ABOVE: A view from Stirling Castle. INSET BELOW: A statue of William Wallace.
What to see in Stirling
Set on a high rock much like the one in Edinburgh, Stirling's ancient castle is massive and seemingly impenetrable. From its walls, visitors can look out on the town below and countryside beyond – including the historical battlegrounds of Stirling Bridge (William Wallace) and Bannockburn (Robert the Bruce).
Within the castle itself are a number of buildings dating back to the fifteenth century. The variety is impressive, as visitors can see the Chapel Royal where Mary, Queen of Scots was crowned, the Great Hall, which is the biggest in Scotland, or the kitchens that prepared the royal banquets.
Guided and audio tours are available. I found the latter particularly impressive, allowing guests to wander the castle grounds and learn about different spots at will, while also offering a logical path to follow. In any case, there is no shortage of information available on the many different nooks and crannies of Stirling Castle.
Signs from the city center will point you to the castle, and if in doubt, just walk uphill. Much like Edinburgh's castle, Stirling Castle is set at the highest point in town. An adult ticket costs £8.50, but the expense is well worth it. Audio tours are available for £2 extra, but again, are worth it if you have even a slight interest in Scotland’s historical roots.
There is more to Stirling than just its castle. Stirling's town wall is the oldest one still standing in Scotland, dating back to 1547 when the closest thing to a tour group was the English army. The wall’s length is paralleled by a walkway which is touted as one of Europe’s finest, offering excellent views of the surrounding region.
The Church of the Holy Rude, right down the street from the castle gates, is Stirling’s principal church and was where King James VI was crowned in 1567. It has all the characteristics of an ancient Scottish church, with huge stained glass windows, an open timber ceiling, and centuries-old chapels.
Stirling’s Old Town, just below the castle and above the train station, has plenty of restaurants, galleries, museums, and coffee shops, and a theatre as well. Full of old buildings and cobbled streets, an evening stroll is always a pleasant way to top off a day of exploration.
Other worthwhile destinations are the Old Town Jail, the National Wallace Monument, or for a more modern diversion, The Changing Room, Stirling’s only gallery dedicated to contemporary art.
No matter what you do, Stirling is a praiseworthy stop for any visitor who is in Scotland for a week or more. Even if your stay is shorter than that, an afternoon in Stirling is worth considering. There is plenty to do and see in this ancient Scottish capital.
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