“ Address: Callendar Park / Falkirk / FK1 1YR / Scotland / Tel: 01324 503770 „
Callendar Park in Falkirk, central Scotland, surrounds a large baronial mansion that's open to the public all year round. Worth a visit at any time, the finely landscaped park boasts a boating lake, extensive woodland walks, golf course, mini-golf and a well-equipped children's play area. The mansion, Callendar House, now owned by Falkirk Council, contains a museum, gallery and several other attractions.
Seasonal highlights include the quirky swan boats on the lake in summer, as well as real wildlife throughout the year! This review is based on over three decades of enjoying the park and all it has to offer.
For official information, including illustrations and leaflets, please refer to related links below.
~~Visiting the park~~
As Callendar Park is actually in the town, it's easily accessible by public transport, and it also has ample parking facilities which we frequently use.
The park is particularly popular with dogwalkers and runners at most times of year, along with visitors to the house. The children's play area and boating facilities are more seasonal. But there are also several features of lasting historical interest, including the remains of the Roman Antonine Wall that forms a boundary between the park and main road into the town centre.
For easiest access to the house and its immediate surroundings by car, I recommend turning left from the main access approach road, past the blocks of flats and down by the stables. You can normally find a space to park under the trees and it's just a short step to the front of the house, across a flat grass space, or by the path, which may be drier in damp weather.
Disabled parking is available right in front of the house.
I first visited the park just over 30 years ago when I moved back from London to work briefly at Callendar Park College, about which more later ... At that time, as I recall, the park was a lovely place for a lunchtime stroll - still is - but the house was in a somewhat dilapidated state. Since then, the building has been extensively restored. Although the college sadly is no more, we remain regular visitors to the park, both with and without the dogs.
~~Principal features of the park~~
* Boating lake
* Woodland walks
* Callendar House and 18th century landscaped grounds - admission free
* Park Gallery - admission free with exhibitions and events programme
* Museum & Archives
* Antonine Wall remains
* Golf course
* Crazy golf
* Gift shop
* Stables Teashop
* Children's play area - including slides and facilities for toddlers
* Seasonal facilities including go-karting, bouncy castles etc.
* Kiosk - for refreshments - with toilet facilities adjacent
* Picnic benches throughout
~~The House and Estate~~
Callendar House really merits a separate review but the main points of interest are perhaps its costumed interpreters and the impressive Georgian kitchen. You can usually tell when this is busy from the plume of smoke which issues from its chimney at times, strongly evoking a former era, though strangely at odds nowadays with the more health-conscious activities in the grounds outside!
The house and adjacent land are now owned and managed by Falkirk Council. For opening hours and admission details, full information about the house, estate, museum, archives and gallery is available from the council website. See link below.
We've enjoyed several exhibitions here in recent years, as well as a full visit to the house itself some time ago. I believe at one point the ballroom was available for functions. It certainly commands impressive views over the park and woodlands. For current information see contacts below.
~~The lake and woodland walks~~
Walking round the back of the house, following the extensive woodland paths, you can observe not just the natural wildlife and mature parkland but also the distinctive swan boats that can be hired on the lake during the season!
The paths are well laid out through mature woodlands that slope gently upwards to the south of the house, effectively framing the park together with the outlined Roman wall to the north. This is our preferred area for a walk. But if time is pressing or the weather inclement, we find a quick circuit of the house is still pleasant enough.
~~Callendar Park College (former)~~
Callendar Park College of Education (CPCE) was formerly located just to the east of the main park. The college was closed in a previous round of cuts in the early 1980s. It was established as a primary teacher training institution in the baby boom era of the 1960s and latterly merged with the Forth Valley College of Nursing & Midwifery, before finally being relocated to Edinburgh as part of the former Moray House College of Education. Moray House is now part of Edinburgh University.
The low-rise 1960s campus buildings at Callendar Park were demolished in the 1980s and eventually replaced by a business park on the site of the former campus.
For a more detailed history of CPCE, see link below to Moray House School of Education.
According to its website (see below): 'Callendar Business Park comprises 8 office buildings set around a common courtyard.' There appear to be units currently to let and there are government buildings nearby.
Interestingly, FalkirkOnline.net still describes this as 'Callendar Business Park Development Site' ...
After the local authority purchased the house and land in the 1960s, a number of high-rise flats were built adjacent to the park. Surprisingly, these don't seem to have had a significant visual impact whilst in the grounds ... and the view from the top floors must be something to behold!
~~Bigging it up (no more)~~
The annual 'Big in Falkirk' festival used to be held in the park but seems to have been axed since last year (2010). Let's hope it's not another permanent victim of the cuts ...
Still plenty to see and do at Callendar Park throughout the year, both outdoors and in.
~~Address and Contacts~~
~~House opening hours (taken from Falkirk Online)~~
Monday to Saturday: 10.00am - 5.00pm (throughout the year)
Sunday: 2.00pm - 5.00pm (April - September)
Last Admission 4.00pm
Note the unusual spelling 'Callendar', not to be confused with the town of Callander to the north, or indeed the noun 'calendar'!
* Falkirk Council website : www.falkirk.gov.uk
* Falkirk Online : www.falkirkonline.net
* Callendar Park College of Education [a history] : www.education.ed.ac.uk/aboutus/morayhouse/history/
* Callendar Business Park: www.callendarbusinesspark.co.uk/Home.aspx
[© SteveS001 2011, 2012. This review also appears with photographs on other review sites]
When I knew I was going to be in the Falkirk area for a day with four children between 8 and 13 to keep entertained I was at a complete loss to how I was going to keep them all happy. My nephew regularly visits his granny who lives a few miles away from Falkirk so I turned to him for advice and he mentioned Callendar Park as it is somewhere he had visited many times and had a lot of fun. I did a quick search on the net before we set out and the website promised me a stately home as well as lots of kid friendly activities and best of all entry to the park and house were free.
I thought that my sat nav was taking me on a wild goose chase when it took me into Falkirk town centre and then told me I had arrived. Most stately homes are set deep in the countryside but this one is in the middle of town and is overlooked by huge towerblocks. There is ample free parking, the signs direct you to two different car parks for the house or park but you can walk easily from either car park to either attraction.
The park is full of hills and mature trees with enormous roots and the boys had loads of fun climbing amongst them as I walked along the path. The first thing the kids spotted was the go-karts and of course the younger boys had to have a go. The go-karts are not exactly impressive, the ten year old was just small enough to ride and him and his 8 year old brother spent around 10 minutes going round the tiniest track I have seen.
Next on the agenda was a game of crazy golf. Again, the course was far from impressive with 9 holes with some lame looking obstacles to navigate around but again it was enough to keep the kids happy. I paid around £10 for two rides on the go karts and for five to play crazy golf so it was not expensive. There is a small boating pond with boats to hire but the boats were not on the pond in April.
After all the golf and driving it was time to get some lunch. The catering on site is provided by an on site kiosk and the only hot food were microwaved hamburgers and cheesburgers at a cost of £1.50. The food was pretty awful but again enough to keep kids happy, the kids also had ice creams and I had a coffee which was surprisingly nice considering it came from a machine.
Next it was time to go and visit the house which unusually is managed by Falkirk council and not the National Trust. As soon as we entered we were welcomed by a guide and given floor plans and maps to help us find our way around. You make your own way around the maze of corridors and the rooms tell the history of the house and its inhabitants over the past 600 years. The top floor also tells the story of William Forbes who was a copper merchant who owned the house at one point.
The highlight of the visit was visiting the kitchens which had been refurbished to the style of an 1825 kitchen and there was a woman in period dress giving talks and baking cakes which you are free to sample. This was the only interactive part of the exhibition with visitors free to touch some of the exhibits and imagine what life was like in the kitchen.
The temporary exhibition which is on during 2010 is called So Near & Yet So Far is an exhibition of enamel signs which were hung on the walls of the big exhibition room. It was mildly nostalgic looking at these old adverts but not something that the kids enjoyed.
I was fairly disappointed by Callendar House, it is certainly not the grandest stately home I have seen and I don't really enjoy hearing about the history of the great and good and prefer to hear about the common man or woman in the street. There were many rooms that were roped off and the public could not enter due to them either being full of valuables or the fact they are function rooms and another room houses administration offices.
We never managed to visit Callendar Woods which form part of the grounds but they look very pretty and there are several walks which take around an hour and take you past some more historic buildings including the Antoinette Wall which is now a UNESCO world heritage site. The woods are obviously very popular with dog walkers, we saw dozens of owners and their animals heading towards the woods.
Before we went home the kids wanted to play in the park and this was built in the style of a castle and had sand pits with diggers, tyre swings, climbing frames and a huge slide. This allowed the kids to run around and burn of some of their excess energy.
Callendar House and Park are good enough attractions but I wouldn't go out of my way to visit them again. The fact the attractions are free and there is plenty for the kids to do is a plus point but it was neither the best historic attraction or play area I have ever seen. It's a good place to visit with kids if you are in the area but not one of the best attractions in Scotland.
Castles / Stately Homes