Stirling is a small city with a big history. Built on the banks of the River Forth, the city has witnessed countless battles, sieges and many defining moments in Scotland’s fascinating past. Now a thriving modern city, Stirling offers great shopping, excellent restaurants and fantastic visitor attractions, with many beautiful lochs and parks just a short drive away.
Sat atop Castle Hill in the heart of the city is Stirling Castle, the imposing fortress where Mary Queen of Scots was crowned and was unsuccessfully besieged by Bonnie Prince Charlie during the Jacobite Uprising. Now an award-winning attraction, it offers beautifully decorated rooms, excellent exhibitions and activities and dressing up for kids. It also features a museum dedicated to the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders infantry regiment, a must-see for history or military enthusiasts.
The Thistles Shopping Centre offers a great range of high street stores while the Stirling Arcade comprises boutiques selling ethnic crafts, traditional Scottish sweets and more, all housed in an ornate Victorian building dating back to 1882. The Stirling Farmers’ Market takes place on the second Saturday of the month and is the perfect place to try Scottish cheeses, preserves and more. The city centre also has a wealth of great restaurants, many of them serving delicious local produce and fresh Scottish seafood.
Authors such as Jules Verne and Sir Walter Scott are said to have been inspired by Stirling and its surrounding regions, and the area still has a strong literary culture today. Every September the city celebrates Off the Page Book Festival followed by Bloody Scotland, Scotland’s first crime writing festival. The University of Stirling’s Macrobert Art Centre includes a theatre and cinema and offers an exciting programme of drama, dance and film, while the Smith Museum and Art Gallery features excellent exhibitions on fine art, world cultures and local history.
Stirling is perfectly placed for day trips around the central belt, with several of Scotland’s most beautiful lochs and parks less than an hour’s drive away. Loch Venachar is an excellent spot for sailing and fishing, and Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park boasts 720 square miles of rolling hills, tranquil lochs and forests home to squirrels, red deer and pine martins.
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Visit the Church of the Holy Rude
The Holy Rude is another of Stirling’s historic landmarks, being the crowning place of King James IV in 1567. It’s still a functioning church and its beautiful building, with stone pillars and stained glass windows, is well worth a visit.
Blair Drummond Safari Park
Just outside Stirling, this safari park counts giraffes, tigers, bears, zebras and elephants among its menagerie. Take a boat trip around Chimp Island, zoom down the Astraglide slide or catch a sea lion show.
Take in the view from the National Wallace Monument
Built on Abbey Craig hill, this Victorian Gothic tower commemorates 13th century hero Sir William Wallace, who lead an army to victory at the Battle of Stirling Bridge in 1297. Tackle the tower’s 246-step spiral staircase for stunning views of the city and Forth Valley.
Brave a ghost tour
Given their eventful past, the cobbled streets of Stirling’s Old Town are sure to have a few spirits lurking around. Let costumed guides transport you back to yesteryear on a walking tour through this historic city.
Relive the Battle of Bannockburn
Just a short drive or bus journey from Stirling is the village of Bannockburn, site of the 1314 battle in which King Robert the Bruce won Scotland’s freedom from English domination. Opening in 2014, the new Bannockburn Heritage Centre will bring history to life with state-of-the-art 3D battle simulation.