The name of Clan Wallace is writ large in the pages of Scottish history thanks to legendary patriot William Wallace. The clan struck fear into their enemies with their famous war cry of ‘Freedom!’.
The first member of Clan Wallace appears on the pages of Scotland’s history books in 1160, when Richard Walensis witnessed a charter by Alan, son of Walter the High Steward of Scotland. The Steward was given lands in Ayrshire by King David and Wallace also settled in the area. His name survives as the town and parish of Riccarton (Richard's town).
The name Wallace may come from the Old French word ‘waleis’ meaning a ‘welshman’; Richard Walensis was from the Welsh border area. But the Scottish form of the name may refer to a Strathclyde Briton - early records show the name was common in Renfrewshire and Ayrshire.
By far the most famous member of the clan was William Wallace, the freedom fighter and Scottish patriot of the late 13th and early 14th centuries. During the Wars of Scottish Independence William Wallace orchestrated a brilliant military guerrilla campaign that tormented the English forces. In 1297 he helped lead the Scottish army to a stunning victory over the English at the Battle of Stirling Bridge, after which Wallace was knighted as Guardian of Scotland. Wallace was also in command at the Battle of Falkirk in 1298, but there his forces were smashed by the English - up to 10,000 Scots perished on the field of battle.
He was ultimately betrayed to the English and captured. A show trial found him guilty of treason and on 23 August 1305 he was executed with the greatest possible brutality. Wallace was taken to the Tower of London then stripped naked and dragged through the city behind a horse. At Smithfield he was hanged for a short time but released while he was still alive. He was then emasculated, eviscerated and had his bowels burnt before him. Finally he was beheaded and cut into four parts. His head was stuck on a pike on London Bridge.
The Wallace Monument is a fitting memorial to this resourceful and charismatic leader. Perched on a lofty crag, it towers over the bend in the river where Wallace led the Scots to victory at Stirling Bridge. Inside you can see interesting exhibits about Wallace and his huge sword - it is 5 feet 4 inches (163 cm) long and weighs 16.2 pounds (7.3 kg). The lofty view from the top is well worth the climb up the stairs!
Several other Wallaces have made their mark on the world. Alfred Russel Wallace, developed his own theories on evolution independently of Charles Darwin, based on his studies of flora and fauna in South America and in the East Indies. Both theories were published simultaneously in 1858.
Must-see Wallace sights
This city really is an essential stop for any member of the Wallace clan. Some of the most shattering events in Scotland’s history played out here, and it’s a place forever associated with Wallace. The Battle of Stirling Bridge in 1297 has passed into Scottish legend, thanks to the cunning and ruthlessness shown by Wallace in defeating the English army sent against him. You can visit the area of the battle for yourself, where the imposing National Wallace Monument offers spectacular views of the surrounding countryside. You should also visit the indomitable Stirling Castle, a favoured royal retreat of the Stuart dynasty and the childhood home of Mary, Queen of Scots.
For a poignant counterpoint to this famous victory, head to the bustling town of Falkirk. It was here, in March 1298, that the English army crushed Wallace's much smaller force, with up to 10,000 Scots perishing on the field of battle.
This peaceful place is famous for the picturesque ruins of its abbey, but Dryburgh was in fact the first town to erect a monument in honour of Wallace in 1814. At nearby Bemersyde House, historic seat of Clan Haig, you’ll find a statue of Scotland’s national hero. You must walk up to Scott’s View to enjoy the amazing views over the Eildon Hills and across the Tweed Valley; this was the favourite outlook of Sir Walter Scott. Don’t miss the town’s stunning and atmospheric ruined abbey.
Roslin Glen Country Park
The glen is the site of the Battle of Rosslyn 1303 when Wallace and the brave Scots defeated a superior English force. Wallace's Cave is a well-known landmark within the park.
Visit the museum to uncover the connections the town is said to have with Wallace. Legend has it that Wallace married his wife Marion Braidfute in the town’s St Kentigern's Church.
As you stroll around this town in rural Ayrshire, you are walking through the first home of the Wallace clan, in around 1160. Certainly, the Wallace name was common throughout Renfrewshire and Ayrshire from the late 12th century onwards.