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River Forth to Cross Scotland

Updated on February 21, 2009

The Forth gave Stirling a key place in Scottish history. Until 1936 it was the first point from the east where the river could be crossed by road. The main traffic on Scottish roads until the late nineteenth century was the cattle brought south by drovers to be sold in the great market at Falkirk. The drovers crossed the Forth at Stirling. Where they watered the cattle in the river before the last stage of the journey to Falkirk, about 20 kilometres further on. The first railway north of Stirling also crossed the Forth There This railway brought an end to droving, because it was cheaper to load cattle on to trains than to drive them south on foot.

 For 500 years, from the thirteenth century to the eighteenth, there was a series of wars between the english and the Scots. A vocanic rock rises over 120 metres above the low-lying and marshy ground beside the river, commanding a view in all directions and with sheer cliff-faces on two sides. It was the perfect site for a fort, and from the twelfth to the seventeenth century Stirling Castle was the headquarters and palace of the Scottish kings. The Present-day castle at Stirling was mostly built between 400 and 500 years ago, but there has been a castle on the site for well over 1000 years.

The land below the castle was the scene of two famous battles in Scottish history. In 1297 Scotland’s great national hero William Wallace soundly defeated an invading English army at the Battle of Stirling Bridge, catching the soldiers at a disadvantage when they were half-way across. In 1314 another famous Scots leader, Robert the Bruce, led his army to victory over the English at the Battle of Bannockburn, four kilometres away on the Forth flood plain.

Below Stirling, the Forth continues to wind through an area known as the ‘Link of Forth’ as far as alloa, where it begins to open out into the Firth of Forth.  The word ‘firth’ is used in Scotland to describe an inlet of the sea which is the mouth of a river. Other Scottish river valleys which called “firth” include the Moray Firth, the Dornoch Firth, the Firth of Cromarty and the Firth of Clyde.

Most of the old industries of the Firth of Forth, such as iron-making, coal-mining and shipbuilding, have gone. But, since the discovery of North Sea oil in the 1960s, Grangemouth and Mossmoran in Fife have become important centres for oil and petrochemicals. Petrochemicals are loaded at Grangemouth  docks and oil is exported through a specially-built terminal at Hound Point, opened in 1975.

The south bank of the Forth is dominated by Edinburgh. scotland’s capital city since 1437 and now the site of the new Scottish parliament.

The Forth gave Stirling a key place in Scottish history.
The Forth gave Stirling a key place in Scottish history.

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