Known as the “gateway to the Highlands,” Stirling is Scotland’s youngest city, yet also steeped in some of the country’s most colourful and glorious history. Situated on the River Forth, 40 minutes from Glasgow and 50 minutes from Edinburgh, the city enjoys breathtaking views of the Highlands, Loch Katrine, the inspiration for William Blake’s The Lady of the Lake, Campsie Fells, and the Highlands’ largest loch, Loch Lomond. Stirling offers a wide range of places of historical interest, activities, and great shopping and dining, which attracts over one million visitors a year.
Places of interest:
Stirling is home to the magnificent Stirling Castle, where ruling Scottish monarchs resided for over three centuries. King Kenneth McAlpine battled and conquered the tribe of the Picts in 843 to form the Kingdom of Scotland within sight of the Castle, and over one thousand years later, William Wallace triumphed over King Edward’s army at Stirling Bridge in order to gain freedom from the tyrannous English for the Kingdom. The battlefield of Bannockburn, where Robert the Bruce defeated the English in 1314 to be crowned King of Scotland is nearby, and the creative, optimistic, and possibly occasionally foolhardy, nature of the Scottish people is captured in John Damian’s 1507 attempt to fly from the battlements of Stirling Castle, with wings made from hen’s feathers!
Open year round, the National Wallace Monument stands 220 feet above Abbey Craig, as testament to and in honour of the life and achievements of one of Scotland’s greatest heros, William Wallace. The monument offers a living history introduction to Wallace’s life, bloody and glorious campaign for Scottish freedom, betrayal, trial, and gory death.
Since 1874, the Smith Art Gallery and Museum has housed history, archaeological and fine art collections that celebrate Scottish history and achievements.
Bannockburn Heritage Centre is the site of one of the most important events in Scottish history. The Centre presents a vivid retelling of the 1314 battle in which King Robert Bruce defeated the army of King Edward II, securing freedom for the Scots.
No visit to Stirling would be complete without experiencing Stirling Castle. Built on volcanic rock, the site of the castle had been inhabited by Picts, Romans and Scottish monarch among others, for over eight thousand years. The prehistoric castle has been rumoured to be the setting of the legend of King Arthu’s Camelot, and features tours, exhibitions and living history performances that offer fascinating insight into the lively history of the castle and grounds.
The Church of the Holy Rude is said to be the only church still in use that has witnessed a coronation.
Things to do:
There are loads of things to do while in Stirling. From fantastic shopping centres to fun amusement parks, Sterling provides entertainment for everyone.
The Thistle Centre is one of Scotland’s premier shopping centres, home to a plethora of high street names, including Marks & Spencer, Monsoon, Next and the Virgin Megastore.
There are a number of popular bike rentals, mapped cycle routes and guide led cycle tours for all ages and abilities, taking in the historic town and beautiful surrounding areas.
The Safari and Adventure Park in Blair Drummond, near Stirling, is great for kids’ entertainment and home to elephants, rhinos, giraffes, tigers, bears, camels to name a few species of wild fauna, and with an Adventure Park, Pets Farm and performing sea lions shows on offer for all round amusement.
For some fantastical and supernatural entertainment, the Doon Hill Fairy Walk is a must for a guide led walk exploring local legends of Fae folk, or for the brave, the Ghostwalk with Jock Rankine’s Spirit Guide meets at the Stirling Town Hall.
Food & Drink:
Dining in Stirling is an unforgettable experience. No matter what pleases the palate, Stirling’s fine dining sites can satiate anyone’s appetite.
With traditional, home cooked food on offer, local mother and daughter run Victoria’s Coffee Shop is a great bet for lunch on the go and casual family dining.
Recommended by EatScotland.com, The Birds and the Bees offers a lively atmosphere, national and international dining in an authentic farm steading conversion.
For a refined dining experience, the four star Jekyll’s Restaurant at the Queen’s Hotel is recommended for traditional dishes in luxurious surroundings.
Hermann’s Brasserie is recommended as a staple of Stirling’s dining experience. Featuring a unique fusion of Scottish and Austrian cuisine, it is also famed for its warm and hospitable atmosphere.
Reservations are recommended to experience the sophistication and world class cuisine of The Heritage in the sophisticated Park Lodge Hotel.
Stirling Hotels & Accommodation:
There is a wide range of Hotels and Accommodation available to suit all requirements and budgets in Stirling, from traditional, family run bed and breakfasts to dependable national chains to lavish high end hotels.
Express By Holiday Inn Stirling
The Stirling Highland Hotel
Stirling offers all sorts of entertainment and nightlife, from cinema such as Carlton Cinemas, presenting the latest UK releases, to clubs and bars to family friendly activities including ice skating a the Stirling Ice Rink and ten pin bowling at AMF Bowling or the Stirling Indoor Bowling Centre. Traditional entertainment, including Highland Games and Celtic folk nights of music and dancing, known as celidhs, are in abundance. Stirling enjoys a varied nightlife, with dance clubs including Fubar and Enigma, and traditional pubs such as All that Jazz and O’Neills, both frequented by University of Stirling students.
Stirling, and its surrounding areas, is rightly known as Scotland’s birthplace. It cannot be mere coincidence that so many events of great significance to the Kingdom of Scotland occurred within the vicinity of the gateway to the Highlands. Once the area was home or destination to national heroes such William Wallace, Robert Bruce and Mary, Queen of Scots, literary heroes including Rabbie Burns and William Blake, and the villain Rob Roy, and today it is a premier destination for tourists and local visitors alike. Exulting in the breathtaking and unrivalled scenery of the Highlands, proximity to Scotland’s urban centres of Glasgow and Edinburgh and enjoying a range of activities to suit a wide variety of visitors, Stirling is at its heart an essential destination for any enthusiast of Scottish, or wider Celtic history and culture.