Stirling is one of the most important cities in the history of Scotland, and therefore one of those that we recommend you visit if you travel to the country. Here we will tell you what to see in Stirling and give you all the information you need about the city.
Many people go to Stirling as a day trip, but for all there is to see, you could also spend more time there. You will understand what we are talking about when you see our list.
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The castle is undoubtedly one of the must-sees in Stirling, both for its beauty and historical importance. In addition, located in the highest part of the city, it offers privileged views of the surrounding area.
The castle was first built in the 12th century but was remodeled and enlarged countless times by the Stuart family, who ruled Scotland between the 14th and 17th centuries. There were also later reforms, such as the grand entrance that was made in the 18th century.
The castle was the protagonist of several historical events in the country. One of the most relevant was the Battle of Stirling Bridge in 1297, in which William Wallace defeated the English army, one of the critical battles in the film Braveheart.
Inside the castle, you will see the great hall, the royal chapel, the tapestries, the royal palace, the gardens and many more places.
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Holy Rude Church
When Stirling was the capital of the kingdom of Scotland, this church was the one used to crown and baptize the kings. That is why it is considered the second most important place to see in Stirling.
The first church was built in the 12th century, but after a fire, it had to be rebuilt in 1414.
The church is a 5-minute walk from the castle, and admission is free. Next to the church, you will find a cemetery with the typical aesthetics of old cemeteries, from where you can see both the church and the castle.
Tour the Old Town of Stirling
The uniqueness of this city is evident in its center. You will see Tudor-style houses, squares with statues of unicorns, and old buildings everywhere.
Mercat Cross is where you will see the unicorn statue in the market square.
Another item I recommend is the tolbooth. This name referred to municipal seats in Scotland. They also functioned as a jail and a court.
The tolbooth in Stirling reopened in 2002 and was converted into a concert hall.
In the center, you will also find some malls if you want to go shopping or have a bite to eat. One of the most beautiful is The Stirling Arcade, a beautiful Victorian arcade.
Visit Argyll’s Lodging
The entrance to Stirling Castle includes a visit to Argyll’s Lodging. This stately home is an excellent example of the constructions made by the families of the nobility to be close to the castles and centers of power.
It is a residence of the seventeenth century, the time of Mary Queen of Scots, where you can see the Renaissance style. You will be able to see the fireplace, the living room, the bedroom, and the rest of the rooms to see how wealthy families lived at that time.
Visit the Old Stirling Jail
If you travel to this city, one of the places you have to see in Stirling is its old jail, which always opens its doors and where a group of actors tells their story.
The history of the Stirling Old Town Jail begins in 1847. In its long years, it also served as a military prison and a candy factory.
When World War II ended, it was abandoned and was only restored in the 1990s.
Have you ever participated in an Escape Room game? Have you ever done it in a real prison? Here is your chance to do so.
Cross the Stirling Bridge
The stone bridge you can see today was built during the 15th century. But other wooden bridges existed here before, one of which was the famous bridge of the battle between the English and the Scots, so the area has tremendous emotional importance for the Scots.
From the riverbank, you will have one of the most beautiful views of Stirling and you can relax in the grass and shade around it.
Visit the Smith Art Gallery
The museum opened in 1874 on the initiative of the artist Thomas Stuart Smith. Today it houses over 40,000 items that provide an insight into and celebration of the life, culture and heritage of the people of the Stirling, Stirlingshire, and Trossachs region.
In galleries 1 and 2, you will find temporary exhibitions.
In 3 you will see the history of the region. From prehistoric times with whale bones and Roman porcelain. You will learn the story of national hero William Wallace and other heroes of independence.
On this tour, you will understand the city’s importance in Scottish history. And by the way, you can see what is said to be the oldest ball in the world.
Admission is free, so put it on your list of things to see in Stirling.
Follow the route to the William Wallace Monument.
The monument to William Wallace is one of the most visited points in the city. It can be reached on foot or by bus.
From the castle to the monument, it is 3.4 km, and from the bridge, it is 2.4 km. So it can be an excellent walk to stroll around the city and enjoy the sights and attractions of Stirling.
Whether you go by city bus or on foot, you will arrive at Abbey Craig Hill, where the ticket office is located to buy the entrance to the monument, as well as a souvenir store and a cafeteria.
Although there is a free bus from there to the monument, if you can, the ideal is to walk there, as you will see the beautiful green of the surrounding hill and it is only a 10-minute walk.
After climbing the 246 steps of the monument, you will have a panoramic view of the entire city that will blow your mind. You will be delighted to see how the River Forth skirts the houses and flows through the fields..
At the top of the monument, there is also a Wallace museum, which you can tour while you catch your breath so you can make your way back down the stairs.
Learn About the Battle of Bannockburn
If you’re interested in Scottish history, you can learn more at the Battle of Bannockburn Visitor Centre.
You will see a digital recreation of the battle in the same place it took centuries ago. Doesn’t it seem amazing to be able to see what a 14th-century battle was like as if you were live and direct listening and watching how they fought in the medieval era?
You will also see memorials to other independence heroes such as “Robert the Bruce”.
And in the Visitor Center, you will learn about the history of this event which was also a key event in the life of Scotland.
Visit the ruins of the Abbey of Cambuskenneth
In this abbey rest the remains of James III and his wife, Margaret of Denmark. To be honest, the abbey itself is no big deal, since, although you can enter, you can’t go up to the upper floors of the tower.
But what makes it worth walking the almost 3 kilometers that separate it from the Wallace Monument, is the beauty of the path that accompanies the Forth River and the possibility of seeing a small and quiet village with old houses.
You will have a place to rest and get away from the most touristic places in the city. And if you want to return to Stirling from Cambuskenneth, if you don’t want to walk all the way back, you can go to the bus or train station.
Take a Sunset Getaway to See the Kelpies
The Kelpies are two giant horse-head sculptures that represent part of Scottish mythology. They are in Falkirk, about 22 kilometers from Stirling.
Located along the Forth and Clyde Canal, the scenery surrounding these unique sculptures enhances their beauty and makes for a great visit.
The elegance and size of the kelpies make you want to stay longer. They are more than 30 meters high and weigh more than 300 tons.
The ideal time to visit is at sunset to see the reflection of the sun on the water and the metal of the giant horses.
Climb the Falkirk Wheel and discover this engineering masterpiece.
19 kilometers from Stirling, we find this impressive work.
The Falkirk Wheel is a boat elevator that bridges the 24-meter gap between the height of the Forth and Clyde Canal and the Union Canal.
Previously this was done with a system of locks that were then covered with earth, and when they decided to rebuild the canals linking Glasgow and Edinburgh, they held a design competition, which was the one that won.
Next to the Falkirk wheel, there is an interpretation center and a bar. And not only will you see everything from the outside, but tours are also available to navigate and to be able to spin inside the Falkirk wheels.
In addition, there is a mini golf course, so you will also have other activities to have fun with and see the workings of this unique construction site.
What are Mote Hill and the beheading stone?
Its name does not sound very appealing, but it is a fascinating place to visit. Maybe not so much for the stone itself, but you will like everything surrounding it.
As the stone sits on top of Mote Hill, from here you will have great views of the William Wallace Monument, Stirling Bridge and the River Forth.
The stone is kept as if in a small cage and was used during the 15th century to execute several famous people of the time, such as the Duke of Albany and his two sons.
The bushes surrounding the stone and the rabbits that sometimes dare to hop around make the area, despite the name, much more cheerful than one might expect.
Practical Information for your visit to Stirling
Now that you know what to see in Stirling, let’s look at all the information you need to enjoy the city.
How to get to Stirling from Edinburgh
Stirling is 60 kilometers from Edinburgh and these are the different ways to get here:
Being one of the most touristic points of the country, many daily trains are making this route. The trip takes about 50 minutes. You can check schedules and costs on the official website of Scotrail.
There are also multiple scheduling options. The trip takes longer but is a little more economical. The companies that go there are Citylink or Megabus, and you can check the information at TravelingScotland.
If you can, going by car is a great option, it will allow you to visit other towns along the way and visit everything at your own pace. The trip takes about 50 minutes. On the way, you could stop to meet the Kelpies.
How to Get to Stirling from Inverness
The options are the same as from Edinburgh, but the distance from Inverness to Stirling is considerably longer, 230 km, so the trip takes about the same time by train. Almost 3 hours by car and about the same by train.
Trains leave every 2 hours, so you have to plan your trip well if you intend to come and go during the day. But because of the distance, it would be best to spend the night in Stirling. Otherwise, you won’t have much time to visit the city.
Where to Sleep in Stirling
There are dozens of hotels and accommodations in Stirling, so you have a few options to choose from. Here are some recommendations.
Would you like to sleep in a Victorian-style house? This is your chance. You can enjoy the garden, the fireplace, and the classic beauty of this 3-bedroom house, each with its own private bathroom.
This hotel is housed in an incredible mansion, and each room is decorated in an elegant and sober style.
It is one of Stirling’s most luxurious hotels, and the Orangery restaurant is no slouch with its gourmet dishes.
The Castlecroft is also very elegant but more modest. It has a terrace, and some rooms have their own patio. A buffet breakfast is offered daily.
Getting Around Stirling
The city is small, and most tourist sites can be reached on foot. However, good public transportation services connect the center to the main points of interest.
The bus to the castle leaves every 20 minutes from Monday to Saturday.
To go to the Wallace Monument, you can take the 54, 62, and UL buses in front of Wallace High School.
The two most important stops are Murray Place and the Bus Station.
For more information, you can consult this website with a lot of information about the city.
This was our guide to what to see in Stirling. A city with historical sites, beautiful landscapes, many things to know about, and many places to go to its surroundings.
Its castle and church are undoubtedly the two must-sees, but if you have time, take the opportunity to see everything else.
Plan Your Trip to Scotland
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Last Updated on 13 September, 2023 by Veronica