IT'S the home to the largest equine sculptures in the world and precious remnants of Scotland's Roman past.

The Kelpies, the Antonine Wall, the Helix, the Falkirk Wheel and Callendar House are all attractions that have helped see visitor numbers grow in Falkirk by 50 per cent in the last eight years.

Eight years ago, one poll chose Falkirk head of Perth and Stirling as Scotland's most beautiful town.

Now the Stirlingshire town, once at the centre of the iron and steel industry, has been revealed as the first Scottish winner of walking charity The Ramblers' Britain's Best Walking Neighbourhood Award.

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Falkirk beat nine other contenders across England, Scotland and Wales, including Elgin to take the crown, with support of one in five of the 12,000 who voted.

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The award helps to champion the Ramblers' view that walking in urban areas is not just important for improving physical and mental health and connecting communities, it is vital to tackle pollution, The Ramblers said that Falkirk stood out from the competition "thanks in part to a remarkable 383 miles of well-maintained and signposted paths, making it a fantastic place to get around on foot".

Wraight Shepherd, chairman of Stirling, Falkirk & District Ramblers, who nominated Falkirk for the award said: “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.”

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The charity said that several great initiatives to prioritise walking also contributed to Falkirk’s triumph.

They said that taking every day journeys on foot has been made easier and more and enjoyable thanks to efforts by the local authority to widen pavements and create more off-road paths.

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Well-linked routes around the town’s shops, services, bars and restaurants meant people can easily walk to the places they need to go, they said.

But it said the crucial part was how Falkirk residents have a great access to nature, with every community well-served by parks and green spaces.

The Ramblers were impressed by a planning standard introduced by the council that meant that every house should be within 400m of an open space.

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And those who want to explore more widely can do so on foot from the town centre, with many routes linking up areas of town and countryside in an interesting and unique way.

Vanessa Griffiths, chief executive of the Ramblers, said Falkirk was a "very worthy winner".

"Our vision is of a country truly designed for walking, where everyone is encouraged to walk whenever they set out on a journey, whether they are popping to the shops or going to work. Falkirk is a fantastic example of how this can be achieved," she said.

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“Walkable neighbourhoods bring not only the physical and mental health benefits of walking and being able to access green space; places where people walk regularly also have more connected communities. Making it easy to choose walking over driving helps to reduce congestion and improve air quality too, bringing us one step closer to our zero emissions target.”

Falkirk's attraction is mirrored in the view that it has become a "destination of choice" in recent times, with tourist numbers expected to soar even higher in 2019 and beyond.

Tourism generates more than £110 million of economic impact in Falkirk and employs nearly 2000 workers across the region.

In 2017 alone a record 3.2 million international tourists, 151 million day visitors and 11.7 million overnight tourists travelled to the region.

The Ramblers' said its Neighbourhood Award, now in its second year, celebrates the best of everyday walking; neighbourhoods where local authorities and community groups have improved local streets and routes for walking and with good access to green space.

The south London neighbourhood of Brockley took second place, while third Milton Keynes came in third in the public vote.

Former MSP Dennis Canavan and vice president of Ramblers Scotland, said: “Falkirk is an excellent place for walking because it has a variety of walks. It has that variety of different walks where the local community has gone out of its way to encourage walking and to make walking more accessible.

"What we’ve achieved here through improving the path network has brought more people to the area and encourages local people to get out and enjoy what’s around them. It connects communities, with people walking to school and to work. The local community has gone out of its way to encourage walking and to make local, neighbourhood walking more accessible.”