This guide is filled with the best things to do during your visit to Stirling. Although, if you want to have its history explained to you in depth, you might be interested in a day tour, where they will tell you all this and much more.
Address: Castle Esplanade, Stirling FK8 1EJ
This Renaissance castle is, without a doubt, a fortress to rival Edinburgh Castle. Historic Scotland spent more than 30 years and £21 million restoring it back to its former glory. This castle can boast of not only having kings and queens living within its walls, but it also bore witness to the first “Birdman”, who attempted to fly from its walls. Legend also says that King Arthur and his knights held their Round Table here at Stirling Castle. In my opinion, this is the best castle in Scotland.
|9:30 am - 6 pm
|1 abril - 30 sept
|9:30 am - 5 pm
|1 octubre - 31 marzo
Address: St John Street, Stirling FK8 1ED
This is the second oldest building in the city, after the Castle, dating from the 15th century. Built in the Scottish Gothic style, the medieval ceiling inside is the best preserved in Scotland. Furthermore, Holy Rude saw the coronation of Mary Queen of Scots’ son, James VI of Scotland, who later unified the Scottish and English crowns. Please note that it is closed during the winter months, and opens again from May to September. Admission is free.
|October to April
|May to September
|11:00am a 4pm
Address: Stirling FK8 1EG
This is thought to be the oldest cemetery in the city since, dating back to the 12th century. In the mid-19th century, the cemetery had to be expanded because the section adjacent to the Church of the Holy Rude had become so overcrowded. They ended up using the gardens of the Earl of Mar’s house and the area known as the Valley, which had formerly been used for jousting tournaments, horse fairs, markets and executions during Mary Queen of Scots’ reign. The cemetery still has great Protestant symbolism today.
Address: Stirling FK8 1EG
This is a Renaissance mansion with two floors, from the 16th century. The stones used for its construction came from the ruins of Cambuskenneth Abbey. Currently, despite being in ruins, it is considered a historical building of national importance protected by the Scottish government.
On the facade, look out for adornments including statuettes, heraldic panels, and faux gargoyles carved to resemble cannons. A statue of a woman in a winding sheet is said to be Joan of Arc, possibly symbolising Joan suffering for her beliefs.
Address: Castle Hill, Stirling FK8 1EG
This is the best preserved Renaissance style house in Scotland, although not much is known about its construction or the architect, except that it was built in the mid-16th century for a wealthy Stirling burgess and merchant. The house became a military hospital from the 18th century until the mid-20th century, and since 1996 it has been preserved by Historic Scotland. However, at the time of writing, it is closed until further notice for general maintenance.
Address: Jail Wynd, Stirling FK8 1DE
When the city began to expand beyond its walls, people were concerned with how to keep the masses under control, so it became necessary to build their own prison. The oldest part of the building dates from 1703 and the roof, of Dutch design, is one of the oldest and best preserved in Scotland. In the mid-19th century it was considered one of the worst prisons in Britain. Today the prison has been converted into an arts centre, where concerts and weekly events are held.
Address: St John St, Stirling FK8 1EA
The city’s second prison was built in 1847, due to the overcrowding and poor conditions prisoners were kept in in the Tolbooth. It was opened as a county jail, and built with a “respiratory system”. Although it seemed luxurious compared to the Tolbooth, life was very hard inside the jail. Eventually, the prison ceased to be used, lying forgotten and neglected until the 1990s, when their middle floors were renovated for use as offices. Some of the other cells became a tourist attraction, which opened its doors in 1996.
|November to March
|April to October
|10:15am a 5:15pm
|Child & senior 60+
8. Mediaeval Stirling Wall
The remains of the mediaeval wall are 300 metres long and divided into five sections. Four of them date from the mid-16th century (1547), while the remaining section was built from the 17th to the 19th century.
A 67 metre high tower, located 50 minutes from the centre of Stirling on foot. It is built on top of a hill called Abbey Craig, which was where William Wallace planned the Battle of Stirling Bridge in 1307. Inside this Victorian Gothic monument you can find different exhibitions about the life of the hero, as well as other notable figures from Scottish history. From the top you can admire a landscape where battles were fought and won, which are also some of the best views Scotland has to offer. For more information about the monument, take a look at this article too.
Founded in 1140 by King David I, the abbey is a 20 minute walk from the train station. Today only the main tower and its cemetery remain, where the Scottish King James III, and his wife, Margaret of Denmark, are buried. It is said that the monks of Cambuskenneth secretly buried a part of William Wallace's body here too: to find him, pass the tower on your left, then go east along the wall. A little further on, just to your right (south of the wall) is a small stone, about 18 by 6 inches, embedded in the ground perpendicular to the wall. At the southern end, barely noticeable and badly eroded, the initials "WW" can still just be seen in old script.
11. Stirling Bridge
Without a doubt, the most famous bridge in Scottish history is the one that once stood here in the 1290s. It was here that Sir Andrew de Moray and Sir William Wallace defeated Edward I’s army on the 11th of September, 1297, during the Wars of Independence. The current bridge was built between 1400 and 1500, a simple stone bridge, but which still makes me tingle with emotion every time I cross it, remembering the battle and the 2,500 brave men who fought against the English troops. It’s also one of the most photogenic corners in Stirling! Here you can learn more about what happened in the battle.
Not only did William Wallace defeat the English at Stirling, but Robert the Bruce, later crowned Robert I, also won the Battle of Bannockburn near here in 1314. Although this battle was not the end of the Wars of Independence, it was certainly the beginning of the end. The visitor centre is about 20 minutes away from Stirling by bus, and here you can see the battle recreated in 3D scenes.
|9:30 am - 5:30 pm
|1 April - 30 Sept
|10:00 am - 5:00 pm
|1 October - 31 March
Address: 40 Albert Place, Stirling FK8 2RQ
The main museum of the city, it was founded in 1874 as a contemporary art gallery and library. It is made up of 3 exhibition rooms where you can learn about the history of Stirling, from the first men to the present day. One of the most unique things you can find here is the oldest football in the world, dating from the reign of Mary Queen of Scots (16th century)! There is also a contemporary art exhibition in another gallery. Admission is free, and it’s open every day from 10am to 5pm.
14. Highland Cows
If you want to see the iconic hairy cows you are in luck! At the foot of Stirling Castle, next to King's Knot park, you will find a herd of them grazing. Although you cannot see them up close, a few of these Highland Cows allow themselves to be photographed.
Address: Goosecroft Rd, Stirling FK8 2EA
Although Stirling has a population of less than 35,000 people, the city has one of the best shopping centres in the country. The Thistles Shopping Centre has 87 stores inside, and will certainly delight visiting shopaholics!
Between the WHSmith store and the Post Office, you can access (for free!) an old defensive bastion of the mediaeval wall that once served as a prison.
If you have made it here to the end of this guide, then I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing about my favourite city in Scotland! I hope you have a wonderful visit, and if you have any questions, please do leave a comment below!