Stirling is at the heart of Scotland, both geographically and in terms of the country’s history. It’s also home to two of Scotland’s best-loved landmarks: the National Wallace Monument and the eternal Stirling Castle. Thanks to its strategic location on the River Forth, Stirling has long been considered the ‘gateway to the Highlands’ and is known for its significance during the Scottish resistance. Both the Battle of Stirling Bridge in 1297, as depicted in the movie Braveheart, and the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314 took place nearby, so a trip to Stirling is a must for anyone interested in Scottish history. sp 1297
This historic city is filled with beautiful stone buildings and atmospheric streets whilst its university has a world-class reputation. Wedged between the Scottish Highlands and Lowlands, not far from the Highland Boundary Fault, Stirling only gained official recognition as a city in 2002, although it was once considered the second capital of Scotland.
Stirling is a small city and can be explored on foot, making it perfect for a city break or as a stop on a wider tour of Scotland. Although it may be compact, it’s filled with cultural sights, charming stone architecture and is surrounded by verdant countryside. Visiting Stirling is a chance to delve deeper into Scotland’s fascinating history and to enjoy the unique atmosphere of a city that fuses the traditions of both the Highlands and the Lowlands.
If you travel to Stirling you’ll want to discover all of its legendary historic sights. Stirling Castle is a great place to start a tour of Stirling and is one of Scotland’s best-preserved castles. Surrounded by steep cliffs on three sides, Stirling Castle served as both a palace and a fortress over the centuries and was the site of several famous sieges. Overlooking the River Forth, this 15th-century castle was perfectly situated to guard the important river crossing below. If you visit Stirling Castle today you can explore the refurbished Royal Palace, the childhood home of the infamous Mary Queen of Scots, and admire the huge Banqueting Hall, the largest ever built in Scotland. Once you’ve discovered the castle interior, you can take in the spectacular views out across the city and towards the Highlands.
On the opposite side of the River Forth is another of the most important sights to see in Stirling: the National Wallace Monument. Erected in 1869 during a resurgence of Scottish national identity, this impressive monument is in honour of William Wallace, the Scottish hero who led a number of legendary battles for Scottish independence during the 13th and 14th-centuries. Crafted in a Victorian Gothic style, this sandstone monument rises for 67 metres above the skyline of Stirling and to reach the monument visitors must climb the 246 steps up to the top of Abbey Craig outcrop. The steep climb is more than worth it to admire this unique monument, and inside the tower, you can explore three exhibition rooms, home to a number of artefacts believed to have belonged to Wallace.
The journey through Scotland’s history doesn’t end there, as Stirling Bridge is another top sight to see if you take a tour of Stirling. This was the site of one of the most important Scottish victories over the English in 1297, led by William Wallace himself. The bridge was also of strategic importance during the Jacobite uprisings of the 18th-century. The stone bridge that stands on the site today replaced the original timber construction in the 13th or 14th century. Whether you’re interested in the history of this site or prefer to take in the spectacular views of the river and countryside, Stirling Bridge should be on your list of things to see in Stirling.
Finally, a trip to Stirling would be incomplete without visiting the Battle of Bannockburn Visitor Centre. Although William Wallace might have a monument in his honour, it was Robert the Bruce who led Scotland to victory during the legendary Battle of Bannockburn. This fascinating audiovisual experience guides visitors through the events of that fateful battle with a series of fun and interactive exhibitions. Outside you can find a charming memorial park with an impressive statue of Robert the Bruce stood on the site of his greatest victory.
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