The rugged Ochil Hills stretch for almost forty miles to the northeast of Stirling and forms a steep-faced range that drops down to the plain of the Forth Valley and is sliced by a series of wooded glens. Sitting comfortably against the souther slope of The Ochils are the Hillfoot villages - a string of settlements. The Hillfoot villages are famed for being the centre of Scotland's wool production for centuries competing only with the Scottish Borders.
The settlements here include Alva - you can find a tourist office and a visitor centre here and Alloa - a noted centre for brewing beer.
The Ochil Hills rise sharply from the flat flood-plain of the River Forth and stretch northeast, throughClackmannanshire, into Perth and Kinross. This unfashionable and little-known range of hills is characterized by the shapely, rounded tops divided by steep-sided glens. There are good walking opportunities and some surprisingly dramatic scenery. At their feet, the pretty little towns and villages known collectively as 'the Hillfoots' were once Scotland's second-largest wool-producing region, after the Borders. Today visitors can explore the region's tweedy heritage on the Mill Trail, starting in Alva and linking the main mill centres along the A91, which runs east all the way to St Andrews in Fife.
A few miles northeast of Stirling, in the village of Blairlogie, is the crumbling 16th-century Logie Old Kirk and its ancient graveyard full of fascinating old stones, beautifully located by Logie Burn.
A few miles further east is the little town of Alva, home to the Mill Trail Visitor Centre, in Glentana Mill on Stirling Street. Here you'll see what life was like for mill workers in the mid-19th century (pretty grim apparently), and learn about the history of textile production from the Industrial Revolution onwards. Jan-Jul and Sep-Dec 1000-1700; Aug 0900-1700. Free. Tel. 01259-769696.