Travel itinerary: Wallace Begins

Wallace Begins: Following in the footsteps of Scotland’s Braveheart!

Get to know this Scottish Hero on our Wallace Begins trail.

Wallace led Scotland in its wars of independence in the 13th Century. But did you know that Paisley and Renfrewshire play an integral role in the life of one of Scotland’s most venerated heroes?

Although we know very about his early years, we do know Wallace was born in the 1270s in Elderslie, Renfrewshire. And it is believed he was educated by the monks of Paisley Abbey.

As the second son of a minor noble, he may have been expected to become a priest. However, as history tells us, his life took a very different direction…

Renfrewshire is the perfect start and end point for your Wallace Begins trail.

The Wallace Begins trail will take you through the national hero’s journey. Starting from his birthplace in Elderslie you will head to Paisley Abbey. Then onto the National Wallace Monument and finally to Dumbarton Castle.Along the way you will experiance key moments in his life in Scotland.

Wallace Begins one-day trail

We suggest you in Renfrewshire the night before for a two-night stay. This will let you get the most out of your time. We have a variety of accommodation options to appeal to every type of traveller.

  • 9am – Wallace Birthplace Monument, Elderslie
    Start your trail at the beginning of William Wallace’s journey, his birthplace.
  • 10am to 11.30am – Paisley Abbey
    Paisley’s medieval Abbey was a centre of learning and it is believed Sir William Wallace, was educated by the monks at Paisley Abbey. It also has a cafe and shop.
  • 11.30pm to 12.30pm – Lunch in Paisley
    Stay for lunch in one of the town’s many cafes or restaurants
  • 12.30pm to 1.30pm – Travel from Paisley to Stirling
  • 1.30pm to 3pm – The National Wallace Monument (seasonal opening hours)
    One of Stirling’s most distinctive landmarks, it overlooks the scene of Wallace’s victory at the Battle of Stirling Bridge.
  • 3pm to 4pm – Travel to Dumbarton
  • 4pm – Dumbarton Castle (seasonal opening hours)
    Follow the legend by heading to Dumbarton Castle on the River Clyde, where Wallace was held before being sent to London for his execution.

Now, head back to your hotel and enjoy a relaxing meal in one of the many restaurants in Renfrewshire – you’ve earned it!

Places on the trail

Wallace Birthplace Monument

A magnificent structure celebrating the “Knight of Elderslie and Guardian of Scotland”.

On the traditional site of his home in Elderslie, the monument comprises a series of sculpted plaques around a column reminiscent of a market cross. As you wander around the monument, you will see illustrations of the key moments in Wallace’s life. The original monument was built in 1912, however the bronze plaques were added in the 1970s.


Paisley Abbey

If you love awe-inspiring architecture, Paisley Abbet is truly a sight to behold. Also, with an incredible history, it’s a must-visit spot if you’re coming to Renfrewshire.

The Abbey was founded in 1163 by Walter Fitzalan, the High Steward of Scotland. He signed a charter at Fotheringay for the founding of a Cluniac Monastery on land he owned in Renfrewshire.

A number of monks came up from Shropshire to form the original priory, which proved to be popular. Indeed, in 1245, the priory was raised to the status of an Abbey.

A young William Wallace is reputed to have been educated by the monks of Paisley Abbey in the late 13th-Century. Make sure to pick up a handy fact sheet on your visit. Additionally, volunteer guides will be on hand to assit you with any questions you might have.

National Wallace Monument

This spectacular visitor attraction stands above the fields where Wallace led his troops to victory at The Battle of Stirling Bridge. The monument tells the story of the patriot and martyr who became Scotland’s National Hero.

Make your way through three exhibition galleries within the Monument; The Hall of Arms, The Hall of Heroes and the Royal Chamber.

The Crown at the top of the building is accessed via a spiral staircase, with a total of 246 steps. This climb is worth it as from the top you will enjoy 360-degree panoramic views across Scotland’s historical heartland.


Dumbarton Castle

Historians believe William Wallace was imprisoned at Dumbarton Castle after his capture by Sir John Menteith. He was then led on a 17-day journey though England – in chains – for his execution.

Dumbarton Castle is set high upon a volcanic rock in the Firth of Clyde. It guards the point where the River Leven joins the River Clyde. The Wallace Tower was built in the early 15th century and was originally four storeys high. It may have been used as a royal residence when Dumbarton Castle was owned directly by the crown.

The castle runs events throughout the year. You can get experiance what life was like for people living in the castle centuries ago. Make sure to check ahead with the castle to see what’s on while you visit.


Additional places of interest


In May 1297, William Wallace led an uprising against the English and killed the occupying Sheriff of Lanark and many of his men. With this act, Wallace sprang into the national conscience and started the First War of Independence.

The Royal Burgh of Lanark Museum houses a number artefacts that belong to the period of William Wallace. The site of the castle, where Wallace killed the Sheriff, still survives . Although, it is now a bowling green so some imagination is required.

The site of the Battle of Stirling Bridge

This was the first great victory for William Wallace and Andrew Moray in the battle of the First War of Scottish Independence.

On 11 September 1297, together with their army, they defeated the English forces of Jon de Warenne, 6th Earl of Surrey and Hugh de Cressingham.

Following the Battle of Stirling Bridge, Wallace was appointed Guardian of Scotland.


Are you feeling inspired?

We have deep history and heritage in Renfrewshire. You can find out more by exploring the fascinating stories of our towns and villages. Or you can learn more about the pattern that changed everything for Paisley. Or get hands on with our rich history of weaving at the Sma’ Shot Cottages or the Kilbarchan Weaver’s Cottage.

And did you know, we also have links to another of Scotland’s national heroes? Indeed, you can also read more about our links to Robert the Bruce, and his eldest daughter Marjorie Bruce.

Whatever you are looking for, Renfrewshire has something for you.