The tower was constructed following a fundraising campaign which accompanied a resurgence of Scottish national identity in the 19th century. In addition to public subscription, it was partially funded by contributions from a number of foreign donors, including Italian national leader Giuseppe Garibaldi. Completed in 1869 to the designs of architect John Thomas Rochead at a cost of £18,000, the monument is a 67 metre (220 ft.) sandstone tower, built in the Victorian Gothic style. It stands on the Abbey Craig, a volcanic crag above Cambuskenneth Abbey, from which Wallace was said to have watched the gathering of the army of English king Edward I, just before the Battle of Stirling Bridge.
The monument is open to the general public. Visitors climb the 246 step spiral staircase to the viewing gallery inside the monument's crown, which provides expansive views of the Ochil Hills and the Forth Valley.
A number of artifacts believed to belong to Wallace are on display inside the monument, including the Wallace Sword, and a 1.68 metre (5 ft., 6 in.) long claymore.
In 1996 Tom Church, a monumental mason from Brechin, was inspired by the 1995 Mel Gibson film Braveheart while recovering from a heart bypass operation. He carved a 4 metre (13 ft.) tall, 12 metric tonne statue of Wallace from two blocks of sandstone. The statue resembles Gibson's depiction of Wallace, featuring a targe emblazoned with "Braveheart", a military flail, and a claymore. Calling the statue Freedom, he leased it to Stirling Council, who in 1997 installed it in the car park of the visitor centre at the foot of the craig.
There it proved to be controversial; The Independent described it as "among the most loathed pieces of public art in Scotland" and one local called it a "lump of crap", but the statue was popular with tourists.
The statue was subject to regular vandalism: its face was gouged out, it had paint thrown over it, it was struck with a hammer, and someone chipped off the decapitated head of the Governor of York which had formerly graced the statue's base. As a result it was enclosed in a security fence.
Plans to expand the visitor centre, including a new restaurant and reception, led to the statue's removal in 2008. Church offered it for sale for £350,000, hoping it would find a buyer in North America; of its failure to sell Church's agent said "I can’t understand how the sale hasn’t taken off. When Freedom was first unveiled, the critics labelled it the biggest piece of iconic art to come out of Scotland in the 20th century." Church later offered to donate the statue to the Trump Organization, to act as a centrepiece of the golf resort Trump was planning in Balmedie, Aberdeenshire, but after its removal from the site the statue was returned to the sculptor, who displays it in a castle-like installation at his Brechin workshop.