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Things to do in Alexandria, Central Scotland

Christie Park Alexandria
Christie Park © Eddie Mackinnon [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Tucked in the Vale of Leven in Central Scotland, Alexandria is a large town 20 miles north west of Glasgow. It is on the busy A82 which links Glasgow with Loch Lomond and is often referred to locally as "The Vale".

Once five separate communities of Renton, Bonhill, Jamestown, Balloch and Alexandria, the villages have gradually merged together, yet they have all retained their own identities as separate districts.

Renton to Alexandria following River Leven
Renton to Alexandria following River Leven © Igor D via Flickr

The oldest settlement was Bonhill which had a church mentioned in 1320. Until the 18th century Alexandria was a mainly rural area with fishing and farming but this changed with the development of the dye industry.

Dumbarton Castle
Dumbarton Castle © Robert Orr via Flickr

Alexandria sits on the River Leven, close to Dumbarton. With its endless flow of clean water from the river, Alexandria became an important centre for cotton manufacture, performing bleaching and printing processes.

The town grew from 300 inhabitants in the early 18th century to over 12,000 by 1881. Gradually cheaper overseas production led to the demise of the textile industry.

In 1906 the Argyll Motor Company moved to Alexandria from Glasgow and opened the most modern factory in Scotland with a grand building which had a marble entrance and staircase and a grand dome above. Check out the carving of the car which still sits above the doorway.

Despite its promising start the business failed in 1914 and the building was used by the Royal Navy Torpedo Factory. The torpedoes were tested nearby at Loch Long.

River Leven by Night
River Leven by Night © Mark McQuade via Flickr

From 1970 Plessey was a major employer in the area and when it was threatened with closure, the workers staged a sit-in in protest.

For a time Alexandria was known as the only unemployment office to have the insignia of Edward VIII over the door. When the building was finally closed and redeveloped as private housing, the insignia remained in place.

Fountain Alexandria
Fountain © Eddie Mackinnon [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

In the 1970s the town centre was knocked down and replaced with a new town centre layout.

Present Day Alexandria

Alexandria is the main shopping centre for the 20,000 residents that live in the area.

Main Street Alexandria
Main Street © Eddie Mackinnon [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Over the last 20 years it has gradually been developed into a modern town centre with new housing, plenty of shops and an improved traffic system.

It has good bus services and the Balloch branch line makes it easy to reach Glasgow by train.

It is said to be the only town in Britain to have a pub and a railway station in the middle of a roundabout.

Row of Shops Alexandria
Row of Shops © Eddie Mackinnon [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

The town's main claim to fame was that the grandparents of novelist A.J.Cronin once owned a pub in Bridge Street.

Things to Do Around Alexandria

Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park is nearby and offers plenty of opportunities for walking, cycling, camping, horseback riding and wildlife watching.

A82 at Overton Road Alexandria
A82 at Overton Road © Eddie Mackinnon [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

The loch is used for a host of waterbased activities such as kayaking, canoeing, sailing, windsurfing, waterskiing and fishing.

The Loch Lomond Golf Club is within easy reach from the town and is well known as the home of the Scottish Open since 1996. It has a challenging course surrounded by gorgeous mountain scenery and the sparkling waters of the loch.

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