In the next of our series of road trips around Scotland, we drive along the famous Forth of Firth. On this road trip we discover some of the country’s most ingenious engineering feats from Roman times to the 21st century. The Forth Valley Tourist Route offers history and modernity as well as some of the prettiest waterside driving on any Scottish road trip along with spectacular views. The 43-mile route (69 km) might be one of the shortest Scottish road trips, but it certainly packs in the attractions as it makes its way from South Queensferry to Stirling.
Why drive the Forth Valley Tourist Route
The Forth Valley Tourist Route road trip is all about amazing engineering, whether it’s constructing a 4-metre high stone and turf wall back in Roman times or building a new motorway bridge. The Forth Valley Tourist Route gives you an insight into the very best of Scottish engineering. But other treats along the way include plenty of history, great palaces, pageants and the largest equine sculptures you’ll find anywhere in the world.
The Forth Valley Tourist Route offers something for everyone:
- Outdoorsy types have miles (and miles) of cycle trails to explore.
- Kids can dress up in period costume, meet Thomas the Tank Engine and friends, and adventure to their heart’s content at parks along the way.
- History buffs will have a bonanza with the likes of Robert the Bruce, William Wallace and Mary Queen of Scots all popping up along the way.
- And everyone will enjoy afternoon tea with scones and cake on board a vintage steam train. Ready to explore?
Highlights along the way
The Forth Valley Tourist Route begins with a trio of bridges at South Queensferry, itself a great place to explore. Allow at least half a morning at the start before you begin the road trip proper. And then sit back and enjoy 43 miles of the best of Scotland.
Crossing the Forth
The Forth Bridge, construction on which began in 1883, is a landmark in British engineering. The giant structure spanning the estuary ranks as one of the most elegant bridges in the world. See it in all its splendour from South Queensway. This is also an ideal viewing point for the Forth Road Bridge and the latest Queensferry Crossing, both jaw-dropping structures in themselves. If you’re starting this Scottish road trip in the afternoon, don’t miss the view of the three bridges at dusk.
Hamlet, Ivanhoe and Outlander
The next stop on the Forth Valley Tourist Route takes you west upstream to Blackness Castle, one of the most impressive fortresses in Scotland (and in a land with around 2,000 castles, that’s saying something!). One of the locations for Hamlet and Ivanhoe, the 15th-century castle was more recently a key location for Outlander. Black Jack Randall based his headquarters within its walls in the hit TV series. Film sets apart, Blackness Castle offers simply stunning views over the Forth of Firth and Fife beyond.
This Scottish road trip then makes its way to Linlithgow, home to the palace of the same name and a lovely market town. Linlithgow Palace whose walls witnessed the births of Mary Queen of Scots and James V now lies in ruins, but it still stands very regally on the shores of the loch. Don’t miss the shops, cafés and pubs in the town itself.
Anyone for tea?
The Forth Valley Tourist Route ambles north back to the Forth of Firth to the Bo’ness & Kinneil Railway. A must for train buffs, the vintage railway track offers a great afternoon out for all the family. Children get the chance to meet Thomas and friends in May, July and September, and all the family can enjoy afternoon scones and cakes aboard a steam or diesel-hauled train.
Don’t miss a visit to nearby Bo’ness where you’ll find the Kinneil Estate, home to a section of the Antonine Wall. This 60 km long structure marked the most northern frontier of Roman Britain and Kinneil Estate boasts the only surviving example of an Antonine fortlet. Time your visit for July and enjoy the Bo’ness Fair, one of the most colourful pageants anywhere in Britain and celebrated on the Friday between 12 and 19 July.
Kelpies and Wheels
The route now heads west towards Falkirk, well worth a long stopover for a trio of engineering prowess:
Giant horses – two 30-metre high steel sculptures of the mythological kelpies stand very tall in the Helix Park. Admire the towering steel structures from outside and in, and then turn your attention to the park. Lots of fun for the kids in the adventure sections and miles of cycle trails for serious bikers.
Falkirk Wheel – this area’s engineering feats continue in the world’s only rotating boat lift. The Wheel, built in 2002, joins the Forth & Clyde and Union canals and is a sight to be seen. If you can tear your eyes away from the Wheel itself, take a turn on the water in a pedalo or boat.
Antonine Wall – Falkirk is home to the best-preserved section of the wall. Some 8km of stone and turf structure are visible here.
Mother of all Battles
The most historic point in this Scottish road trip (and perhaps in the whole of Scotland) comes at the site of the Battle of Bannockburn. The grounds where Robert the Bruce and his small army inflicted resounding defeat on Edward II and his larger army in 1314 are today one of Scotland’s best visitor experiences. You can fight your own battle in 3D, learn about Bruce’s battle strategy, dress in battle costume…
And so to Stirling
The Forth Valley Tourist Route ends in Stirling, one of the loveliest cities in Scotland with a picture postcard location on top of Ochil Hill. Stirling Castle, built in the 16th century, stands proudly at the top.
Don’t miss the Great Hall and Chapel Royal here before you head to the National Wallace Monument. First admire William Wallace’s famous battle sword (the mere sight of which reportedly caused the enemy to recoil in fear) and then climb the final flights of stairs to the top. Your reward? Views of some of Scotland’s greatest natural landmarks including Loch Lomond and of course, the Forth of Firth.
Still unsure? Read our 10 compelling reasons to take a Scottish road trip.
Where to stay on the Forth Valley Tourist Route
Continue your feast of views at this stunning country property, just 20 miles outside Stirling. The elegant home set in 20-acres of private land sleeps up to 21 in plush and cosy comfort. Your views take in 16 Munros, visible from the first-floor drawing room. Add a full-size snooker table, a 4-oven AGA and roll top baths in three of the four bathrooms, and you’ve got the perfect spot for group holiday accommodation on the Forth Valley Tourist Route. Book your stay now
Not convinced you should take a Scottish road trip? Read more in this series:
- Fife Coastal Route
- Angus Coastal Route
- Argyll Coastal Route
- Borders Historic Route
- Clyde Valley Historic Route
- Deeside Tourist Route
- Galloway Tourist Route
- 10 reasons to take a Scottish road trip
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