VisitScotland and Historic Environment Scotland are encouraging more people in Falkirk to put their best feet forward to explore the wealth of wonderful walks across the district after it was named Britain’s Best Walking Neighbourhood of 2019.
Renowned for the majestic Kelpies at Helix Park, Falkirk beat nine other shortlisted contenders to win the coveted title in a nationwide competition by Britain’s walking charity The Ramblers.
Organisers said Falkirk stood out thanks in part to a remarkable 383 miles of well-maintained and signposted paths, describing the area as a “fantastic place to get around on foot”.
Following the award win both VisitScotland and Historic Environment Scotland have highlighted a number of key walking routes including the Antonine Wall and the John Muir Way.
The Antonine Wall is steeped in history and legend, dating back to 142 AD when the Romans first started construction on their massive barrier across Scotland.
It was built, occupied and then abandoned by the Romans in the space of 20 years, and ended up covering 39 miles from Old Kirkpatrick in West Dunbartonshire to Carriden near Bo’ness.
Despite the passage of time, substantial lengths of the Antonine Wall have survived, with some of the best-preserved sections resting in the Falkirk area such as the 8km long Watling Lodge.
The six locations where visitors can discover the Antonine Wall are Rough Castle, Kinneil Estate, Polmonthill, Callendar Park, Seabegs Wood and Watling Lodge.
All the routes are easy going and suitable for families with young children, elderly or less able walkers.
The John Muir Way meanwhile, a walking and cycling route created in honour of the famed Scottish father of America’s national parks, stretches 134 miles across Scotland’s heartland, running through Falkirk and Linlithgow.
A fun passport scheme for visitors walking The John Muir Way has recently been introduced allowing participants to collect stamps as they go along.
Another popular walking destination is Callendar Park where young walkers can enjoy the newly opened Roman themed playpark and ramblers of all ages can pay a visit to the historic five-star Callendar House to view a free permanent display about the Antonine Wall and also enjoy a cake and cup of tea or coffee in the venue’s popular cafe.
Neil Christison, VisitScotland regional director, said: “Walking is a fantastic and sustainable way to enjoy Scotland and the Antonine Wall presents an incredible experience by combining both history and stunning scenery.
“There are lots of walks to be discovered across Falkirk outwith the Antonine route and plenty of great visitor attractions and restaurants for walkers to have a rest.”
Recent studies carried out by VisitScotland show that visitors consider a walk in the country a top activity for their trip to Scotland and with Falkirk having recently won the prestigious Best Walking Neighbourhood accolade the town is ideally placed for local businesses to capitalise on this tourism trend.
Mr Christison said: “Walking tourism and the green getaways trend present a great opportunity for tourism for businesses in the Falkirk area and we need to continue to create world class experiences, events and attractions to keep up with ever-changing visitor demands.”
Patricia Weeks, deputy head of world heritage at Historic Environment Scotland (HES), added: “We’re encouraging everyone to get out walking and explore the history and heritage of the Antonine Wall, which is the most complex frontier ever constructed by the Roman army.
“There’s plenty to enjoy along the way, from the Roman-themed playpark at Callendar Park to our interactive Antonine Wall app which allows users to discover nearby points of interest and view 360 degree virtual reconstructions.”
Falkirk Provost William Buchanan and council leader Cecil Meiklejohn recently accepted the Britain’s Best Walking Neighbourhood 2019 award on behalf of the Falkirk area at a special reception at Callendar House.
Ms Meiklejohn described winning the award as “an amazing achievement”.
“We have some great areas to explore locally and with nearly 400 miles of paths on our doorstep, visitors and residents are not short of some great locations to enjoy.” she said.
“We’d like to thank everyone who took the time to vote for Falkirk and made us number one in the UK.”
Wraight Shepherd, chairman of Stirling, Falkirk and District Ramblers, who nominated Falkirk for the award, added: “We are really proud that Falkirk has won the Britain’s Best Walking Neighbourhood Award.
“It’s a testament to the commitment of the council working together with local communities that Falkirk has been transformed in recent years into a place that is enjoyable and easy to walk around, building a real culture of walking.”
For details about Falkirk walks visit www.falkirk.gov.uk/services/environment/environmental-management/paths-walks.aspx