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The Ultimate Guide To Visiting Stirling

The Ultimate Guide To Visiting Stirling

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Historians say that Stirling was the broch that tied the Highlands to the Lowlands; and that “he who holds Stirling, holds Scotland.” Stirling is a city with an extraordinary history. It’s the place where the impossible beat the possible; Highland clans outnumbered and lacking modern and far superior weapons slaughtered modern English armies, sending the lucky few survivors running back to the southern Kings with news of their ferocity. I’ve been visiting Stirling for years, and during each visit, I’ve discovered something new and exciting. There is so much history and beauty to explore in one wee city!

With its historic buildings, charming cobbled streets, and magnificent castle perched on its ramparts, Stirling is a city that transports you back in time.

Stirling’s Old Town is truly a gem, perched atop a majestic wooded crag; from Stirling Castle, breathtaking views of farmland and the Ochil Hills stretch for miles.

The Wallace Monument can be seen from almost all angles from the city and serves us a reminder of Sir William Wallace, the legendary freedom fighter of Braveheart fame.

Just a stone’s throw away, you’ll find Bannockburn, the site of Robert the Bruce’s historic victory over the English in 1314.

If you are planning on visiting Stirling, you’ve stumbled across the perfect guide.

This guide is for anyone planning a trip to Stirling, whether you live in Scotland or you’re visiting from afar. I’ve included detailed information on how to get to Stirling, getting around Stirling, accommodation and eating out recommendations, and things to do. I have tried to be as specific as possible, but if you have a question about visiting Stirling leave me a comment at the end of the article and I’ll try to help!

Visiting Stirling: The Ultimate Guide

visiting stirling the old town

Stirling’s Old Town

What is Stirling like?

You would think that due to its copious amount of history, Stirling would rival the size of Edinburgh or Glasgow, however, Stirling is a fairly small city that can be easily explored in one day.

The area known as the Top Of The Town is one of the best places to explore the city’s historic past. This area consists of Broad Street, Castle Wynd, Ballengeich Pass, Lower Castle Hill Road, Darnley Street, Baker Street, St John Street and St Mary’s Wynd. They all lead to Stirling Castle and many of the main attractions in the city.

view of stirling from old town jail

View of Stirling and the Ochil Hills

Many of its attractions aren’t limited to the city; popular attractions such as The Bannockburn Visitor Centre and Doune Castle lie outside the city, so you can see more if you have a car.

Just outside Stirling, there are some lovely villages to explore. Bridge of Allan is a beautiful wee village with several nice cafes, restaurants and independent shopping. The council area of Clackmannanshire, to the east of Stirling, is home to a handful of hidden gems, including Alloa Tower, Alva Glen, and Dollar Glen.

The Ochil Hills frame Stirling to the north, and there are some lovely walks in these hills, with Dumyat being one of the most popular.

How much time should you spend in Stirling?

things to do in stirling

You can see the highlights of Stirling in one day, however, I recommend spending at least two full days in Stirling to acquaint yourself with the area better and discover more of its hidden gems. Of course, you could spend a week here and still find things to do!

Stirling is also a wonderfully central place to base yourself. It’s perfectly located in the middle of Glasgow, Perth and Edinburgh– and it’s super easy to jump on the train to explore any of these other cities. It’s also a great base to explore Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park.

Recommended books about Stirling

Here are a few books I recommend reading if you’re interested in learning about the history of Stirling before you visit:

Accommodation in Stirling

My top pick: Menstrie Castle Stay

menstrie castle stay

Menstrie Castle Stay

Location: Menstrie village, 5 minutes from Stirling

Quick history: Menstrie Castle was formerly owned by Sir William Alexander, the 1st Earl of Stirling, who played a crucial role in the establishment of the Nova Scotia colony.

Why I love Menstrie Castle Stay: One of my favourite places to stay is at Menstrie Castle Stay, located in the peaceful village of Menstrie, just a short 5-minute drive from Stirling.

This charming castle offers two beautiful apartments for you to choose from. The first is The Baronet, perfect for couples as it can accommodate up to 2 guests. It features a cosy bedroom, a well-appointed bathroom, and a well-equipped kitchen where you can prepare your own meals.

The second option is The Turret, which can sleep up to 6 people, making it ideal for friends or families travelling together. This spacious apartment boasts two bathrooms, ensuring everyone has plenty of space and privacy. Plus, The Turret is also dog-friendly, so you can bring your furry friend along on your adventure.

Both apartments are tastefully decorated with a stylish stag and Highland Cow theme, adding a touch of Scottish charm to your stay. I’ve had the pleasure of staying in both apartments, and I can’t recommend them enough. The owner, Tracey, truly goes above and beyond to ensure her guests have a memorable experience.

If you’re planning to stay at Menstrie Castle, I would suggest hiring a car, as there is free public parking available. However, if you prefer to use public transport, you can easily travel to and from Stirling on the bus.

Get 5% off your accommodation at Menstrie Castle Stay with the code HAGGIS5

More accommodation in Stirling

Here are some more accommodation options I recommend that are close to the city centre:

Things to do in Stirling

stirling castle

Stirling Castle

I’ve written a comprehensive guide on things to do in Stirling so be sure to check that out.

The most popular attractions (or must-sees) to see in Stirling are:

  • Stirling Castle
  • Wallace Monument
  • Stirling Old Town Jail
  • The Battle of Bannockburn Visitor Centre

My personal favourite Stirling highlights include the exhibition at Stirling Castle, Old Stirling Bridge (there’s a fantastic view of Wallace Monument from here) and Cambuskenneth Abbey, where James III is buried. I also always call by Blairmains Farm Shop to pick up some fresh produce and locally made items for my pantry.

Cambuskenneth Abbey

Shopping in Stirling

Shopping in Stirling

Stirling has some wonderful independent shops. First up, there’s Made in Stirling. Made in Stirling is an incredible store curated by Creative Stirling, offering a stunning collection of products made by talented creators and makers in the region. From art prints and candles to jewellery, homeware, beauty products, textiles, and wooden crafts, they have a diverse range of offerings. I love this shop and never leave empty-handed. It’s a haven for unique finds and a testament to the vibrant creative scene in Stirling.

Tinkerbell’s Emporium is a whimsical gift shop filled with faeries and magical gifts for your home or garden. Step into this enchanting store and be greeted by twinkling fairy lights, trailing ivy, and charming fairy homes. Discover a wide selection of books, toys, candles, stunning jewellery, and locally-made products. For those with a mystical side, there are crystals, oracle cards, and spell-casting kits available.

When in Stirling, be sure to visit the charming Scottish-themed Christmas shop, Tinsel & Tartan. The owner, Lyndsey, is a true embodiment of the Christmas spirit in Scotland, dressing in tartan every day. Don’t forget to pick up a few Christmas decorations for your tree!

Passes that may save you money

Stirling City Pass

If you plan on visiting Stirling Castle, Wallace Monument, and Stirling Old Town Jail, the Stirling City Pass will save you money. This is a consecutive 2-day pass, and it also has discounts and offers from local businesses. Simply purchase and download the pass from their website, and either print your pass or save it to your phone.

The cost for this pass is £33 per adult and £19.50 per child.

Explorer Pass

If you are planning on visiting at least three Historic Scotland properties, the Explorer Pass might save you money. This is a 7-day consecutive pass that provides free entry to their 75 paid attractions.

The cost for this pass is £35 per adult, £28 for concession, £21 for children aged 7-15 years, or £70 for a family pass (2 adults, 3 children). Under 7s are free.

How to get to Stirling

stirling old bridge and wallace monument

Stirling Old Bridge

You can get to Stirling by car, bus or train. I’ve included some information on how to get to Stirling using these modes of transportation from the major cities in Scotland below.

From Edinburgh: If driving from Edinburgh, it takes 1 hour to reach Stirling. There is a direct train to Stirling which takes between 40 minutes to just over 1 hour. Trains are regular and you can purchase your ticket at the station. If travelling by bus, it takes 1.5 hours. Recommended bus companies include Scottish Citylink and Megabus.

From Glasgow: If driving from Glasgow, it takes 36 minutes to reach Stirling. There is a direct train to Stirling from the Glasgow Queen Street station which takes between 26 and 43 minutes. Trains are regular and you can purchase your ticket at the station. If travelling by bus, it takes 43 minutes. Recommended bus companies include Scottish Citylink and Megabus.

From Inverness: If driving from Inverness, it takes 3 hours to reach Stirling. There is a direct train to Stirling which takes between 2.5 to 3 hours. Book your ticket up to 3 months in advance to save money. If travelling by bus, it takes between 3 hours 37 minutes. Recommended bus companies include Scottish Citylink and Megabus.

If you’re planning a trip to Scotland I highly recommend my Planning A Trip to Scotland Course. It includes 70+ short videos that walk you through planning your itinerary step-by-step. It will help you save time, money, and plan the best possible trip for you!

planning a trip to scotland course

Getting Around Stirling: By Car, Foot, and Public Transport

It’s easier to walk around the Old Town on foot

Car

Stirling is a fairly easy city to navigate by car, and this is how I travel when I visit Stirling. Because the attractions in Stirling are spaced apart, having a car makes getting around a lot easier.

When exploring the Top of The Town area (around Stirling Castle) I recommend finding somewhere to park your car and exploring this area on foot. There is parking up by Stirling Castle, and parking is free if you are a Historic Scotland member or have the Explorer Pass.

Car Hire Recommendation

If you’re driving to Stirling from Edinburgh, Glasgow or Inverness, I recommend Celtic Legend. They’re local, have great customer service, and have great prices.

Public transport

Getting around by bus: Stirling is mostly served by Midland Bluebird and Scottish Citylink. I recommend using Traveline Scotland and Google Maps for planning your bus routes. This page will also give you more information about bus destinations and service numbers.

Using the train: If you would like to explore towns and villages near Stirling, such as Dunblane or Bridge of Allan, you can catch the train. There are also regular trains to and from Edinburgh, Glasgow and Perth.

Scotrail is the main train provider in Scotland, and you can check train times and buy tickets on their website. For short journeys, I recommend buying your tickets at the station. For longer journeys (for example, outside the central belt of Scotland) you can purchase your tickets up to 3 months in advance- this will save you money on longer journeys.

Planning to use the train to get around Stirling and central Scotland? The Central Belt Route map is helpful for planning your routes.

Where to Eat and Drink in Stirling

The Portcullis

Here are some of my favourite places to eat and drink in Stirling. If visiting in summer or on the weekend, I recommend making a booking 2 weeks in advance for lunch and dinner.

Breakfast

  • The Allan Park
  • Caffe Pompei

Coffee

  • Gloria’s Cafe
  • Toasted Cafe

Lunch

  • Birds and Bees
  • The Portcullis
  • The Hollybank
  • The Woodside – Doune
  • Friend of Mine – Bridge of Allan

Dinner

  • Brea
  • Hermanns
  • The Hollybank
  • The Orangery at Victoria Square

Pubs and Bars

  • Nicky Tams Bar and Bothy
  • Meraki

Pubs and Restaurants: My recommendations
If you want to save yourself a lot of time finding the best pubs and restaurants throughout Scotland, you’ll love my Scotland Food + Drink Recommendations Map. It includes a map with all my recommendations for places to eat and drink in Scotland, a price indication, a description of why I love that pub/restaurant, and a link to their website for more info. It also comes with a guide for eating out in Scotland, filled with helpful tips such as when you need to make reservations (and when you don’t), and a checklist of Scottish food, whisky, and gin to try in Scotland. You’ll be sorted for eating and drinking in Scotland!

Tours of Stirling

Private tours to Stirling

kiwi and haggis tours stirling driving tour

Kiwi and Haggis Tours- our tour company!

Because many of Stirling’s attractions are spaced out, a private driving tour of Stirling is great if you’d like to see as much as possible, but don’t want to drive yourself.

If you’re looking for a private driving tour of Stirling and the surrounding area, my husband and I offer private driving tours through our tour company Kiwi and Haggis Tours!

Our Stirling tour begins in Edinburgh, where we will pick you up from your accommodation and show you the best of Stirlingshire as well as some of our favourite gems. Our day tours last 8 hours, and we can carry up to 7 passengers in our modern and spacious vehicle.

Our tours are fully customizable- so you can see exactly what you want on your tour. Send us a list of your must-sees, or choose from our list of itineraries.

Cost: £450 for a day tour up to 4 passengers; £600 for a day tour for 5-7 passengers.

Group tours

Rabbies is my pick for group tours to Stirling. They offer the following tours:

Cost: From £44 per person.

Walking Tours of Stirling

Walking Tours In offers walking tours of Stirling. They have two guided tours to choose from:

More Tips for Visiting Stirling

visiting stirling old town

Baker Street has some great cafes, bars and restaurants

  • If you haven’t already, read my comprehensive guide on things to do in Stirling!
  • Your Stirling is a great website to help you plan a trip to Stirling.
  • If you’re looking for events in Stirling- bookmark this page. It’s regularly updated with Stirling concerts and events.
  • Download the apps Explore Stirling and Stirling XP. The Explore Stirling has audio guides and driving routes which are super helpful.

Do you have a question about visiting Stirling that wasn’t answered in this guide? Leave me a comment and I’ll do my best to help!

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