the Neolithic period to the Bronze Age is distinguished by the development of new forms and styles of settlement, pottery and monuments, and the introduction of metal-working.
There are a larger number of known Bronze Age sites within the study area. At the site of the Neolithic settlement discovered during works for the New Kincardine Crossing, evidence of substantial Bronze Age roundhouses were also found. Further palisaded enclosures are known through crop mark evidence.
Evidence of the extent and distribution of settlement during the Bronze Age suggests that the population had increased in size and/or that farming expanded beyond those areas occupied during the Neolithic Period, possibly due to an expansion of arable farming and field systems.
Two important areas, which contain possible hut circles, shattered cairns, and rig and furrow cultivation, may date from the second millennium BC; in Strathblane, the Endrick Valley and the upper reaches of the Forth, form part of a broader section of Bronze Age finds centred on the River Clyde. Greater concentration of sites lies to the south-east of the Region, near Stirling and Falkirk, thereby suggesting an east coast penetration.
The Neolithic tradition of communal burial in chambered cairns was gradually replaced by the practice of individual burial in a short cist, frequently covered by a round mound or cairn. A number of these graves, such as Fairy Knowe near Bridge of Allan, survive throughout the region, and demonstrate a pronounced easterly distribution. Throughout the progression of the Bronze Age a gradual change from inhumation to cremation took place, the cinerary urns often being inserted into a pre-existing cairn. One example of these, discovered in 1897 in the Coneypark area of Stirling, and excavated further in 1969, found human remains more than 4,000 years old. Facial reconstruction was carried out.
Funerary remains are known across the area, including numerous cists, some containing high value artefacts such as the gold amulets recovered from a cist at Mars Hill in Clackmannanshire. At least seven cinerary urns were recovered from a cremation cemetery at Muiravonside, in advance of quarrying.
Although there are a number of known or possible crannogs in the wider central region, the majority of these are within the Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park Authority area. There are further possible crannogs on Loch Tay although these are not visible above the water line – the well-known reconstructed crannog on Loch Tay is in Perth & Kinross.
The erection of standing stones continued throughout the Bronze Age, and in the region they can be found singly, in pairs, or in rows. Although their precise function is unknown, suggested purposes include gnomons, route or territorial markers, or memorial stones. Several are incised with cup-and ring markings. These decorative motifs can also be found etched into groups of boulders, such as the markings on “The Peace Stone” at Malling near Port of Mentieth.
The Iron Age (700BC- AD100)
The Iron Age in Scotland witnessed the onset of a series of wide ranging social and economic changes. Agricultural developments were facilitated by the efficiency of iron tools, thereby enabling the cultivation of heavier soils and further clearance of woodland cover.
During the Late Bronze Age and Early Iron Age, the onset of climatic deterioration reduced the amount of agricultural land available, thereby provoking a period of unrest. The characteristic open settlements of the Bronze Age were gradually replaced by defensive sites, designed to secure the remaining areas of workable farmland. Examples of these stone and timber forts can be found throughout the area, located at prime vantage points, such as those at Bannockburn and Dunmore located on the perimeter of the study area. In Clackmannanshire the Clach Mannan, (from the Gaelic, Stone of the Manna) is associated with a local Iron Age tribal group, its function may have been to mark the site of a rallying point or a sacred place.
Unlike remains from the preceding prehistoric periods, the majority of Iron Age sites within the region are of domestic origin and show considerable variety in type due to the transition of landscapes within the area. Settlements and homesteads, protected by timber palisades, were broadly contemporary with the construction of the forts. In addition to excavated sites at Gargunnock, Buchlyvie, West Plean and Muirhead, aerial photographs have revealed the existence of a number of sites concentrated predominantly in the Callander and Bannockburn areas, although a few other sites have been identified in the south-east of the area.
The evolution of fort-building traditions continued throughout the first two centuries AD, during the period of Roman occupation of central Scotland. The pinch-point at Stirling had a dramatic effect on the local economy as food was exchanged here for Roman goods. The remains of a variety of small stone-walled forts and defended homesteads have been confirmed throughout these landscapes, including brochs, duns and crannogs. The brochs at Buchlyvie, Torwood and Leckie all are sited near the slightly elevated areas of fertile pasture land which fringe the carselands of the River Forth. Only two of the duns have been excavated, and include a site at Castlehill Wood. Evidence of the existence of crannogs, a type of defended homestead built on a partly or wholly artificial island, has been uncovered around, or below the surface of, many of the lochs in the west of the area, including Lochs Earn and Tay.
The Roman Period (c. AD 70s - AD 390)
The Roman author Tacitus informs us that his father-in-law, the Roman governor and general of the province of Britannia, Gnaeus Julius Agricola, embarked on a series of campaigns to conquer the remainder of Britain in the late AD70s-80s. Although archaeology tells a more complex picture, a network of roads and forts was constructed at this time. The area within Roman authority was demarcated by a chain of forts which was built at the entrances to the main Highland glens, including sites at Drymen, Callander, Port of Menteith and, within the LCA area, Doune. In addition, the main route northwards linked through the forts at Camelon in Falkirk which guarded the crossing of the River Carron, through the valley of the Allan Water. Withdrawal of Roman forces in the late 80s to deal with military matters on the continent led to the abandonment of the fort system in Scotland and a withdrawal to northern England. Cultivation has now all but erased visible signs of many of these forts, which can only be glimpsed as differential cropmarkings best detected and photographed from the air.
The Roman forces returned in the early AD 140s and commenced the reoccupation of southern Scotland, establishing a new line of defence across the Forth-Clyde line. The Antonine Wall, which stretched from Old Kilpatrick on the Clyde to Bo'ness on the Forth, formed the new Roman frontier in Britain, replacing Hadrian’s Wall. The wall was a turf-built rampart set on a broad stone foundation; in front of the rampart lay a ditch and, to the south, ran a military road. Some of the best-preserved stretches of the Wall, and the impressive fort at Rough Castle, are located just outside Falkirk.
In addition to the Roman forts of the 1st Century AD, and the structures associated with the Antonine Wall, a number of temporary marching camps have also been located through their appearance as cropmarks in aerial photographs, although no surface remains are visible. Although the Roman forces maintained a presence in parts of southern Scotland until the 4th century, the Antonine Wall was abandoned during the 160s. After this, there are literary references to brief campaigns but tying the archaeological evidence to these has proved difficult. The only other principle source of campaigning was in the early 3rd Century with the campaigns of the Emperor Septimius Severus and his sons. It is possible that some of the camps in this region date to the campaigns of this and other periods.
The Early Historic Period (AD 400 - AD 1200)
The withdrawal of the Romans from Scotland was followed by far-reaching changes in the political and religious organisation of the country. During the following centuries the Scotti people, rulers of the Kingdom of Dalriada, expanded into the majority of southern and eastern Scotland. The introduction of Christianity to south-western Scotland in the early 5th Century gradually extended northwards. Little evidence now remains of the early church in the region.
The region continued to be a key strategic location and it is likely that many of the Iron Age hillforts guarding the passage north continued to be utilised. At Abbey Craig, excavation has confirmed that an earlier timber laced rampart was rebuilt in earth and stone in the 6-8th Centuries AD.
Kenneth MacAlpin’s victory over the Picts in 843/4 is said to have taken place in Tullibody - a standing stone in the grounds of Stirling University is believed to have marked the site of the battle.
Whilst the castle rock at Stirling is likely to have been occupied during the prehistory and early historic period, no evidence survives from this period. The first clear documentary evidence of a castle at Stirling can be traced to the early 12th Century, when Alexander I arranged for a castle chapel to be dedicated and endowed. Alexander later died at Stirling Castle in 1124. In the same year, King David I made Stirling one of the first royal Burghs in Scotland. The Church of the Holy Rude was founded a short time later. By 1140, King David I had also founded Cambuskenneth Abbey.
The Medieval Period (AD 1200- AD 1700)
Following the 12th Century, influences from England and the Continent began to spread across Scotland, coming after the Norman invasion. Close links between the Norman nobility in the south and the Scottish crown led to the initiation of new building styles and the conversion of much of the study area into a feudal state, the new order of which was exemplified by the landlord-tenant relationship which governed land ownership.
Reorganisation of the Church during the 12th and 13th Centuries resulted in the division of central Scotland into dioceses, each of which was further sub-divided into parishes. The medieval cathedral of Dunblane signifies its designation as a diocese. Throughout the Middle Ages numerous monasteries were also founded, often on the sites of earlier Celtic monasteries.
There are sites of battles from this period across the southern portion of the area, although the extent that these contribute to the character of the wider landscape is limited, apart from the limit on development. One exception might be at the designated battlefield area at Bannockburn that protects the site of the battle of 23 and 24 June 1314 which resulted in a victory of the army of King of Scots Robert the Bruce over the army of King Edward II of England. The exact location of the battle is not known, but the site is marked with a memorial and visitor centre which raise the visibility and understanding of the battlefield in the wider area.
Arguably the most significant feature in the landscape from this period are the castles and early churches that remain as significant features in the landscape, particularly in Stirling and Clackmannanshire. The preeminent of all these is the castle and royal palace at Stirling, which dominates both the city of Stirling and the wider low-lying lands of the upper Forth and the Carse. Built atop a natural quartz-dolerite crag, around 350 million years old, subsequently modified by glaciation to form a tail. The town of Stirling was developed upon this tail in its early period, surrounded by a 16th Century town wall, parts of which remain. The present castle can be dated to at least the early 12th Century, although the most prominent buildings date from the reigns of King James IV, V & VI. The restoration of the great hall towards the end of the 20th Century, and in particular its dramatic golden-coloured harling, resulted in one of the most significant impacts on the wider landscape in modern times – the sudden visibility of the building after restoration was notable, and it continues to mean the castle is significantly more visible in many distant views.
Other medieval castles that continue to have a significant impact on the wider landscape include the numerous towers around Clackmannanshire. Some have more of an impact in landscape terms, for example Clackmannan Tower which sits on a ridge above the upper Forth valley, whereas Alloa Tower sits in a now much altered urban context.
The 18th and 19th Centuries
Post-medieval times heralded a new political and economic climate, although the early period was marked with Jacobite risings, with two battlefields – Sherrifmuir and Falkirk II – dating to the first half of the 18th Century. Although designated as important historical sites, neither of these sites have any notable impact on the character of the wider landscape. During the 18th and 19th Centuries, the dramatic transformation of much of the landscape of the study area resulted predominantly from the activities of the landlords, who were responsible for the construction of numerous new mansions and designed landscapes, funded by increasing incomes from far-reaching agricultural improvements, industrial and urban development and international trade.
Innovations in mechanical engineering enabled the clearance of peat from the carselands between 1760 and 1840, instigated primarily by Lord Kames, a renowned agrarian improver and author who resided at Blair Drummond near Stirling. By incising a channel between the Teith and the Forth, and raising water levels using a water-wheel, cut peat was then floated downstream to the sea. The transformation of the lowland peat bogs into fertile, well-drained agricultural land was followed by the large-scale introduction of sheep farming into the highlands, resulting in the eviction of many families and the abandonment of settlements and established farming systems, the remains of which are still evident today within the mountains of the area. The introduction of sheep into the hills and mountains also contributed to the decline in heather moorland and native woodland regeneration.
Landowners who also contributed to the landscape improvements of the 18th and 19th Centuries included General Fletcher-Campbell of Boquhan Estate, Smith of Deanston House, Abercromby of Tullibody, the Erskines of Mar, and John Ramsay of Ochtertyre. These individuals were responsible for ditching and draining the land and for planting hedges. Much of their prosperity was also related to the development of industry in the area, resulting from new technological advancements. Weaving became established in East Stirlingshire and Clackmannanshire, due to the availability of good water, wool from the hill-sheep, and an adaptable labour force. Contraction of the industry commenced in 1890 due to the imposition of heavy tariffs on exported goods and resultant low levels of profitability. A cotton industry was also established, and a mill village built at Deanston, west of Doune, utilising the waters of the River Teith. Silver and copper were mined in the Ochils, and large-scale exploitation of the rich coal seams of Clackmannan District was begun by the Earl of Mar in the middle of the 18th Century, becoming successful due to the proximity of the coal to the navigable water of the Forth. The Devon Colliery beam engine and engine house at Fishcross are an important monument to the industrial history of this period. The availability of cheap coal encouraged energy-consuming industries to become popular in the area. Glass-making, distilling and brewing all became established by the later part of the 18th Century, and iron smelting was introduced in 1792. The availability of cheap coal, the proximity of ironstone, and the waterpower of the River Carron led to the development of a large number of iron foundries in the Falkirk area in the 1800s, many of which were established along the banks of the newly-built Forth and Clyde Canal. Many small mining communities developed on the Slamannan Plateau close to the pits which supplied coal to the foundries. Some of the pits were later mined for fireclay, which led to the development of a small but high-quality brick-making industry.
The outline of the present-day transport network of the region was also established by the late 19th Century: the Forth and Clyde and Union Canals were constructed to carry goods and passengers, in particular the products of the iron and fireclay industry; a substantial rail network, now mostly dismantled, spread across the lowlands and penetrated the mountains; and the building of roads often followed the rail network. Reservoirs were also constructed to serve the drinking-water needs of the growing population or, as at Gartmorn Dam, to provide a source of water power to the industries.
The region has a high concentration of Gardens and Designed Landscapes in the Lowland areas which were established and expanded during this period, and which transformed parts of the landscape. There is a concentration in the Stirling/Dunblane area, including the late 18th Century parkland and woodland overlying earlier formal designs at Blair Drummond, the outstanding rare example of an intact designed landscape exhibiting different styles of garden and landscape design at Keir, the 18th Century parkland at Kippenross and the parkland and lake at Airthrey Castle.
The 20th and 21st Centuries
Much of the railway network, particularly in rural areas, is now disused, although often still in evidence and of recreational note. Many are incorporated into wider path networks, such as the John Muir Way and the Rob Roy Way, which are part of Scotland’s Great Trails. An exception is the Alloa to Stirling passenger railway, which was reopened in 2008. In contrast to the general fate of the railways, road improvements and the creation of bypasses, motorways and dual carriageways have continued to be developed. The Clackmannanshire Bridge near Kincardine, built to improve vehicular crossing of the River Forth, opened in 2008 and creates a modern landmark in this vicinity. The Forth and Clyde Canal, which closed in 1963 following the extinguishing of its rights of navigation, was reopened in 2001 as part of the £83.5million Millennium Link. This includes the unique feature of the Falkirk Wheel, the world’s only rotating boat lift, which reconnected the Forth and Clyde and Union Canals for the first time in 70 years in 2002.
This is now one of Scotland’s top tourism attractions, with a popular visitor centre. At the eastern end of the Forth and Clyde Canal there has been further substantial recreational development with the site of the Helix, a large new community greenspace parkland project linking Falkirk and Grangemouth. This includes The Kelpies, 30 metre high horse-head sculptures marking the gateway at the eastern end of the canal, which form a focal point in this busy landscape.
Increased population growth has led to substantial suburban development around the settlements in the area. This is particularly so in the Tullibody/Alloa areas of Clackmannanshire, Falkirk, Bo’ness, Stirling and west of Dunblane. There has also been major regeneration and redevelopment of the Raploch area of Stirling. Further growth of factories and other industrial developments has occupied much of the land close to the Forth estuary, the most dominant of which is the petrochemical plant at Grangemouth.
Tourism has become an increasingly important to the area with heritage features such as Stirling Castle, the Wallace Monument, and Bannockburn attracting large numbers of tourists from the UK and abroad. The adjacent Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park is also visited in great numbers, being an easily accessible area to for both passive and active recreation. This popularity has resulted in the area being particularly busy in the summer months.
The hill ranges on the edges of the region have experienced the development of windfarms in recent years which are visible on the skyline from lowland areas; Braes of Doune windfarm, on the Uamh Beag range is widely visible from the Stirling area, the Earlsburn group of wind farms in Gargunnnock Hills shows on the southern skyline of the area from the north, with Craigengelt nearby; and the Burnfoot and Rhodders turbine groups are located on the northern face of the Ochils although these are not visible from the region as they do not break the skyline of the hills. Hydroelectric schemes in the Highlands have resulted in controlled water levels and altered stream courses in places.
Quarrying of dolemite along the eastern fringes of the Touch Hills, and of sand and gravel along stretches of the River Teith, and Allan and Blane Waters, has continued into this century.
The brewing industry continues to thrive, with Alloa becoming an important centre for this. The whisky industry is also important to the area with large areas of bonded warehouses on the carse of Stirling creating a distinctive landscape feature. The distillery at Deanston, housed in a converted cotton mill which was repurposed following the decline of the cotton industry in the 1960s, continues to be important to the economy of the area, as well as for tourism.
The extensive development of coniferous forestry, initiated by the then Forestry Commission, has had a pronounced impact upon the landscapes of the Highlands and, to a lesser degree, the Lowlands. There has been extensive new planting in modern times around Killin, Doune, Dollar, the western fringes of the Ochils, Gartmorn Dam, Forestmill, Slamannan and in the Carron Valley. Changes in agriculture have also led to the gradual loss of traditional field boundaries and the enlargement of field sizes.
Changing perceptions of the landscape throughout history have also been appraised through a review of the works of artists, travellers, poets and writers who have painted or written about parts of the study area.
It was during the 18th and 19th Centuries that perceptions of the Scottish landscape began to be recorded, as artists, writers and travellers took an interest in local scenery. One of the earliest artists to treat landscape naturalistically was David Allan of Alloa, who painted many views of Clackmannan and Stirlingshire during the latter part of the 18th Century. Stirling Castle has been particularly well captured by painters over the centuries, such as John O’Connor (1830-1889), Macneil MacLeay (1806-1883) Samuel Bough in 1876, David Law (1831-1902) and Charles H. Ashdown in 1911.
During the 19th Century the Highlands, once viewed as being remote and dangerous, became a focus of the tourist industry. Although the majority of travellers - including William Wordsworth, Queen Victoria, and several of the Pre-Raphaelite painters - converged in the Trossachs following the publication of Sir Waiter Scott's 'Lady of the Lake'. Many areas within the region were also visited, being perceived as landscapes of natural, unspoiled beauty. Writing in 1838, Lord Cockburn could 'scarcely conceive nobler prospects that there are from' Dumyat, in the Ochils. One of Scotland's finest songwriters, Lady Carolina Nairne (1766-1845), was inspired to verse by the stunning views from Castle Campbell, set high above Dollar in her poem “Castell Gloom” (the original name for the castle) in which she talks about “The lofty Ochils bright did glow”. Horatio McCulloch, the Victorian artist famed for his mountain landscapes, painted one of his rare lowland scenes in the Ochils, and the 'vacant, wine-red moor' of Sheriffmuir was recalled in the verses of the author Robert Louis Stevenson, who was a frequent visitor to the area. Another popular beauty spot was the River Devon. In his poem of 1787, 'The Banks of the Devon', Robert Burns celebrated the 'clear winding Devon, with green-spreading bushes, and flow'rs blooming fair' (Wallace, 1990). He was also impressed by the more spectacular gorges and chasms along the river, which attracted many visitors.
Despite agricultural and industrial changes in the landscape during the 20th Century, the landscapes of the region have remained popular with artists, writers and travellers throughout this century. One of the most renowned of these being the artist Sir David Young Cameron, who was constantly inspired by the contrast between the flat, farmed carselands and wilder, more rugged Highlands which formed the view from his home in Kippen.
The designed landscapes of the Lowlands within the study area also attracted interest, in particular the extensive policies of Keir, which were visited by Frederic Chopin and Benjamin Disraeli. The avenues and clipped hedges which contributed to the arcadian setting of Tullibody House, the home of George Abercromby, were also much commended, in particular by contemporaries such as John Ramsay of Ochtertyre. More uncommonly, the rich agricultural carselands of the Forth, and the breeds of farm animals which grazed on them, were painted during the late 19th Century by Joseph Denovan Adams, an artist who set up a celebrated art school near Stirling.
If you have any comments, please email