Stenhousemuir is home to two football clubs and two important Scottish football firsts. Namesake Stenhousemuir FC were founded here in 1884 while East Stirlingshire, from nearby Falkirk, were forced to move here in 2008.
The rivals share the age-old ground located just off Main Street, Ochilview Park, its name taken from the overlooking Ochil Hills. Forming the boundary with Fife north of the Firth of Forth, the Ochils provided the water that helped power the industrial development around Stenhousemuir.
Ochilview Park hosted the first floodlit match in the Scottish game, a friendly between Stenhousemuir and Hibs in 1951. Its long-term tenants were the first club to become a Community Interest Company (CIC). Stenhousemuir are mainly run by a supporters’ trust and their shareholders do not greedily cream off the profits.
This form of social entrepreneurship for the common good was introduced a year after Stenhousemuir’s then neighbours East Stirlingshire had failed to raise the cash to improve their own venerable Firs Park in Falkirk.
Since then, East Stirlingshire have dropped out of the Scottish League, in 2016, while Stenhousemuir have held on tight to a place in the third tier since setting up the CIC in 2009.
It’s not just the hills that provide Ochilview Park with local historic resonance. Its setting alongside Tryst Road is close to the location of the Falkirk Tryst – not a romantic liaison but a prominent livestock auction that generated regular income for Stenhousemuir. It died out in the later 1800s, just as three most important sporting bodies were set up around the same site. They remain in place today. Stenhousemuir Cricket Club was established in 1876 and the Tryst Golf Club in 1885.
The year before came Stenhousemuir FC, first playing at Tryst Park, then across Main Street at Goschen Park and, since 1890, at Ochilview Park.
After agriculture came Carron, Europe’s biggest ironworks, based at the next village over, close to today’s Stenhousemuir Sports Centre. Making the famous carronades that Nelson used to blast Napoleon’s ships at Trafalgar and, in peacetime, producing the nation’s red telephone and pillar boxes, Carron probably also provided the local football club with its nickname: The Warriors.
The combative term has stuck but now sits somewhat incongruously with a likeable outfit who, while never setting Scottish football alight (sole major honour: Third Division runners-up 1999), have many friends across the North Sea. Every winter, troupes of Danes and Norwegians make the bleak trek to Stenhousemuir to show genuine support and drink the bar dry at Ochilview Park. The Norway Stand was bought and paid for by the Norwegian Supporters’ Club, who also own shares.
Average attendances, though, are in the hundreds – perhaps reflective of a town of only 10,000 souls with two football clubs and Falkirk next door.
Edinburgh is the nearest airport to Stenhousemuir, 36km (22 miles) away. A tram every 10min from the airport takes 15min to Edinburgh Park station (£5.50), where a half-hourly train runs direct to the nearest station of Larbert (35min, £6.60). Edinburgh Haymarket, one stop before, is also direct.
From Glasgow Queen Street, a half-hourly direct service to Larbert also takes 35min (£7).
From Larbert station, First South East & Central Scotland bus Nos.6, 7 and F11 run into town but it’s only a couple of stops or a 10min walk, right along Main Street.
For all timetable and ticket information, see Traveline Scotland.
Stenhouse Taxis (01324 551 161/552 000) is right on Main Street.
The only hotel in Stenhousemuir is The Plough, just over Main Street from Ochilview Park. Seven affordable, comfortable rooms with flat-screen TVs and tea- and coffee-making facilities complement an equally wallet-friendly but decent restaurant, all overseen by an experienced, dedicated couple and chef. Non-guests are welcome to dine.
The other lodging is equally convenient for the football traveller as it’s right next to Larbert station. A hostelry for 150 years, the Station Hotel comprises 11 rooms and a bar festooned with framed football shirts (see Beer). Bathroom facilities are shared.
The nearby Commercial Hotel, slightly further from Stenhousemuir, is more a bar than lodging.
A couple of pubs are dotted along Main Street, notably the Crown Inn (No.242) and Gilmours (No.541), both friendly little locals with regular beers, regular regulars, and regular karaoke.
Each is an easy hike to/from the ground, which has its own match-day bars.
Of the local hotels, The Plough is more for dining and wine, while the Station Hotel at Larbert is just the ticket. Amid the railway memorabilia, you’ll spot the autographed football shirts, Stenhousemuir and East Stirlingshire, though the chatty regulars will have their necks craned to the sport on TV. Done out in dark wood, it’s homely and traditional, and as busy on non-match days as Saturday afternoons.