Representing Clackmannanshire, the smallest mainland county in Scotland, the former port of Alloa has managed to keep a football club going since 1878.
Alloa Athletic, The Wasps, have spent most of that time at Recreation Park, now operating under its sponsored name of the Indodrill Stadium. With a capacity of just over 3,000 – the population of the next biggest settlement and former county town of Clackmannan – ‘The Recs’ was hosting the likes of Rangers, Hibernian and Falkirk in the Scottish Championship of 2015-16.
Originally having to compete in regional competitions such as the Stirlingshire Cup, Edinburgh Shield and Fife Cup, Alloa once had a local rival in Clackmannan FC.
Little is known of any games that might have taken place between them. Alloa had been formed as Clackmannan County in 1878, changed to the town name a year later then Alloa Athletic in 1883. Two years later, Clackmannan FC came into being, wearing blue-and-white hooped shirts as opposed to the gold and black of The Wasps.
Clackmannan’s short and sporadic stays in the Scottish League petered out in 1926 and the club folded five years later.
By then, Alloa had long become established as a league club and their rivals were Stirling Albion, one representing a waning brewing centre on the north bank of the Firth of Forth, the other a tourist destination of historic significance and twice the size. For all that, Alloa have long been the more prominent club both in the Scottish game and in infrequent local derbies. Athletic’s 3-2 win in the Scottish Cup in 2013 – featuring an early red card for visitors Albion and two goals in stoppage time – lives in the memory, though not as long as the 7-0 thrashing Alloa gave Stirling in 1998.
Edinburgh Airport is 48km (30 miles) from Alloa. From the terminal a tram every 10min from the airport takes 15min to Edinburgh Park station (£5.50). From there, a half-hourly train runs to Stirling, where you change for Alloa (overall journey time 1hr, £9 single).
The hourly Glasgow train is direct, taking 1hr from Queen Street (£9 single/off-peak day return).
Alloa train station is just north of the nearby town centre, a 10min stroll to the stadium. Everything is walkable – if you need one, local buses are run by First Group and Stagecoach. The main bus terminus is at Shillinghill, across from the Post Office and near the rail station in the town centre.
Based outside Alloa in Sauchie, S&A Taxis (01259 217 406/07496 737 498) offers airport transfers from Edinburgh for £45.
Now that the Claremont Lodge has closed, there are few hotels in the town centre. The only option is two-room Garvally House, a comfortable two-room guesthouse by West End Park, a 5-10min walk from town, 15-20min from the ground.
About 1km north-west of town, up the B9096/Tullibody Road, there’s a scattering of high-standard rural establishments popular for weddings. Still within Alloa, they’re a 10min ride into town by regular bus on the main road.
Just off the main road on Dunmar Drive, the Dunmar House Hotel comprises nine well appointed rooms, some with views across to the Forth Valley, a superior restaurant and traditional Scottish bar. Every spring, the hotel hosts Alloa’s annual sportsman’s dinner.
Across the main road, Inglewood House is a notch above, a Jacobean mansion containing six luxury suites, woodland lodges, a quality spa and upscale restaurant with private dining, all surrounded by 25 acres of countryside.
The former home of Skol lager, Alloa once had a profitable brewing industry. Today’s only local producers are Williams, craft-beer pioneers.
With the ground so close, bars in town are also handy pre-match. Where Drysdale Street meets Shillinghill, a cluster of hostelries and restaurants includes the Thistle Bar, with its popular pub food and karaoke, and local Wetherspoon The Bobbing John, named after an 18th-century Jacobite leader.
Alongside, the Star Inn also goes big on karaoke.
For TV football, you can’t do better than the Old Brewery, set behind the Thistle Bar, with 2am closing at weekends. On the same side of town, much loved local landmark the Crams Bar screens match action.
Beside the church at the corner of Burgh Mews, the Bank Bar is a lively party spot for a younger crowd.