The administrative centre of Clackmannan Council Area, Alloa is situated on the north bank of the River Forth 7 miles (11.2 km) east of Stirling. The settlement developed at a ford and ferry crossing defended in mediaeval times by Alloa Tower which was built on land acquired by the Erskine family around 1360. Restored in the 1990s, Alloa Tower is the oldest building in Alloa and one of the largest surviving tower houses in Scotland.
Other buildings of interest include the Burgh Chambers (1874), now replaced by the new District offices at Greenfield; Alloa Town Hall, built in 1888-98 to a design by Paul Waterhouse for John Thomson Paton, director of Paton's Alloa mills; the old Church of St Mungo's with its graveyard and 17th-century tower; St Mungo's Parish Church, built to a design by James Gillespie Graham in 1819 and one of Scotland's finest Neo-Perpendicular Gothic hall kirks; Bauchop's House, built in 1695 by a noted local stonemason Tobias Bauchop; the Mar Inn, built in the 18th Century beside a thriving harbour and reputedly a haunt of the locally-born artist David Allan whose father was shoremaster.
Alloa developed as a port in the late 18th and 19th centuries in association with expanding textile, sawmilling, rope-making, sail-making, shipbuilding, distilling, brewing (which dates from 1784), coal and glass-making industries. Although its port trade declined after World War I, glassware, distilling and brewing are still important industries.
The Lime Tree Walk created in 1714 between the Harbour and the town, formed part of an extensive designed landscape largely created by John Erskine, 6th Earl of Mar, who was responsible for establishing the deep water port with its independent Customs House. The 7th Earl built the Alloa Waggonway in 1768 to connect his coal mines to the north with Alloa Harbour. It had several branches and included one of the earliest railway tunnels in Scotland. Wooden rails were replaced with cast iron in 1810 and the waggonway operated until 1924. Part of the route now serves as a cycleway.
Alloa has a Trade Centre and Riverbank Industrial Estate as well as a sports centre, golf courses, and Museum and Gallery (Speirs Centre).