Car-free aroundStirlingStirlingshire, Central Scotland
Time-travel through the centuries, from medieval castles to an 18th-century chateau, from a wee dram of whisky to a 1960s university. Stirling and Falkirk are historic towns with plenty of surprising sights and iconic monuments: the towering neo-gothic Wallace Monument overlooking Stirling Bridge or the 2013 stainless steel Kelpies, the world’s largest horse-sculptures and a unique boat ride on the canal at Falkirk. An easy day trip from Glasgow or Edinburgh, or a great base in itself, Stirling and surroundings are well worth seeing.
1. Modernism and more by bus
A short, but spectacular ride out of town brings you to Stirling University, with its iconic 1960s buildings, modern art collection, loch-side walks and a cultural centre/café overlooking the water.
- Catch the frequent UL bus from Stance A (over the road from the station and turn right) to the university.
- On the way, you will see the Wallace Monument ahead on the horizon, backed by the Ochil Hills. Stirling is historically linked to both William Wallace and Robert the Bruce.
- Crossing the River Forth, look left to see Stirling Old Bridge near the site of the famous Battle of Stirling Bridge in 1297, when William Wallace defeated the English. It’s one of Scotland’s finest stone medieval bridges.
- As soon as the bus turns right off the main road and into Stirling University, hop off and climb the steps on your left to visit the iconic 1967 Pathfoot Building, with its public collections of 20th-century art.
- Pick up a map from the Pathfoot Building reception; you can explore Airthrey Loch in the centre of the campus and stop off at the MacRobert arts centre and café.
- The UL bus leaves again regularly from outside the arts centre.
2. Stirling Castle on foot
“Just now, from Stirling Castle, I have seen by the setting sun the glorious prospect of the windings of Forth through the rich carse of Stirling, and skirting the equally rich carse of Falkirk,” wrote Robert Burns in a letter of 1787. While Burns lamented the ruined, roofless palace, it’s now restored and smelling of fresh paint and the views are as good as ever.
- A short, steep stroll up through the scenic old town from the railway station brings visitors to the castle.
- Take a walk around the walls to see the panoramic views in all directions. There are restored palatial apartments, exhibitions and an imposing great hall.
- If you’re planning to go to nearby Doune Castle too and a couple of others, get a pass – it gives you 10% off in the café and shop too.
- Your Stirling Castle ticket also gets you into nearby Argyll’s Lodging when it’s open and don’t miss the Church of the Holy Rude and its atmospheric churchyard, while you’re in the area.