Google Stirling in Scotland and you’ll discover everything from ancient history to a contemporary arts scene. With more than a handful of activities and attractions stretched along this spectrum there are plentiful reasons to visit Stirling as part of your stay in a castle.
1. William Wallace
Way back in 1297, as the First War of Scottish Independence was raging, William Wallace and his pal Andrew Moray famously led Scottish troops to victory over the English. Wallace is said to have laid in await atop Abbey Craig. From their raised vantage point, they pounced upon the English once enough for them to battle had crossed the river with no way back.
Today, venture out of the city and up Abbey Craig to the structural spectacle that is the National Wallace Monument atop. 2019 is the 150th anniversary of its constructions celebrating one of Scotland’s oldest heroes.
Old Stirling Bridge that crosses the River Forth today doesn’t date back quite that far. At more than 500 years old it’s a fairly worthy structural specimen and worthy of a wander across. But the foundations of the original and the site of this famous Battle of Stirling Bridge are thought to have been found a little further upstream.
2. Robert the Bruce
On the topic of Scottish heroes and city vantage points, the city of Stirling also proffers views across the field of Bannockburn. Some 705 years ago, this field played host to the Battle of Bannockburn where Robert the Bruce led his troops to victory over the English.
Visit Stirling today for a rather impressive Battle of Bannockburn Experience courtesy of National Trust for Scotland. A wholly immersive and in places 3D experience of the battle is one of Scotland’s most exciting family attractions.
From its rocky perch Stirling Castle has many an historic tale to tell. With its origins dating back to the 12th-century it flipped from Scottish to English ownership in its earliest centuries as battles for independence, like those above, ensued. Back in Scottish is saw the crowning of mere babes in arms as sovereigns, including James V in 1513 and Mary Queen of Scots in 1543. And James VI who went on to become James I of England was raised and educated here.
Today, a host of family events and seasonal activities ensure a fascinating day for all with ample intrigue for many a return visit.
4. Cambuskenneth Abbey
Once an Augustinian monastery, the ruined remains of Cambuskenneth Abbey call mostly on your imagination, except for the intact bell tower. The one and only example in Scotland of such structure and age (1200s) Robert the Bruce held parliaments here and one of the country’s least popular monarchs, James III and his wife Margaret, are buried here.
It’s about a mile out of town, an enjoyable 15 minute wander to appreciate the spot and its position in a kink of the River Forth.
5. Stirling Smith Art Gallery
When its founding father, Thomas Stuart Smith, established ‘The Smith Institute’ in 1874 he was forward thinking for generations of Stirling residents. Designed as a museum and a cultural space for public events, it remains loyal to its foundations today.
Get to grips with Stirling history – we’ve merely touched on the highlights and headline names here. Discover its exhibit oddities such as the world’s oldest football discovered behind panelling in Stirling Castle. And uncover world cultures and fascinating finds amidst visiting exhibitions. During your stay near Stirling, check out its events too, which range from history talks to musical extravaganzas.
Most recently saved from closure due to funding challenges, a public petition to protect its place in the community attracted more than 7,000 signatures. The people of Stirling adore this place and you will too. It’s Stirling’s only free entry visitor attraction and there are exciting renovations underway to continue its use for future generations.
6. The home of Tartan
Back to Bannockburn a few miles south of Stirling and centuries on from Robert the Bruce’s battle, it was back on the map. In the mid 1700s, when ‘that part of North Britain called Scotland’ was banned from producing and wearing tartan, Bannockburn woollen mills spotted an opportunity and thrived on it. Visit Bannockburn today and some landmarks of its wool milling and tartan weaving history remain.
Stirlingshire was south of those northerly parts to which the Disarming Act of 1746 applied. The act had banned the wearing of tartans in the Gaelic Highlands and Scots Lowlands in an attempt to reduce clan violence. Young weaver William Wilson established William Wilson & Sons and Bannockburn woollen mills popped up across the town.
Modern day tartans can only be traced as far back as the Bannockburn period. So that family clan tartan you’re wearing certainly has heritage just not deep roots in Scottish clan history pre Culloden. Sorry to be the busters of tartan myth.
7. Made In Stirling
Creative industries have thrived beyond tartan weaving times. Made in Stirling is the city’s initiative to celebrate local, grass roots and artisan trades and craftsmanship. Throughout the city look for ‘Made in Stirling’ signs to uncover local artists and creators.
Longstanding Stirling trades including brewing and distilling. The Deanston Distillery and Harviestoun Brewery are proud Stirling history makers and worth a visit. Wrap up your day in Stirling with a contemplative tasting at Curly Coo – named Best Whisky Bar in the World – home to more than 130 malt whiskies.
Give yourself a reason to visit Stirling
Whether you’re planning a multigenerational holiday or a weekend away with pals, you can squeeze in a visit to Stirling. We can arrange for you to stay in a castle or stately manor house within easy reach of this city, this large group holiday home in Cauldhame is the perfect example. Start your search or contact us to help with the planning.
To help you find more fabulous places to visit in Scotland, you can’t go past Out About Scotland. You’ll find videos, virtual tours and in-depth articles on things to do, places to go, events and the best Scottish attractions in Scotland.
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