“ Stirling, Clackmannanshire, Scotland. „
I lived, worked and socialized in Stirling for many years and have a particular fondness for the city.
Stirling is located in Central Scotland, almost halfway between its better knows cities of Glasgow and Edinburgh. Road and rail links are excellent for travelling in any direction. Airports at Glasgow and Edinburgh are each within an hours journey.
The City (status gained in 2002) of Stirling is quite unique in that it manages to remain an historic town with many ancient buildings, steeped in history as well as a new, vibrant town centre. Both cultures live in perfect harmony with neither detracting from the other.
Stirling is known as Braveheart country and, thanks to Mel Gibson, tourism in the town has greatly increased. You can find many references to William Wallace throughout the city and if you are feeling really energetic you can take a trip to the outskirts of the town and visit the monument to him. It is quite fascinating and exhausting as you climb to the top of the tower but the views are breath-taking.
Stirling is surrounded by the Ochil Hills, where there are many excellent walking routes around the surrounding villages whose residents support the town.
Stirling Castle is one of the best examples of Scottish castles, it sits high above the town and is definitely worth a visit. The castle has recently undergone extensive restoration and has been restored to its former glory. The kitchens are quite amazing and you are really transported back in time as you stand in the middle of the mayhem of a typical castle kitchen. The climb to the castle is very steep, although there are regular buses from the town. Once again, the views are stunning. You can easily spend a whole day wandering around the castle and the grounds, there are also picnic areas within the grounds as well as tea-rooms and a snack bar. The castle really deserves its own review but for more information, opening times, entrance fees etc. go to: http://www.undiscoveredscotland.co.uk/stirling/stirlingcastle/
The town is absolutely steeped in history and as you wander along the cobbled streets of the old town you will come across some incredible buildings dating back to the 14th century and beyond. You should take time to visit The Old Town Jail and the Tolbooth, both of which have lively presentations by actors employed to recreate the days when these buildings were in use. Robert Spittals House, Lord Darnleys House, The Holy Rude Church, Albert Halls and the Municiple buildings are all worth a visit, although you would certainly need more than a day to cover all of those. The sites of the battle of Stirling Bridge is a short walk away and the Bannockburn centre is an ideal visit for all the information and details of that historic battle again that is probably a visit in itself.
The town is pedestrianised in the centre so wandering around is easy. It is built on a hill though so wheelchair access can be difficult but mobility is aided by wheelchair hire companies in the town centre.
The town centre itself remains relatively unchanged with old buildings housing new businesses. You have to look above street level to appreciate the buildings though as shops and offices at eye level mirror any large town or city with bright signage and fluorescent lighting. All the major retailers are present in the town as are many individual shops that are particular to Stirling. Small businesses offering specific products do very well here. There are several souvenir shops and the goods on offer are of a very high standard, usually because they are hand-made locally.
In the past 15 years, Stirling has added another shopping mall, again it has been added to the town without intruding on the beauty of the town. There is really nothing that you cant buy in Stirling.
There are hundreds of bars and restaurants throughout the town. There are several restaurants offering traditional Scottish food as well as Italian, Indian, Chinese, Mexican, in fact anything you could mention, you can find to eat in Stirling. There is everything from a basic sandwich to a five star restaurant. For something really special though, I would go the the Old School Restaurant. This is part of the old Stirling High School, which is still in operation as an Hotel. The restaurant is renowned for its food and the setting is very traditional. For a quick and cheerful Mexican meal I would head for Smiling Jacks, has a bit of a café feel to it but the food is fabulous. There are Chinese and Indian buffets for anyone wishing a quick and cheap meal and loads of small restaurants catering for the wide diversity of visitors to the town.
Bars are equally diverse, there is a large student population in Stirling so there are lots of young people in the town. This gives it a vibrancy of its own. Bars, clubs and restaurants cater well for this age group. However there are also many quieter bars where you can sit in front of a log fire in the winter and where you might find someone picking up a guitar or some other instrument and an impromptu musical evening will be in full flow before you know it. Stirling is very much like that, a very spontaneous town. Groups of people of all ages and races mix very well.
Stirling University has one of the most amazing campuses in Scotland and anyone privileged enough to study there fully appreciates the beauty of the site. It has its own lake and full sports arena. It is a world recognized university and produces excellent results.
Hotels and Guest houses tend to be of a fairly high standard. There are many to choose from and prices vary accordingly. There is everything from nearby castles to a humble B and B. It would take many pages of a review to highlight these so I would suggest looking at http://www.stirling.co.uk/accommodation/hotels.htm
For further information on hotels and restaurants. At the top of the range, I would recommend Airth Castle or Dunblane Hydro, both are an experience in themselves but you might not want to leave and appreciate the town. These are both incredibly expensive places to stay but if you have a very special occasion, then well worth it. At mid-range I would suggest The Terraces or Park Lodge Hotel, very well appointed hotels offering excellent facilities and in the centre of the town. Hotels, Guesthouses and Hostels in Stirling are subject to very strict local controls. It would be highly unlikely that you would find anywhere that is not of a good standard. The local authority is very diligent in its pursuit of offering only quality accommodation in Stirling.
I could go on and on for ever on the subject of Stirling, but if you have a spare day or two, forget the hustle and bustle of Glasgow and Edinburgh and travel to Stirling. If you are visiting Scotland then this is a city that you must visit. It really does have something for everyone
There is a joke that Stirling taxi drivers love to play on their customers. As you are driving along theyll suddenly shout Look! Its Mel Gibson! And theyll chuckle away to themselves as you peer out of the windows with a puzzled expression on your face looking for the handsome Aussie, until you realise they are pointing at the Wallace Monument. I lived in Stirling for a couple of years, and sadly I never even came close to seeing the Gib.
Stirling is situated in the Central Belt of Scotland, and is just a 45 minute drive or short train journey away from Glasgow or Edinburgh. In March 2002 it became a city as part of the Queens Jubilee. Stirling is an area rich is history, and is often referred to as Braveheart Country. It is home to the sites of Bannockburn and Stirling Bridge where bloody battles were fought 700 years ago during Scotlands Wars of Independence. I am ashamed to say I never actually visited any of these landmarks until I had actually moved away from the area!
***** The Touristy Bit *****
Stirling Castle dominates the skyline of the City. It is situated at the head of the Old Town, mounted high on an old volcanic rock. Nobody can confirm when the castle was first built, but the castle that stands today was built between 1370 and 1750 in various different stages. It is open to the public all year round, seven days a week. Admission is £8.50 for adults and £3.50 for children. You can actually go and see concerts at the castle, and bands such as REM, Travis and Snow Patrol have played there. I went to a New Year Ceilidh at the Castle once, and it was terrific.
The Wallace Monument is an instantly recognisable landmark in Stirling, as it catches the eye from miles around. It was erected in 1869 in memory of a great Scottish hero. It is 220 feet high, and has 246 steps leading to the top, so wear sensible shoes and give it a miss if you dont like heights! The monument sits on Abbey Craig and it was from this prominent hilltop that William Wallace watched the English army approach across Stirling Bridge before leading the Scots into the battle of the same name. The monument is open every day, apart from Christmas day and Boxing day. It is packed with exhibits and displays, and you can even see William Wallaces 5 foot long sword! If you fancy a trip to this phallic shaped monument it will cost £6.50 for adults and £4 for children.
The University of Stirling boasts one of the most beautiful campuses in Europe. It nestles at the foot of the Ochil Hills and the grounds are centred around Airthrey Loch. If you happen to be in Stirling in the Springtime then you must go for a walk around the Loch. It is just lovely at that time of year, with hundreds of baby ducks waddling around and baby rabbits hopping by your feet. Make sure you take some bread for the ducks! The Macrobert Arts Centre on campus was the site for the European premier of Braveheart. It is the venue for all things thespian in the Stirling area.
Blair Drummond Safari Park is a terrific place to take the kids. It is a couple of miles outside Stirling, and there are regular buses. The park is open between March and October, and a ticket is £9.50 for adults and £6 for children. You can see all sorts of animals including elephants, giraffes, monkeys and tigers. The Park also has an adventure playground, football pitch, pedal boats and a Pets Farm. It is a great place to go for a day out.
***** Out and About *****
Monty Python fans might be interested in visiting Doune Castle, which is seven miles North West of Stirling, as it was here that Monty Python and the Holy Grail was filmed. History lovers would no doubt be keen to visit the nearby town of Bannockburn, and pop into the Heritage Centre where you can find out all about Robert the Bruce and the legendary Battle of Bannockburn, where Bruce and his army defeated Edward II of England. The Rob Roy visitor centre in the village of Callander is also very popular with tourists. Callender is 14 miles North of Stirling, and there are regular buses.
***** Eating and Drinking *****
The Barnton Bar and Bistro is in the centre of Stirling, just a couple of minutes walk from the train station. It serves the best coffee, and the best breakfasts in the world. I've never managed to find another hangover cure quite like it. The Bistro is a really nice place to go for lunch, and the prices are very reasonable too. Pacos Restaurant was a favourite place of mine when I lived in Stirling. It has a wide ranging menu, but the Mexican food is particularly excellent.
Stirling has two nightclubs, and the best known of the two is the Fubar. During the nineties the Fubar was pretty famous in Scotland for that bloody awful rave music. It is pretty dingy to be honest, and I would avoid it like the plague. The other nightclub in Stirling is Enigma (previously called The Rock) and it is no better than the Fubar. They both tend to place dance (doof doof) music, so if you are a boy or girl racer then youd probably enjoy these clubs. A word of warning, Thursday night is the student night on the town in Stirling, so stay away, unless you are a student of course! If you insist on going out for a drink, then Drouthy Neebors is one of the better pubs, with a fairly mixed clientele. Forget about having a bag of chips on the way home, because none of the chippies stay open until after the pups shut! My friends and I used to try and make do with waffle sandwiches when we got home and pretend they were chip butties but even in an inebriated state it just aint the same.
At the risk of offending Stirling locals, I wouldnt recommend a night out in Stirling at all. Stirling is a small city with a large student population, and although it is a sweeping generalisation, the locals do not like the students. If you go out in Stirling on a Saturday night, and you dont look like a native, then you run the risk of getting your head kicked in. It is not the friendliest of places in that respect. Id like to remind readers that I lived there for years and am talking from experience.
***** Where to lay your head *****
The Causeway Head area of Stirling has plenty of B&Bs and Guesthouses, but if you want to stay bang in the centre of town then there is the Stirling Highland Hotel and the Golden Lion Hotel. The nicest hotel in the area is the Dunblane Hydro (part of the Hilton chain). It is a grand Victorian hotel situated in beautiful landscaped grounds, and it overlooks Dunblane and the surrounding Perthshire countryside. The Hydro is a bit on the pricy side, but they often do special offers midweek if you can sneak away from work for a short break. Im still looking for somebody to take me for a dirty weekend there!
***** To go or not to go? *****
Ive lived in a few places in my time, and Stirling is my least favourite. I always found it to be an unfriendly and unwelcoming place, and I had friends there who felt the same. Im sure plenty of people are very happy to live there of course. I have friends and family who have gone there for day trips and really liked it. They thought it was a picturesque little City with its cobbled streets and historical landmarks. There are certainly a lot of interesting things to see and do in the area, and Stirling is an easy place to get to from Glasgow or Edinburgh. If you are going to the Central Belt for a short break I would recommend that you stay in either Glasgow or Edinburgh, and take a day trip to Stirling, as the night life really isnt up to much. If it is a quiet weekend away that you are after, then the Dunblane Hydro would be an excellent choice. Just dont expect to run into Mel Gibson.
Stirling isn't all that well-known to English tourists - no-one I know has been there, and we met none while we were around the place. This is a shame (or maybe not, depending on how locals feel about an influx of we non-Scots) as Stirling is a lovely place. For one thing, the Trossachs and Loch Lomond are but a short drive away and the views from the drive which takes you through the mountains are absolutely stunning. It was a cloudy stormy day when we were there, and it was amazing, so it's probably even better with a bit of blue sky. But Stirling is itself a lovely place - it's very compact, and the shopping centre is quite smart. The more touristy sights are up towards the castle, and you would need at least a full morning or afternoon to really take in the castle itself which is a really facsinating place, very imposing and great views. The Wallace Monument is also definitely worth a visit, as the building is a stunning piece of architecture, and the view over the flat plain towards the mountains, and a superb perspective on the town and castle, worth seeing in themselves. The displays and exhibits inside, especially Wallace's truly massive sword, are also unmissable. There seemed to be a lot of fine places to eat in town (I'm fairly sure the best place we visited was called Olivia's), and lots of good chippies and cafes for something quick. There are a whole bunch of places in Scotland which justify a weekend away, or inclusion in a tour, but anyone who has enjoyed a trip there should make sure they visit Stirling, and give it a few days: it really does warrant it.
Stirling is a great base for exploring Scotland as it is in the middle of the central belt. It also makes for a good day trip destination. If you are interested in history especially 'Braveheart' then there is plenty to interest you here. Stirling castle gets better every time I visit as they keep doing up more parts. Wallace's monument has good displays and gives excellent veiws of the area. Other places to visit include the site of the Battle of Bannockburn and the graveyards surrounding the castle give a tranquil escape from the tourists. Take the open top bus and jump on and of around the town, it stops at all the main attractions. If shopping is your thing then you will like the Thistle Centre and the newer Thistle Marches. They are connected and if it is a wet day you don't really need to go outside. They have the usual range of shops but if you want something a bit different you will have to veture out to the streets. My favourite chip shop is Corrieries. It is at Causwayhead 5mins drive out of the centre. its worth getting a bus out even if you don't drive. They have quite a sofisticated cafe for a chippy. Their ice-cream is home-made and well deserves the many awards it has earned. On a wet day head for The Barnton Bistro for a Special Hot Chocolate. The Very Special Hot Chocolate is even more warming - not for drivers as its secret is the mint liquer. Again if you are driving get directions from a local and head for The Birds and the Bees Pub and Restruant. It is a converted barn that retains many orginal features including the SHEEP!!!
Stirling is probably Scotlands most historical town. It is the sight of the battle of Stirling bridge and the battle of Bannockburn and was also the favourite residence of the Stewarts. When you approach Stirling your heart goes out to it, the jagged volcanic cliff faces which feature the Wallace memorial and Stirling castle all set onto an absolutely perfect and almost card board cut out Ochils and Trussachs mountain ranges. As far as sight seeing attractions go there are many things to do; Stirling castle, The old Town Gaol, The Wallace monument, the old bridge, Cambuskenneth Abbey.. the list goes on. There are also many scenic walks for everybody, the mountain rnages offer varying level of difficulty for the more adventurous, there are a number of walks around Abbey Craig at the base of the Wallace monument which are good, easy walks and if you aren't feeling up for a long walk then a wander round the loch at the university is very rewarding and allows you to take in the most scenic univeristy campus in Europe, set in the grounds of a 17th century castle. The towns Thistle shopping centre offers a wide variety of shops but isn't as wonderful as it is made out to be. If you wan t refreshment then all the local pubs provide good fair, the best being The Meadowpark, The Portcullis up the hill next to the castle and O'Neils, Corrieri's cafe is also a good place for food and there are an abundence of resteraunts if you should wish for a more substantial meal. As far as places to stay there are well over 100 guest houses, a suprisingly good youth hostel and a number of hotels including The Striling Highland hotel, a magnificant four star hotel, and if you're partial to whisky, there bar has 103 single malts. Also worth a visit while your there is the picturesque village of Bridge of Allan, which is a short walk from the town and boasts some wonderful pubs and resteraunts. A shopping trip to either Glasgow or Edinburgh is al
so possible as both are merely a half hour train journey away.