Stirling

Of the seven officially recognized cities of Scotland, Stirling is the smallest. But like Inverness to the north, Stirling is far more important both historically and as a tourist destination than its population would suggest. One of the country’s greatest castles is here, along with a monument to the country’s most famous rebel. The city is sometimes called the brooch which clasps the Highlands and Lowlands together, and if one place combines the best of those two regions, it’s Stirling.

Stirling Castle and the city below. Creative Commons photo by dun_deagh.

Stirling Castle and the city below. Creative Commons photo by dun_deagh.

Getting to Stirling

Stirling is easy to remember as the top of a triangle, the bottom angles being Edinburgh to the east and Glasgow to the west. It’s about a 40 minute drive from Glasgow, up the M80, passing through Cumbernauld and several other lowland towns. From Edinburgh, it’s only slightly longer,maybe 50 minutes on the M9, which passes through Linlithgow and Falkirk. Stirling Railway Station is served by regular trains from Glasgow and Edinburgh, as well as the Highland Main Line from Inverness.

There is no commercial airport in Stirling. The most convenient airport to fly into depends on how you plan to travel after you land. If you’re renting a car, it’s fastest to fly into Edinburgh Airport (EDI), geographically the closest airport to Stirling. If you are taking the train, Glasgow will be a better bet, as both Glasgow International Airport (GLA) and Glasgow Prestwick (PIK) have better access to rail.

Things to Do

Stirling has a number of top attractions, many of them having to do with Scotland’s history of conflict with its southern neighbor. Stirling Castle is one of Scotland’s most impressive, once a place for the crowning of Scottish kings and queens, including Mary, Queen of Scots. The National Wallace Monument is a stark tower in the middle of thick woods, reminiscent of a high-fantasy tower like Tolkien’s Isengard. Inside, visitors can learn about the real man behind the Braveheart story, and see his actual sword. Nearby Bannockburn was the site of perhaps Scotland’s most famous military victory.

Just up the road from Stirling is another site worth seeing, Doune Castle, a 14th century castle famous for appearances in TV’s Outlander and Game of Thrones as well as the film Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

Places to Stay

Stirling has some very nice older hotels as well as top-notch bed and breakfasts. Here are a few recommendations, including a 19th century castle hotel just east of town:

doune_hotel1

The Old Tram-House
Bed & Breakfast

doune_hotel2

Broomhall Castle

doune_hotel3

The Lake of
Menteith Hotel