“MORE Than You Imagine,” reads the sign as you drive into Clackmannanshire. The smallest historic county in Scotland and one of the smallest council areas in population terms in Scotland (it ranked 29 out of 32 in 2021, the smallest on the mainland), so you could be forgiven for overlooking Clacks when planning your days out. But in terms of history, geography, attractions, crafts and food, it actually punches above its weight, though sometimes you have to look closely to find what you’re looking for. Here are 10 destinations worth a visit. And we haven’t even included Castle Campbell which is currently closed due to high-level masonry inspections. Keep that for your next visit.


Alloa Tower

There is more to Alloa than Alloa Athletic. Alloa Tower, which sits prominently above the River Forth, dates back to the 14th century. And behind its brute exterior is an impressive 18th-century interior, the work of the 6th Earl of Mar, leader of the 1715 Jacobite Rising before its failure forced him to flee abroad.

Mary, Queen of Scots and her son James VI both spent some of their childhoods in the Tower, but now the property is overseen by the National Trust for Scotland and is well worth a visit. And not just for the Italianate staircase, the original oak beams in the ceiling or the art on display. The view from the top of the tower is also pretty impressive. It is open Friday to Monday, until October 31.



Solsgirth Home Farm Market Days

Every second weekend of the month Solsgirth Home Farm opens its doors to visitors for an extensive market where stallholders from all over Scotland sell food and drink, arts and crafts and handmade soaps and trinkets. And you can buy street food from various vendors around the site. It’s also an opportunity to see behind the scenes at this 360-acre farm which dates back to the 18th century. Until 2019 it was a dairy farm but it has since diversified, producing honey, pork, beef and lamb. It sells chicken, duck and turkey eggs when in season. And you can also purchase emu and rhea eggs if you fancy a really big omelette. The next market days are July 8 and 9.



Alva Glen

It would be a little perverse to visit Clackmannanshire and not climb up into the Ochils. You’re spoiled for choice for hill walks here, but Alva Glen is always popular. The route can be steep and narrow and care needs to be taken, but it’s worth it for the drama of the rocks, the water and the vistas when the landscape opens up. Count the waterfalls as you go. There are at least five, including Craighorn Fall and the Big Fall, where the water pours down into Smuggler’s Cave.



Andy Scott’s Public Art Trail

The sculptor Andy Scott may be best known for The Kelpies just across the River Forth in Falkirk, but he is also behind a whole series of public sculptures around Clackmannanshire which can be spotted on roundabouts and gardens and town centres. You can download a leaflet detailing all of Scott’s sculptures in Clacks from the council website and then it’s just a matter of ticking them off. Our favourite is probably Fox Boy, on show in Nova Scotia Gardens in Menstrie. But look out, too, for River Spirit near Fishcross.



Muircot Farm Shop and Coffee Shop, near Coalsnaughton

For anyone seeking refreshments in Clackmannanshire this combined farm shop and coffee shop should be sought out. An extension of a small dairy farm run by the Wilson family dating back nearly a century, the Farm Shop was opened in 2012. It stocks a variety of goods from local food suppliers and craft makers. And make sure to book a table in the cafe, because not only is the food excellent, but the views of the Ochils from your table will be stunning (weather permitting). Breakfast is served until 11.30am, with light lunches on the menu from 12pm to 3pm, with tea, coffee and homemade cakes - which come highly recommended -  available until 4pm. Closed Mondays.



Polly’s Pantry, near Aberdona

Alternatively, Polly’s Pantry, opened in 2020 by husband and wife Michael and Polly Watt, is well worth a trip down Clackmannanshire’s back roads. There’s a farm shop and an art gallery and you can even grab a coffee and cakes. Everything you need for an afternoon out, in other words. And if you want a picnic then order one of their grazing platters in advance. Closed Mondays and Tuesdays.



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Gartmorn Dam Country Park, Sauchie

And where might you take a picnic, I hear you asking? Well, if you don’t want to climb up a hill, how about Gartmorn Dam, which offers a rather less vertical walking option? The reservoir, which covers 170 acres, is a popular destination for dog walkers, hikers and birdwatchers. Originally created in the early 18th century by the 6th Earl of Mar (yes, him again), to power the pumps that drained his mines, it is now home to birds of prey, geese, ducks, swans and grebes. And if you’re lucky you might catch a glimpse of a red squirrel or two in the trees.



Japanese Garden at Cowden, Dollar

Now this is a genuine delight. At the beginning of the 20th century Scots explorer Ella Christie returned from a trip to Japan determined to create her own Japanese Garden. She hired a female designer, Taki Handa, to turn a seven-acre site in the grounds of Cowden Castle into an authentic fusion of Japanese and Scottish horticulture. After being vandalised in the 1960s, the garden is now once again a thriving environment and a beautifully contemplative space. Birch, fir, alder, pine and Japanese maple trees can all be spotted and there are koi carp and trout in the pond. Now open from 10.30am to 5pm six days a week (closed Tuesdays), until October 29, it’s the perfect place to wander around and pretend you’re Lucy Liu or Uma Thurman in Kill Bill Vol 1 (though the staff might frown on you rocking up with a samurai sword, right enough).



Stone of Mannan, Clackmannan

Located in Clackmannan itself, on Main Street, this small 3ft x 2ft (0.9 x 0.6m) stone, which sits on a 19th-century plinth, could date back as far as the third millennium BCE. Also known as King Robert’s Stone or Bruce’s Stone - there is a legend that The Bruce left his glove lying on it - its more familiar name is believed to refer to the Celtic sea-god Manau. The stone was moved to its present site in 1833 beside the town’s Mercat Cross and the 16th-century Tolbooth, built, it is said, because the local sheriff didn’t want to hold prisoners in his own home. All that remains of the Tolbooth is the belfry tower.


Firpark Ski Centre, Tillicoultry

You can spot Firpark’s 120m (393ft) dry ski slope from the cafe at Muircot if you look closely, but it’s probably more fun to see it up close and on a pair of skis. The centre is open all year round and there are skiing classes available for all levels of experience and it also offers tubing sessions. (Yes, we had to look it up too).