17 Wonderful Things to Do in Stirling, Scotland

Once the capital of Scotland, Stirling today is one of the most popular destinations for a day trip from Edinburgh.

The city skyline is dominated by the magnificent Stirling Castle. The Old Town houses many historic churches and mansions. A wander along the winding cobbled streets would take you back in time. Surely, it is one of the most historic cities in Scotland.

It is also a great day trip choice from Glasgow.

The century-old saying ‘he who holds Stirling, holds Scotland’ echoes the prosperity and importance of this place. It has played a significant role in Scottish history.

During the War of Scottish Independence, many landmark battles of Scottish history took place here.

Statue of Highlander Soldier

Legendary Scottish warrior Sir William Wallace fought the English army at the Battle of Stirling Bridge. The tale of his heroic conquest is depicted in the movie Braveheart. 

During the Battle of Bannockburn, another important war in Scottish history, Scotland’s national hero, Robert the Bruce, defeated the English troops in this medieval city.

Located at the intersection of the Scottish lowlands and the highlands, this historic city is one of the must-visit places in Scotland

Stirling is easily reachable from Edinburgh and Glasgow within an hour by car or public transport. Also, it’s not too far from the incredibly beautiful Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park.

17 Best Things to Do in Stirling, Scotland

1. Explore the Captivating Stirling Castle

Steeped in hundreds of years of fascinating Scottish history, Stirling Castle is undoubtedly one of the best castles in Scotland and one of the main tourist attractions of this city.

Strategically placed over an ancient volcanic plug, this mighty medieval fortress has defended the lowest crossing point of River Forth for centuries.

Stirling Castle

Stirling Castle was the royal adobe of the Scottish kings until the Union of the Crowns in the early 17th century. Several Scottish monarchs were crowned here, including the famous Mary Queen of Scots, who was crowned here at the age of only nine months in the Chapel Royal of the castle.

Like Edinburgh Castle, this castle has seen numerous wars and invasions throughout history. Its ownership went back and forth between Scotland and England many times.

During the Wars of Scottish Independence, two of the most prominent historical figures of Scottish history, Sir William Wallace and Robert the Bruce, fought with the English army just a stone’s throw away from the castle wall. 

In 1746, Bonnie Prince Charlie unsuccessfully tried to capture the castle.

Robert the Bruce Statue
Interior of Stirling Castle

There is so much to see inside Stirling Castle. Once here, you can explore the Great Hall, the Royal Chapel, the Royal Palace, the Palace Vaults and the lovely Queen Anne Garden.

Admire the beautiful hand-woven tapestries at the Queen’s Inner Hall in the Royal Palace.

Also, from the castle, you will get a stunning panoramic view of the nearby Ochil Hills, Abbey Craig, the Forth Valley and the surrounding landscapes. On a clear day, you might even spot the peak of Ben Lomond on the horizon.

Opening Hours: 1 April to 30 September, 9.30 am – 6 pm. 1 October to 31 March, 9.30 am – 5 pm.

Ticket: Adult, online £17.50 and walk-up £19.50.

2. Admire the Breathtaking Views from The National Wallace Monument

A visit to Stirling isn’t complete without exploring the National Wallace Monument, an iconic landmark of Scotland. 

This striking Victorian structure stands proudly atop a steep volcanic hill known as Abbey Craig. It commemorates the life and legacy of one of Scotland’s most beloved national heroes, Sir William Wallace.

This 220ft tower stands at the site where William Wallace is said to have first watched the enemy troops during the Battle of Stirling Bridge. The monument opened to the public in 1869.

View from The National Wallace Monument

The National Wallace Monument is located on the outskirts of the city centre. You can take public transport to reach the base of the hill. From there, you can either walk through the woodlands or take a free shuttle bus to the monument. 

Climb 246 steps to reach the observation platform at the top. Also, there are three exhibition rooms along the way. 

You can find various historical artefacts belonging to William Wallace, including the 163cm long Wallace Sword. Also, you can find the busts of several famous Scottish personalities at the Hall of Heroes.

From the top, marvel at the breathtaking views over Stirling, the Ochil Hills and beyond.

Ticket: Adult £11.30 and child £7.10.

3. Learn the History of The Church of the Holy Rude

Located right next to the castle, The Church of the Holy Rude is one of the most important historic buildings in the city. It was founded in 1129 during the rule of David I. 

Today, it is the second oldest building in this city and a perfect peaceful spot to contemplate.

The church had a strong connection with the Scottish kings and queens of Stirling Castle. Many significant events in history took place in this church. 

Church of the Holy Rude

It is the only church in the UK to have held a royal coronation that is still in use, other than Westminster Abbey in London. King James VI, the only son of Mary, Queen of Scots was crowned here in the mid-16th century.

You can still find bullet marks left by the English army during the siege of Stirling Castle in 1651.

After your visit to the church, don’t forget to take a wee walk around the adjacent cemetery.

4. The Back Walk, Gowan Hill and the Beheading Stone

The Back Walk is one of our favourite things to do in this ancient city. This peaceful walk is perfect for stretching your legs a bit and learning about the city’s history.

The path goes through woodlands and is easy to follow. It starts opposite Stirling Central Library at Corn Exchange Road.

The walkway follows the old town wall, which protected the city from foreign invaders once. This path goes uphill to the castle.

View over Stirling from the Back Walk

Along the way, you will find various wooded carvings associated with this area’s history. Watch out for the wolf statue, which is a symbol of the city.

You can continue your walk to Gowan Hill, where you will find the notorious Beheading Stone. It was used in numerous executions, including at the execution of Murdoch, Duke of Albany, in 1425.

Enjoy the uninterrupted panoramic views of the old bridge, the windings of River Forth and the lovely Ochil Hills.

5. Visit The Battle of Bannockburn Visitor Centre

The outcome of the Battle of Bannockburn is a crucial moment in Scottish history. In 1314, Robert the Bruce fought fiercely against the English troops in Stirling. Although the Scots had a smaller army, King Robert’s ingenious battlefield strategy helped the Scots to win. 

In 2014, almost 700 years after the historic event, The Battle of Bannockburn Visitor Centre was constructed. It is located around two miles from Stirling and sits close to the original site, where the historic battle took place. You can catch a local bus to reach here.

Robert the Bruce Statue Battle of Bannockburn

The Battle of Bannockburn Experience uses fully immersive 3D technology to recreate the battlefield and to bring the battle alive to the visitors. It is an educative and fun experience. 

After exploring the visitor centre, take a wander around the surrounding ground. There are several monuments here. Look out for the famous bronze statue of Robert the Bruce.

Ticket: Entry to the visitor centre is free.

Battle of Bannockburn Experience, adult £7.50.

6. Explore the Stirling Old Bridge

This charming stone-arched bridge across River Forth was built in the early 16th century. It replaced older timber bridges that stood here. 

It stands very close to the site where the Scottish army led by Sir William Wallace and Sir Andrew Moray defeated the English forces at the Battle of Stirling Bridge in 1297.

Stirling Old Bridge

Until a new bridge was built in 1831, the Stirling Old Bridge was used as the main entry point to bring goods and businesses into the city. 

During the Jacobite Rising of 1745, an arch of this bridge was blown up to stall the advancing rebels of Bonnie Prince Charlie.

7. Visit Stirling Smith Art Gallery and Museum

Known as the Smith, this museum showcases the life and history of the people of this city. 

It was founded in 1874 from funds donated by Thomas Stuart Smith, a Scottish painter. Exploring this museum is one of the best free things to do in Stirling.

Stirling Smith Art Gallery and Museum

From the portraits of the city’s famous people to various antiques, collected from all over the world, this museum houses an impressive display of 40000 objects.

Did you know you can find the World’s oldest football here? It was discovered in Stirling Castle and is over 400 years old.

There is a vast collection of local photos, postcards, and archaeological artefacts, which showcase different aspects of the life of the city’s residents centuries ago.

8. Take a Stroll in the Old Town Cemetery

Spread across a wee valley between the castle and the Church of the Holy Rude, this historic graveyard has many beautifully ornate gravestones, statues and other monuments. 

Also, there is a small hill from where you can enjoy a stunning view of Stirling Castle, the church and the surrounding cityscapes.

You can find the Star Pyramid, also known as Salem Rock, on the slopes of the cemetery. It is dedicated to the memory of those who gave their lives for civil and religious liberty in Scotland.

Also, look out for the ornate Martyrs Monument. The marble statue shows an angel watching over two sisters, Margaret and Agnes, who were arrested and sentenced to death for their beliefs.

9. Uncover the History and Heritage at Cambuskenneth Abbey

Nestled in a loop of River Forth, Cambuskenneth Abbey is an Augustinian monastery and an unmissable place to visit in Stirling for all history buffs. 

Only the bell tower of the abbey still exists today. The tower is enclosed with a small cemetery.

Cambuskenneth Abbey was founded by David I in 1147. It was frequently used by the Scottish royalty residing at the nearby Stirling Castle. The royal patronage brought massive wealth and influence to it.

Cambuskenneth Abbey

Many notable events in Scottish history unfolded here. After the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314, Robert the Bruce held a parliament here. Later, in 1326, the nobility of Scotland gathered here to swear loyalty to David Bruce as the heir of King Robert.

In 1488, after James III died at the Battle of Sauchieburn, his body was brought here for burial. He was buried beside his wife, Queen Margaret.

10. Go on a Tour of Stirling Old Town Jail

Opened in 1847, Stirling Old Town Jail is one of the best kid-friendly tourist attractions in the city. This Victorian prison was built when the nearby Tolbooth prison was found overcrowded and unsanitary.  

During your visit, you will learn what life was like in prison hundreds of years ago and hear the intriguing tales of local crime, punishment and judicial system from your tour guide.

You will come face to face with many of the prison’s colourful and notorious personalities. Tours run daily every half an hour.

End your visit at the observation deck at the top of the building. You will get a breathtaking view of the Stirling skyline and the surrounding landscapes.

11. Sit Back and Enjoy the View from King’s Knot

From the top of the castle, you might have noticed a landscaped grass-covered stepped mound in the nearby field.

Locally known as the cup-and-saucer, King’s Knot was once a part of the royal gardens of the castle.

King's Knot from Back Walk

It was created in 1628 for King Charles I and was used by Scottish royalty for various leisure activities, like hunting and jousting.

From King’s Knot, you will get a spectacular view of Stirling Castle, sitting dramatically on the Castle Rock.

Also, this is a popular place with locals, dog walkers, and tourists. It is a great place to relax and enjoy the view.

12. Delve into Delicious Food in Stirling

From fast foods to different international cuisines – you will find an array of restaurants in the ever-buzzing city centre.

One of our favourites here is the Brea – Scottish Restaurant

They have an excellent selection of seafood. We tried their Cullen Skink, Haggis, rolled haddock stuffed with smoked salmon and scallops. Price-wise, it is a bit on the higher side, but the food tastes amazing.

Also, we would recommend taking a look at the menu of The Portcullis and Allan Park. They both serve delicious food and are a great place in Stirling for dinner.

Afterwards, for a drink, pop inside No 2 Baker Street or Nicky-Tams Bar & Bothy.

13. Visit Mar’s Wark and Cowane’s Hospital

There are many historically important buildings around the Old Town of Stirling.

As you head towards the castle, you will come across Mar’s Wark. It was built in the 16th century by John Erskine, Earl of Mar, who was also the keeper of Stirling Castle.

It was a grand Renaissance mansion at that time. Unfortunately, only the facade of the building remains standing today. 

Mar’s Wark

Cowane’s Hospital is located just a few yards from Mar’s Wark. It is an almshouse established in 1637 from the money left by Stirling’s wealthy merchant, John Cowane.

You can find his statue in the hospital building. Locals believe it comes to life and dances in the courtyard during Hogmanay celebrations. 

Browse through their exhibition to learn about the past of this place. They also have a beautiful garden.

14. Take a Tour of Stirling Distillery

No visit to Scotland is complete without a distillery tour. Just a stone’s throw away from the castle, this small family-run distillery offers visitors daily gin and whisky tours. It is housed in an old historic building known to the locals as the Old Smiddy.

Stirling Distillery Gin Experience allows you to sample seven gins produced here. You will also learn about the colourful stories of the area and the history of this distillery.

In the Stirling Distillery Whisky Experience, you can taste a variety of whiskies from different regions of Scotland. 

Both the tours cost around £25 per person.

15. Explore the Past of Doune Castle

If you are visiting Stirling on a day trip from Edinburgh, we would recommend adding Doune Castle to your itinerary.

Nestled on the junction of River Teith and the Ardoch Burn in the small village of Doune, this castle was mostly built in the 14th century by Robert Stewart, Duke of Albany and the regent of Scotland.

During the 15th and 16th centuries, the castle was used as a country retreat by the Stewart dynasty.

Doune Castle

Later, at the time of the Jacobite Rising, Doune was used as a prison to hold captured government soldiers.

It appeared in various popular movies and TV series. The British comedy film Monty Python and the Holy Grail was filmed here.

Doune Castle gained massive popularity after being featured in the Game of Thrones TV series. Also, it was shown as the fictional Castle Leoch in the famous TV series Outlander.

It takes only 15 minutes to drive to Doune Castle from Stirling. Also, there are regular bus services.

Ticket: Adult £10 and child £6.

16. Explore Dunblane Cathedral

Dunblane Cathedral is a lovely historic church dating back to the 12th century. Today, this medieval church is maintained and cared for by Historic Scotland. From Stirling, you can take a train or bus to visit Dunblane. It takes only 7 minutes by train.

Dunblane Cathedral is an active place of worship for the locals. Admission to this cathedral is free. The inside is simple yet very beautiful. You can admire the carvings and colourful stained glass windows inside. 

The roof of the nave collapsed around the end of the 16th century, and it remained roofless for the next three hundred years. In 1889, major restoration work was carried out.

After exploring the cathedral, take a wander around the Dunblane town centre. There are a few charming cafes, pubs and restaurants here.

17. Discover Wildlife in the Blair Drummond Safari Park

This safari park is the perfect place near Stirling to spend a fun day out with family. It has been attracting tourists since 1970. Today, it is the home of over 350 different animals.

There are loads of things to see and do here. A visit to this park starts with a drive-thru safari, where you will find macaques, rhinos, antelope, camels and lions roaming around freely.

Later, walk around the park. There are huge playgrounds and picnic areas. You would get to enjoy a variety of adventure rides. There are also viewing platforms to watch the animals up close. 

Kids will love exploring the dinosaur exhibit, which features twenty dinosaur statues. Don’t miss their Bird of Prey show.

Map of the Tourist Attractions in Stirling

Here is a map of Stirling, including all the tourist attractions mentioned in this article. We have also marked popular places to eat and stunning viewpoints around the city. If you save this Google Map on your phone, you will be able to access it offline.

How to Reach Stirling

Stirling is very well-connected with other cities in Scotland and England. 

It takes about 30 minutes to drive here from Glasgow and about 50 minutes from the capital city, Edinburgh.

Getting here by public transport is super easy and a budget-friendly option. There are regular bus and train services from Edinburgh and Glasgow

If you are visiting Stirling on a day trip from Edinburgh, hop on a train from Edinburgh Waverley Station, and in about 50 minutes, you will be in this beautiful city.

Alternatively, there are direct bus services leaving from Edinburgh Bus Station near St Andrews Square.

How to Get Around Stirling

This city is quite small and compact. Most of the tourist attractions are pretty close to each other. Walking is the most convenient way to explore this city. So, a pair of comfortable walking shoes are recommended.

From the Stirling train station, it takes approximately twenty minutes of uphill walk to reach the castle. Although the route is easy to follow, the path is a bit steep in some places. In case you don’t fancy walking, you can hire a taxi to take you to the castle. 

If you want to explore the area outside the city centre, hop on a local bus from the Stirling Bus Station, which is very close to the train station.

We hope this article was helpful to plan your next holiday in Stirling. Check out our Scotland travel page for more travel inspirations.

Love, Moumita & Sankha.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *