Scotland is the greatest wee country in the world. Bursting at the seams with history, heritage, beauty and culture, there’s so much to see and do - so how can you make the most of the experience when you visit? Well, the secret is to base yourself in Stirling, in Scotland’s heartland.
Our little family owned small-group bus tour business provide tours to the Highlands, Isle of Skye and Loch Ness. Most of the travellers we take to the Highlands base themselves in Edinburgh but some people take advantage of our Stirling departure option.
Stirling is Scotland’s most historic city and offers so much. As a location, it provides a gateway to the Scottish Highlands and gives easy access to Edinburgh, Glasgow and the rest of the lovely lowlands, making it the best and most efficient base for exploring Scotland.
But Stirling’s brilliance extends well beyond the convenience of its locale, for the city itself has everything that the main cities have: rich history, architectural and natural beauty, and cultural richness. But here's the thing: Stirling is also cheaper, quieter and smaller than the major Scottish cities, so everything is much more accessible and the city is easily navigated on foot or by public transport. In short, it is perfect for travellers who want to drink in Scotland’s awesomeness in a whistlestop.
Attractions to visit in and around Stirling
As a destination, Stirling is home to internationally-acclaimed tourist attractions which have seen the most defining and dramatic moments in Scotland's history. Top of the list is Stirling Castle, a world-class landmark and one of the most important places - both historically and architecturally - in the whole of Scotland. It was built in a strategic location, where the highlands and lowlands meet, atop a vast volcanic crag.
The castle, a historical stronghold, played a key role in Scottish history during the Wars of Independence, as whomever held the castle held the key to the kingdom of Scotland. Now, the atmospheric property has been restored to its full Renaissance splendour and is listed by Lonely Planet as one of the most exciting destinations in Europe, drawing visitors from across the globe.
The castle esplanade affords visitors breath-taking panoramic views of the mountain peaks of Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park, Ben Lomond, The Forth Valley, The Pentland Hills and the prominent National Wallace Monument on the edge of the rolling Ochil Hills. This striking landmark was erected to celebrate Sir William Wallace and his triumph in the battle of Stirling Bridge in the First War of Scottish Independence
The Battle of Bannockburn Experience is another Stirling attraction built around Scotland’s rich history. King Robert the Bruce triumphed over King Edward II of England’s superior army in a brutal battle and secured Scotland’s independence for the next 400 years. Visitors can relive the dramatic story using cutting-edge 3D technology to learn about this crucial event and experience medieval combat like never before.
Culture lovers will enjoy a visit to both The Tolbooth, a quirky historic venue celebrating live music and the arts; and the MacRoberts Arts Centre which hosts over 400 live performances a year for people of all ages as well as a year-round cinema programme.
If property and architecture are of particular interest, other sights worth visiting include:
Doune Castle, which has a 100 ft high gatehouse and one of the best preserved great halls in Scotland. It has been used as a film set, most recently as castle Winterfell in the pilot of the award- winning TV series Game of Thrones;
Cambuskenneth Abbey, one of Scotland’s most important abbeys with a collection of medieval grave slabs;
Dunblane Cathedral, one of the country’s most noble medieval churches with a present day congregation of 1200, serving the community of Dunblane;
Inchmahome Priory, a monastic sanctuary on the largest island on Scotland’s only lake (Lake Menteith).
Stirling Walking tours - a great way of seeing the town with a local guide, Tours of Stirling old Town and Stirling Castle with a unique mixture of drama, history and comedy.
You can read about other attractions - such as the Blair Drummond Adventure & Safari Park - and other architectural and cultural gems in and around the city on Destination Stirling’s excellent and comprehensive website.
Where to stay in Stirling
There is a wealth of accommodation to suit all tastes and budgets. Luxurious options and beautiful examples of architecture include the Stirling Highland Hotel, the DoubleTree by Hilton Dunblane Hydro Hotel, Cromlix House (owned by tennis sensation Andy Murray), and Hotel Colessio.
If you’d rather stay in alternative accommodation, you could consider: five-star Victoria Square Guest House; award-winning Castle Croft B&B; or Stirling Self Catering, which was shortlisted for a 2016/17 Scottish Thistle Award. The Willie Wallace Hostel and Stirling Youth Hostel offer a cheaper option for those on a budget.
Where to eat in Stirling
There is a fantastic mix of food on offer in the city - with everything from luxury and formal dining to street food, cafes and pub grub - across a swathe of cuisines.
It would be a travesty to visit Scotland without trying a true Scottish meal, so head to Portcullis or Brea for some haggis or cullen skink, or try the quirky Hermans, for local food with a German twist. The Smithy, Sable & Flea and The Hideaway Cafe are also a highly rated casual eateries in the city but if it’s luxury you seek, The Park Lodge comes recommended. If it is just a wee whisky you are after then the fantastic Curly Coo Bar is the place for you, Stirling's only Whisky Bar.
We are glad to share Stirling’s brilliance; it is a gem of a city to visit and the very best base for Scottish holidays….so whether your adventures include a trip to the magical Isle of Skye, skiing in the Cairngorms, a swim with basking sharks off Oban or some world-class mountain biking at Glentress, your holiday should definitely start in Scotland’s beating heart.