The Abbey Craig
Before William Wallace…
It’s hard to imagine the Abbey Craig – the rock on which the Monument stands, being surrounded by water, but this volcanic outcrop once projected into a prehistoric sea loch, from which even whalebones have been washed up!
As this sea silted up to create a bog, it formed a barrier to movement, assuring Stirling of its place in history as the lowest crossing point of the Forth, with the land to the north referred to by the Romans as “an island apart”.
Given the significance of this crossing point, a series of fortifications were built to control it, including of course the castle, and three hillforts, one of which was on the Abbey Craig. It comprised three sets of ramparts, and it is quite likely that the innermost (still visible behind the Monument) was used by Wallace ahead of the Battle of Stirling Bridge. The hillforts had been destroyed in the 7th Century AD in a fire of such intensity that the stone melted as the temperature soared over 1,000°C, a process known as vitrification.
Prehistoric finds uncovered by archaeologists on the site have included an axe and a hoard of bronze spears.
Stone quarried from the Abbey Craig was used in the building of the Monument, and it is still possible to see some of the quarries. The final two blocks extracted (but not used at the time) form the base for the Wallace Sword in The Hall of Heroes.
The Natural History of The Abbey Craig
In the late 18th Century a Mr. James Brownhill from The Alloa Mill Company discovered that the coarse stone from the Abbey Craig was ideal for making millstones, and subsequently over 300 pairs were carved during the years of the Napoleonic Wars, when normal sources in France were unable to meet demand.
The woodlands of the Abbey Craig have a mix of broadleaved trees including Oak, Ash, Sycamore and Birch; conifers such as Scots Pine, Norway Spruce, and Yew; and Holly, Hawthorn and Blackthorn shrubs.
The Abbey Craig woodlands have a rich ground flora, with Dog’s Mercury covering the land in spring (indicating an ancient woodland), and Ramsons (Wild Garlic) can be smelt, crushed underfoot. In early summer, Bluebells carpet the woods and abundant mosses, lichens and fungi grow from the trees.
The Abbey Craig is home for many different animals – including roe deer, which can be seen year-round. Bird life is also an important feature of the Abbey Craig, and its trees provide food to support over 30 different species.
Click on the map below to access the Abbey Craig leaflet