Back and Forth

the myth and reality of river crossings at Stirling

Murray Cook (Author)

Stirling, Forth, Ford
Late Prehistoric, medieval


Stirling and its control of the Forth river crossings is often considered to be the most strategic location in Scotland. Current historiography suggests a restricted set of crossing points over the River Forth with a focus on the Fords of Frew as the only viable crossing point to the west of Stirling. This paper contrasts the historiography of the river crossings at the Forth and its tributaries (The Teith, The Allan Water and the Goodie Water) with the reality as recorded from a variety of sources: maps, historical accounts, military engagements between the Wars of Independence and the 1745 Rising, and site visits by the author. Attention is focussed on the publication of William Watson’s 1916 Rhind Lecture to this Society published in 1926 as The History of the Celtic Place-Names of Scotland. This volume misnames, confuses and aggrandises fording points at Frew (the Fords of Frew) which has been followed by subsequent scholars. In turn this led to a limited understanding of how the various rivers were crossed. This study reveals a variety of possible options rather than the assumed limited and restricted crossing points. The two main crossing points are identified (Drip and Abbey fords) and their origins and histories summarised.


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How to Cite
Cook, M. (2024). Back and Forth: the myth and reality of river crossings at Stirling. Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, 153.

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