Alloa (/ˈælə/; Scottish Gaelic: Alamhagh, possibly meaning "rock plain"[6]) is a town in Clackmannanshire in the Central Lowlands of Scotland. It is on the north bank of the Forth at the spot where some say it ceases to be the River Forth and becomes the Firth of Forth.[7] Alloa is south of the Ochil Hills, 5.5 miles (8.9 km) east of Stirling and 7.9 miles (12.7 km) north of Falkirk;[8] by water Alloa is 25 miles (40 km) from Granton.[9]


Alloa from Clackmannan Tower with Ben Ledi and Wallace Monument in the distance
Location within Clackmannanshire
Area3.52 sq mi (9.1 km2)
Population20,730 [5] (2016 est.)
 Density5,889/sq mi (2,274/km2)
OS grid referenceNS900920
Council area
Lieutenancy area
Sovereign stateUnited Kingdom
Post townALLOA
Postcode districtFK10
Dialling code01259
EU ParliamentScotland
UK Parliament
Scottish Parliament

The town, formerly a burgh of barony, is the administrative centre of Clackmannanshire Council. Historically, the economy relied heavily on trade between Glasgow and mainland Europe through its port.[10] This became increasingly uncompetitive and the port stopped operating in 1970. Any future marina project is likely to focus on tourism with Stirling or Granton rather than importing or exporting goods since downstream ports like Grangemouth can accommodate larger vessels. The local economy is now centred on retail and leisure since the closure of major industries; only one brewer and one glassmaker survive today. Parochially, Alloa was linked with Tullibody. The towns are now distinct, albeit with Lornshill in the middle, and Alloa is about twice the size of its north-western neighbour. The population of Alloa was estimated to be approximately 20,730 residents in 2016.[5]


Alloa grew up under the protection of Alloa Tower which may have been built before 1300 AD.[11] The name of the town has had different spelling at different periods. In the charter granted by King Robert the Bruce in the year 1315, to Thomas de Erskyne, it is called Alway; in some subsequent ones, Aulway, Auleway; and more recently Alloway.[12] Dr Jamieson stated that the most probable etymology of the name was from Aull Waeg - the way to the sea.[13]

14th century

Sir Robert Erskine was granted the lands of Alloa and its environs in 1368 for services to King David II and he and his descendants were good stewards, developing the estates and innovating.

17th century

One of the earliest maps of the area was made by surveyor and cartographer John Adair in 1681.[14]

18th century

The Earl of Mar owned many of the coal mines, and Robert Bald, a local mining engineer, was contracted to provide water power from the Gartmorn Dam to operate the mines and other industries.[15] Good water supplies and the availability of barley from the carselands encouraged George Younger to set up a brewery in the 1760s and he was soon followed by others. Alloa became one of Scotland's premier brewing centres.[16]

Unfortunately, the 6th Earl of Mar, who oversaw many far-reaching developments including substantial harbour improvements, a customs house and the building of the Gartmorn Dam, was forced to flee the country and forfeit his lands after disastrously backing the Jacobite cause in 1715. However, his brother was allowed to purchase the forfeited lands and future generations continued the tradition of creative industry by launching a glass-works in 1750 and laying one of Scotland's earliest railways (a waggonway) from the Sauchie mines to down to the harbour in around 1766.[17]

Before 1775, the colliers were attached to the properties in which they were born and were virtual serfs or slaves, supported by the master. After an Act of Parliament which abolished the system, the colliers could move between collieries at will, and they were supported in their needs by the Alloa Colliers' Fund or Friendly Society which was founded in 1775.

Traces of the waggonway and the Gartmorn Dam can still be seen today, and although the dam is no longer used for energy production or water supply, it is well used for fishing and leisure purposes.[18] The Clackmannashire Library was founded at Alloa in 1797 and it contained upwards of 1500 volumes. As the 18th century closed a whisky distillery was established at Carsebridge by John Bald.[19]

In the 18th century the staple business of the port was coal with about 50,000 tons a year exported.[20]

19th century

In 1813 the first steamboat started to operate out of Alloa harbour. Rival companies later united into the "Stirling, Alloa and Kincardine Steamboat Company". In 1822 water was brought into the town and in 1828 a gas works was built.[21] While building a road to Alloa Academy in 1828, an ancient burial site was found at Mars Hill, with several finds[22] including two gold armlets.[23] Alloa Academy was built in 1824, being paid for by subscription.[24] The Alloa Swing Bridge was opened to the public on 1 October 1885.

20th century

After the improvements were made to the harbour during the 18th century, Alloa thrived as a river port through which the products of Glasgow manufacture were exported to continental Europe.[16] At that time, and until the 1950s, the main industry to the north and east of the town was coal mining.



Wool was also locally plentiful and in the early part of the 19th century, John Paton set up a small yarn-spinning business in the town, later establishing Kilncraigs Mill. Much of the Kilncraigs complex has been demolished but a four-storey Edwardian Baroque block of 1903-4 survives, with an extension of 1936. The buildings were converted to Council offices by LDN architects in 2003/4. Patons merged with J. & J. Baldwin of Halifax in 1924 to become Paton & Baldwins Ltd.

Weaving and glass making

The town itself continued to be known for its weaving and glassmaking industries well into the 19th and early 20th centuries.


Alloa was long associated with the brewing industry, with at least nine major breweries producing ales at its height. However industrial decline during the late 20th century has led to the economy relying more on retail and leisure. The first brewing firms in the town were Younger in 1762 and Meiklejohn in 1784.[25] Alloa ale was sent to London and George Younger had an extensive export trade to the West Indies, Egypt and the Far East. Alloa was also home to Alloa Brewery Co, developing Graham’s Golden Lager in 1927 which was renamed Skol in the 1950s.[26] Closures and mergers during the mid-20th century reduced the number of breweries to two and by 1999 after the closure of MacLay's Thistle Brewery, only one remained, the Forth Brewery[27] which became Williams Bros. in 2003.[28]

Malt distilling

In addition to the brewing of beer, Alloa is the site of the former Carsebridge Distillery. According to Alfred Barnard, the Victorian historian of British distilling and brewing, the distillery was founded as a malt distillery by John Bald in 1799. In the 1840s it was converted into a grain distillery and by the time of Barnard's visit in the mid 1880s the distillery covered 10 acres, employed 150 people, and had an annual output of 1.4 to 1.7 million gallons of pure grain whisky.[29] The distillery's owner John Bald and Co was one of five companies that combined to form the Distillers Company Limited in 1877. In 1902, a fire devastated the distillery, after World War I it was refitted and started producing yeast. This yeast production lasted until 1938. In 1956 the distillery was modernised, it expanded in 1966 and in the 1970s a new still house, cooperage and animal feedstuffs plant added. By 1980 the Carsebridge Distillery was the largest grain distillery in Scotland, however it closed in 1983 and was demolished in 1992.[30] One of the distillery's Coffey stills is now in use at the Cameronbridge distillery.[31]

Barrel cooperage

After whisky ceased to be produced at Carsebridge, the cooperage remained as one of two owned by Diageo in Scotland. In 2008, 30 people worked there rebuilding or repairing up to 400 bourbon casks, imported from the US, each day.[32] However, in 2009 the company announced that it intended to close the Carsebridge Cooperage and move the work to nearby Cambus.[33] The new Cambus cooperage was opened in December 2011 by the Earl of Wessex.[34]

Military history

Alloa is linked to the historic Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders housed at Stirling Castle. Many of the soldiers in WW2 fought under Montgomery at the Battle of El Alamein and Wadi Akrit where their commanding officer Lorne Campbell won a V.C. They were part of the 7th Argylls under the 51st Highland Division.


As of 2014, the temporary national headquarters of Police Scotland is located in Alloa.[35]


Alloa's most famous landmark is the 15th century Alloa Tower (National Trust for Scotland), the surviving part of the ancestral medieval residence of the Erskine family, the Earls of Mar.

Despite extensive internal and external alterations, the Tower retains its original medieval wooden roof and battlements, as well as some internal features. It is one of the largest and earliest of Scottish tower houses.

The town formerly contained a large number of 17th and 18th century buildings, but many were cleared with the expansion of milling operations and later with slum clearance in the 20th century.[36] However, Alloa does retain some historic architecture in the form of Alloa Tower, Tobias Bauchop's House (1695),[36] Inglewood House, Gean House and Greenfield House.[37]

Alloa Town Hall and Library was designed by the architect Alfred Waterhouse and built in 1886-9 at a cost of £18,008.[38] The Speirs Centre was built as Alloa's swimming pool in 1895 and was designed by Sir John Burnet of Glasgow. The Sheriff Court is by Brown and Wardrop of 1862-5.

Alloa War Memorial (designed 1920 erected 1925) is by Sir Robert Lorimer with sculpture by Pilkington Jackson. The monument to the South African War is also by Lorimer (1904).[39]


Alloa is served by many food retailers including Iceland Frozen Foods, Tesco, Aldi, Lidl, Morrisons, Asda, Co-op Food and Farmfoods. The Asda supermarket, opened in 2007, is adjacent to the site of the new railway station and was built on the land where the Alloa brewery once stood.


After the closure of the Stirling-Alloa-Dunfermline line in 1968 and the Devon Valley Railway in 1973, rail links to the town did not exist for 40 years up until 2008. The Stirling-Alloa-Kincardine rail link project[40] was completed in May 2008,[41] after much preparatory work, including drainage, and grouting of a large number of shallow mine workings with the laying of the new track commencing in September 2006. The project also involved the construction of a new bypass road and bridge which replaced a major level crossing which ran through the town. Alloa railway station reopened in May 2008.

Abellio ScotRail now operates an hourly service from Alloa railway station to Glasgow Queen Street via Stirling, Larbert and Lenzie between 0641 and 2241 Monday to Saturday and between 1041 and 2141 on Sundays. Passengers can travel to Inverness, Edinburgh Waverley and Aberdeen with a change at Stirling, however for journeys to or from Edinburgh passengers with heavy luggage may find it more convenient to change at Larbert, where Edinburgh and Glasgow services use the same platform.

The new railway opened for traincrew route learning in early April 2008, followed by the opening to the public on Monday 19 May 2008. This had been preceded by an official opening on 15 May 2008, where LNER Gresley K4 61994 The Great Marquess hauled four specials to Stirling. The return workings were hauled by Deltic 55022 Royal Scots Grey. Transport Minister Stewart Stevenson officially reopened the line.


The town has two high schools; Lornshill Academy and Alloa Academy. Also four Primary schools: Sunnyside; Redwell; Park and St Mungos. There is also a Focus School that is affiliated to the Plymouth Brethren Christian Church.

Religious sites

Alloa is currently served by two churches in the Church of Scotland, namely Alloa Ludgate Church (formed by the union of Alloa North Parish Church and Alloa West Parish Church in 2009 in the building of the former West Church) and St. Mungo's Parish Church. In 1978 the Very Rev Dr Peter Brodie (then minister at St Mungo's) was elected Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland. Four other former St. Mungo's ministers have held this position. Its current minister, the Rev. Sang Y Cha, is the first Korean to be ordained to The Church of Scotland. Alloa is part of the Church of Scotland's Presbytery of Stirling.

The United Free Church of Scotland has a presence in Alloa through the congregation at Moncrieff United Free Church in Drysdale Street. The congregation is served by the Rev. Jason Lingiah and is part of the Presbytery of East.

On Greenside Street, in the old Greenside mission hall (a mission of Moncrieff United Free Church), is Alloa Elim Pentecostal Church.

There are churches of other denominations in the town, including a Baptist church, and St John's Episcopal Church. There are also congregations of Latter-day Saints and Jehovah's Witnesses in Alloa.

The Catholic church, also named St Mungo's, is located in Mar Street. The church is part of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Dunkeld.[42]

There is a Musalla on Whins Road in Alloa. Muslims who are unable to attend a mosque can use this space as a place of prayer, worship and education. In 2003 it became open to the public.[43]


Alloa is home to one professional football club: Alloa Athletic Football Club. The club was formed in 1878 under the name of Clackmannan County but changed to its present-day name of Alloa Athletic in 1883. The team currently play in the SPFL League 1 but recently competed in the Scottish Championship, formerly the Scottish Football League First Division, after being promoted as winners of a play-off with Dunfermline Athletic, the season after being crowned champions of the Scottish Football League Third Division at the end of the 2011-12 season. Their home games are played at Recreation Park in Alloa.


Alloa's oldest newspaper, the Alloa Advertiser, was founded in 1841 as a monthly but in 1855 is became a weekly. Similarly, in 1845, the monthly Clackmannanshire Advertiser became the Alloa Journal.[44] More recently the Wee County News was launched in 1995[45] but went into liquidation in 2011.[46] Some footage of a woollen mill and glassworks exists on film.[47] River Forth (1956) B&W silent 15 mins

Notable people from Alloa

See also

References and sources

  1. Mac an Tàilleir, Iain (2003) Placenames Archived 25 December 2010 at the Wayback Machine. (pdf) Pàrlamaid na h-Alba. Retrieved 2009-08-08
  2. Ainmean-Àite na h-Alba ~ Gaelic Place-names of Scotland
  3. Eagle, Andy. "The Online Scots Dictionary".
  4. An alternative interpretation - Dr Jamieson, the author of the Scottish Dictionary, states that the most probable etymology of the name was from Aull Waeg, signifying the way to the sea or the sea-way. Lothian's annual register for the County of Clackmannan 1877
  5. Population of settlements, ClacksWeb Retrieved 2018-12-16.
  6. Field, John (1980). Place-names of Great Britain and Ireland. Newton Abbot, Devon: David & Charles. p. 23. ISBN 0389201545. OCLC 6964610.
  7. Chambers, Robert; Chambers, William (1838). The gazetteer of Scotland. [With plates and maps.]. Glasgow: Blackie and Son. pp. 26–28. Retrieved 31 October 2017.
  8. "OS 25 inch, 1892-1905". National Library of Scotland. Ordnance Survey. Retrieved 9 June 2017.
  9. The Alloa illustrated family almanac, district directory and general register for the county of Clackmannan for 1887. Alloa: MacGregor & Steedman. 1887. pp. 4–12. Retrieved 30 October 2017.
  10. "Old port in a new storm. Row breaks out as harbour seeks revival". The Herald. 13 January 1994. Retrieved 31 October 2017.
  11. Beveridge, David (1888). Between the Ochils and Forth: A Description, Topographical and Historical of the Country between Stirling Bridge and Aberdour. Edinburgh and London: W. Blackwood. pp. 307–311. Retrieved 3 July 2017.
  12. Brodie, William (1845). The new statistical account of Scotland (Vol 8 ed.). Edinburgh and London: W. Blackwood and Sons. pp. 1–65. Retrieved 9 June 2017.
  13. Alloa and its environs. A descriptive and historical guide. Alloa: James Lothian. 1861. p. 5. Retrieved 4 November 2017.
  14. Adair, John. "A map of Strath Devon and the district between the Ochils and the Forth". National Library of Scotland. Retrieved 6 July 2017.
  15. Brodie, William (1845). The new statistical account of Scotland (Vol 8 ed.). Edinburgh and London: W. Blackwood and Sons. pp. 26–27. Retrieved 9 June 2017.
  16. Hutton, Guthrie (2002). Old Alloa. p. 3.
  17. Hutton, Guthrie (2002). Old Alloa. Catrine: Stenlake Publishing. p. 3. ISBN 9781840332230.
  18. Council, Countryside Ranger, Clackmannanshire. "Gartmorn Dam Country Park and Nature Reserve". Retrieved 27 January 2017.
  19. Campbell, Valerie (22 November 2017). "Walk in the Past: History of Carsebridge Distillery". Alloa Advertiser. Retrieved 14 February 2018.
  20. Sinclair, John; Frame, James; Erskine, John Francis (1791). The statistical account of Scotland. Drawn up from the communications of the ministers of the different parishes. Edinburgh: W. Creech. p. 637. Retrieved 20 January 2018.
  21. Barbieri, M. (1857). A Descriptive and Historical Gazetteer of the Counties of Fife, Kinross and Clackmannan. Edinburgh: Maclachlan & Stewart. pp. 74–75. Retrieved 4 July 2017.
  22. Historic Environment Scotland. "Alloa, Mars Hill (47240)". Canmore. Retrieved 2 April 2009.
  23. Anderson, Joseph (1883). Scotland in pagan times. Edinburgh: D. Douglas. pp. 62–64. Retrieved 31 October 2017.
  24. Lewis, Samuel (1851). A topographical dictionary of Scotland, comprising the several counties, islands, cities, burgh and market towns, parishes, and principal villages, with historical and statistical descriptions: embellished with engravings of the seals and arms of the different burghs and universities. London: S. Lewis and co. pp. 38–40. Retrieved 6 July 2017.
  25. Archibald, Jannette (2003). "The Origins of Brewing in Alloa". Nae Sma' Beer (exhibition catalogue)
  26. Hornsey, Ian (2003). A history of beer and brewing. Royal Society of Chemistry. p. 615. ISBN 0-85404-630-5.
  27. "Scottish Brewing Archives: FAQ Alloa Breweries". University of Glasgow. Archived from the original on 14 October 2006. Retrieved 17 May 2008.
  28. "Forth Brewery Company". Directory of UK Real Ales.
  29. Bernard, Alfred (1887) Whisky Distilleries of the United Kingdom - Carsebridge Archived 23 June 2012 at the Wayback Machine
  30. The Scotch Malt Whisky Society, Carsebridge Grain Distillery
  31. Active Grain Whisky Distilleries - Cameronbridge
  32. Wood, Zoe (30 March 2008) Scotland rolls out the barrels again, The Guardian
  33. (18 September 2009) Diageo cooperage plan on track,
  34. Menzies, Johnathon (2 December 2011) Earl of Wessex opens new Cambus cooperage
  35. Authority, Scottish Police Services. "How Can I - Police Scotland".
  36. "Thistle Brewery Alloa: Archaeological Appraisal" (PDF). Stirling Council. 17 May 2001. Retrieved 17 September 2009.
  37. "Large scale Scottish town plans, 1861-1862". National Library of Scotland. Ordnance Survey. Retrieved 9 June 2017.
  38. "DSA Building/Design Report". Dictionary of Scottish Architects. 2006. Retrieved 6 September 2018.
  39. Dictionary of Scottish Architects: Robert Lorimer
  40. "SAK Railway Project". Transport Scotland. Archived from the original on 1 May 2008. Retrieved 17 May 2008.
  41. "First train in 40 years arrives". BBC. 2 April 2008. Archived from the original on 6 April 2008. Retrieved 2 April 2008.
  42. "Diocese of Dunkeld". Retrieved 2 January 2019.
  44. Alloa and its environs. A descriptive and historical guide. Alloa: James Lothian. 1861. p. 13. Retrieved 4 November 2017.
  45. "MEDIA Wee County newcomer makes the local headlines". Sunday Herald. 12 September 1996. Retrieved 4 November 2017.
  46. "Wee County News Publisher Plunged into Liquidation". allmediascotland. 24 June 2011. Retrieved 4 November 2017.
  47. "River Forth". Moving Image Archive. Templar Film Studios. Retrieved 4 April 2017.
  • "Alloa and its Environs: A descriptive and Historical Sketch", Alloa Advertiser, 1861

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