South Bantaskine Estate

(Approximately 5 miles or 7 kilometres)

          Although on the margin of the battle that took place on this hilltop on the wet and cold afternoon of the l7th January 1746, the area enclosed by the park was critical to the events of that day. The Hanoverian army had camped at what is now Dollar Park and had to climb the steep hill to get to the battlefield. By contrast, the Jacobites had a gentler climb as they approached along the ridge from the west. The Jacobites then drew up in line of battle with their left flank where the battle monument now stands. When they marched forwards to engage the enemy the left wing avoided the gulley that fonts the park on that side by moving southwards. This exposed their flank to the Hanoverian troops in the area of the park. They poured volley after volley into the Jacobite wing, which fled the field. Consequently the Jacobite commanders were not able to follow up the victory achieved by their right wing. The approach from the west had followed an old drove road that headed for the original site of the Falkirk Trysts at Reddingmuir. At the point where the footpath cuts off for Charlie’s Hill, stood  Canada Cottages. In the Second World War two HE bombs straggled the buildings causing one of the occupants to flee in panic.

          The walk commences at the car park in South Bantaskine Park. An old house at South Bantaskine was bought in 1854 by the coal master John Wilson and the wasteland around it laid out as pleasure grounds. In 1860 a new mansion was erected and the estate became one of the most handsome in the area.  The Wilson family had connections with the Jacobite events of 1745 and so commissioned a large stained glass window for the stairwell of the house depicting Soldiers of Fortune Lord George Murray, Lord John Drummond and Prince Charles Edward Stuart. During the Second World War the House was occupied by Polish troops and after the hostilities it was bought by the National Coal Board and demolished. The windows were saved by Falkirk Council and are now on display in the Howgate Shopping Centre. The parkland too eventually came into the ownership of the Council. One of its first acts was to demolish the Gothic style doocot there.

          Bonnie Prince Charlie watched the initial stages of the battle from Charlie’s Hill, which is commemorated by two standing stones.  From here we follow Lochgreen Road to the next track northwards. Further west the site of ‘Charlie’s Well’ is associated with him but has now been obliterated by opencast mining. Emerging from Tamfourhill Wood the field on the right contains a Roman temporary camp. This was one of many where the Roman army camped whilst Constructing the Antonine Wall. Below it is the new section of the Union Canal, constructed as part of the Millennium Link. Two deep locks take the water level low enough to pass through a tunnel of spun concrete under the main Glasgow/Edinburgh Railway and the Roman Wall.

          The Wall here is well preserved, with a deep section of the defensive ditch,  and a mound of the rampart. North of the woods was the Scottish Tar Distillery. Houses associated with the works can be seen in Lime Road. Wallside House was the residence of the owner, James Ross.

          We return to the Union Canal along Lime Road which gets its name from the cartage of lime from the Forth & Clyde Canal to the fields on Callendar Estate. Following the canal eastwards we come to the new aqueduct, from where there is a good view of Port Maxwell. This was the former terminus of the canal and passengers could disembark here to walk down the hill to the Union Inn for refreshments, avoiding the tedious passage down a flight of 11 locks. The line of these locks can still be seen on the ground.

          Further along is the new boathouse of the Seagull Trust. Adjacent to this was the NCB pit of Bantaskine. Walker’s Bridge is named after the owner of the brickworks that stood here before the pit   The steep rock face to the south shows where much of the sandstone came from to build the town of Falkirk.  The easiest ascent up the hill back to the car park is along the estate drive. A tall stone bridge crosses a narrow valley that was once landscaped with a wide variety of plants to provide a hidden garden for the Wilson family. No wonder that Georgina Wade Wilson took to painting them.

Geoff Bailey (2005)