IT HELPS to get high. Maybe you could scramble up to the top of Dumyat in the Ochils before winter closes in. Or climb up all 246 steps of the Wallace Monument. Or you could even park up on the esplanade of Stirling Castle and look down over Gowan Hill to see the Forth Valley stretching away to the east.

When you do, what you will note is the shining thread of the River Forth, progressing towards the sea in great, looping meanders at this point in its journey, lassoing tracts of rich, fertile carseland as it goes. Taking the long rather than the short route, you might say.

The Forth rises at Loch Ard and broadens out after Alloa. But between source and the Firth, the river is at its most majestic, a liquid line snaking sinuously through the heart of Scotland’s landscape and history.

Because the river is a form of time travel, pulling together ancient historical sites (Dumyat means the fort of the Mytae, after all) and 20th-century industry at Kincardine and Grangemouth.

Along its banks men and women have lived and farmed and worshipped down the centuries. On its banks English soldiers were cut down by Wallace’s men in 1297.

Read More: Tour de Forth, part one

Read More: Tour de Forth, part two

In a loop of land separated from the rest of Stirling by the river, the 12th-century Cambuskenneth Abbey sits. Robert the Bruce staged parliaments here in the 14th century and it is the final resting place of that unloved 15th-century ruler James III and his wife Margaret of Denmark. But the river often insulates it from the attention of tourists these days.

After Alloa, the River Forth becomes the site of industry. Grangemouth port is Scotland’s largest container terminal. From this point on the Forth becomes part of a global network of ships and shipping.

But upriver it feels like it belongs more to nature than to man. The river has survived pollution, contamination and Victorian land drainage schemes and now at low tide the mud flats provide ample food for visiting birds. You might spot redshanks, knots, dunlins and oystercatchers in winter.

It is a river for all seasons. Cross the Clackmannan Bridge on a clear, still summer evening and look upriver. As you do, the landscape opens up before you. The Wallace Monument, the Ochils and beyond to the Trossachs all stretch out before you like a picture book vision of the nation (albeit with added electricity pylons).

And the river runs through it, silently, like time itself.