THE Alva Old Kirkyard is one of seven historic kirkyards which are part of the Historic Kirkyards Trail along the Hillfoots.

The others are Logie Old Kirk, Tillicoultry's Upper and Lower Kirkyards, Tait's Tomb, the only private burial ground included, Dollar, and Muckhart.

Within the Alva Kirkyard once stood the parish church dedicated to St Serf. The lands were granted by Cambuskenneth Abbey between 1170 and 1173.

In the 17th century, the old church was rebuilt and altered on several occasions, first by the Bruce family who built the new church in 1632, then by the Erskines who bought the Alva Estate four years later.

John Johnstone purchased the estate in 1775 from James Erskine, Lord Alva.

In 1789 Johnstone engaged noted Enlightenment architects Robert and James Adam to design the mausoleum for his late wife Elizabeth Caroline Keene who had died in 1778.

As more family members were added to the vault, an additional vault was constructed on its eastern side.

This later had roofing erected to protect it from the elements.

The kirk was extended three times in the 19th century but became obsolete in August 1980 when the congregation joined the Eadie Kirk in the town.

In 1984, fire broke out and the old kirk was demolished the following year, but not before the war memorials, stained glass window and the bell were all salvaged. Only the footprint of it remains today.

Within the grounds of the kirkyard are many notable and ornate graves. A memorial of note is that to Robert Erskine, the youngest son of Sir Charles Erskine of Alva.

Born on 8th September 1677, he became the Imperial Physician to Tsar Peter the Great in Russia and was involved in several of the country's biggest projects, including being the founder of the botanic gardens in both Moscow and St Petersburg. He died on November 30, 1718, aged 41.

One of the most remarkable gravestones in the cemetery can be found in the lower section.

It depicts a man lying beside a woman, most probably a husband and wife, with a shield at its head.

It is thought to date from the late medieval period, but no date has been found on it. It is believed it may have been re-used at a later date.

Other graves of note are William Morrison, which ornately depicts a sailing ship with a whale being pulled behind it, and John Harley's headstone, a gardener to Sir John Erskine in the early 1700s.