The National Wallace Monument (generally known as the Wallace Monument) is one of Scotland’s best-known landmarks and a national icon. It commemorates Sir William Wallace, one of the most prominent and most well-recognized figures from Scottish history.
The Victorian Gothic tower is situated on Abbey Craig, a volcanic crag above Cambuskenneth Abbey, two miles north of Stirling. It was designed by the Edinburgh-born Glasgow architect J. T. Rochead and built between 1861 and 1869. It is said to have cost in excess of £18,000 at the time.
In 1296, Edward I of England, known as the ‘Hammer of the Scots’, invaded Scotland and the Scottish Wars of Independence began. William Wallace, the younger son of a Scottish knight, resisted him and led a guerrilla campaign against the English.
On 11 September 1297, the Scots, led by Wallace and Andrew Moray, defeated the English army at the famous Battle of Stirling Bridge. The Wallace Monument is located on a rocky crag from which Wallace was said to have watched the gathering of the English army, just before the battle in 1297.
The Monument has four levels above the ground floor. The top floor is also known as the Crown. A number of artifacts believed to have belonged to Wallace are on display inside the monument.
The Hall of Arms, which is on the first floor, shows how the Battle of Stirling Bridge was fought and won, with an illuminated map showing exactly where the events of 11 September 1297 took place. It also features a film depicting Wallace and Andrew de Moray in conversation after the encounter.
On the second floor is The Hall of Heroes, which tells the story of how Wallace was acclaimed as Scotland’s first national hero. The centerpiece in this gallery is the Wallace Sword, a 1.63-metre (5 ft, 4 in) long sword weighing almost three kilograms, which struck fear into the hearts of Wallace’s enemies.
Surrounding the sword are series of marble busts of famous Scots: writers, explorers, inventors, and statesmen. They include Robert the Bruce, Sir Walter Scott, David Livingstone, Robert Burns, and James Watt. On the third floor, visitors can discover the story behind the building of this Victorian masterpiece, now recognized as a national landmark.
After suffering defeat at the Battle of Falkirk in 1298, Wallace was betrayed and captured. Seven years later, in 1305, he was hanged, drawn and quartered in London, and has since become a symbol for Scotland and Freedom.
In 1996, Tom Church carved a statue of Wallace called “Freedom”, which was inspired by the film Braveheart. It has the face of Mel Gibson, the actor who played William Wallace in the film.