We fight not for glory, nor for wealth, nor honour but only and alone we fight for freedom which no good man surrenders but with his life.”
So intoned Robert the Bruce as he planted his standard on a drumlin mound by Bannockburn, and awaited
the arrival of the English army on 23 June 1314. Bruce thus stood on the threshold of history. Although it must be said that, like many Scots nobles, he had aligned himself with the English on many occasions before and was motivated by self-interest.
The English were fearful they would lose Scotland: only nearby Stirling Castle (there is also a statue of the Bruce here) remained under their tentative control.
When Edward II’s forces arrived they were 15-20,000 strong, of which 2,000 were cavalry. They were confronted by a Scottish force of only some 8,000, with a cavalry of approximately 500.
Today, the site at Bannockburn and the heritage trail give a great insight into those heady days when the
fate of a nation hung in the balance. Start from the
Battle of Bannockburn visitor centre which, in tandem with the adjacent monuments, is undergoing a revamp ahead of the 700th anniversary of the bloody event next year.
You can even watch an illuminating short film at the temporary exhibition.
Head out to the spot where Bruce took his stand, marked with a memorial rotunda and a dramatic statue of Bruce. This atmospheric, open setting is close to the general location of the first day’s battle. In the distance, Stirling Castle draws the eye. The main battle, the following day, on 24 June, took place at a disputed location on flat carse lands near the castle.
Retrace your steps to follow a path on the right. At the road, turn right to enter Chartershall.
Follow the river path
Just before the attractive old bridge over the Bannock Burn (a burn being Scottish for a small river), follow a path left, signed Whins of Milton.
This follows an old mill burn and may be very muddy initially. Cross a road and continue to Glasgow Road. Follow a road behind the garage, signed Milton Farm and turn left on to Colliers Way. After the old renovated farm, take the first right. The road soon branches – take the lower fork to cross the Bannock Burn.
An information board details another gruesome event in Scottish history – the 1488 Battle of Sauchieburn, in which the Scottish King James III died in a fight with rebellious lords.
Know the landscape
Walk on to pass above a wooded gorge through which the Bannock Burn flows. Many historians believe that certain points on this river were pivotal to Robert the Bruce’s success.
Bruce, acutely aware that the open landscape wasn’t conducive to his customary guerilla tactics, took a gamble. Realising that the English forces had formed a narrow front in marshy terrain, he decided to strike. The ensuing rout was compounded by a ditch, which prevented the English from being able to retreat.
As the English battlelines broke, Edward and his bodyguard fled to Dunbar Castle and later to England. Historians believe that up to 11,000 English were lost in battle and only a few managed to escape back to England.
The battle marked one of Scotland’s greatest victories and Bruce was hailed a hero. Nevertheless, the struggle
with England continued for
a further 14 years. Consider this as you continue to a junction and head right, following the sign for Coal Wynd. In 20m, at another junction, go left, steeply up the wynd. From the top there’s an excellent view of the Ochil Hills.
Back to the start
Then, walk downhill to The Brae and turn left. Before the bridge, go left on a path signed for Milton. Stay on the surfaced path, ignoring side paths and cross a bridge above a weir. A track leads to a road that will take you back to Milton Farm for the easy return stretch back to the visitor centre.
HOW TO GET THERE
The Battle of Bannockburn
visitor centre is on Glasgow Road, Stirling. By road, take the M80/M9, and exit at J9. Follow the A872 towards Stirling to reach the centre on the left. Stirling is well served by bus and train services.
FIND OUT MORE
Battle of Bannockburn
Glasgow Road, Whins of
Milton, Stirling FK7 0LJ
Temporary exhibition closes for 2013 season on 31 October. Access to the site grounds is
free and open all year.
0844 493 2139
25 to 27 Baker St, Stirling
A genuinely warm Italian dining experience full of classic dishes.
Forth Guest House
23 Forth Place,
Stirling FK8 1UD
Attractive quiet location just minutes by foot from Stirling town centre.
Castle Wynd, Stirling FK8 1EJ
Winter opening times (October to March) daily 9.30am–5.00pm
Adult: £14, child £7.50, conc. £11, under 5s free.
OS Landranger Map 57
Grid ref: NS 798 905