Car-free aroundStirlingStirlingshire, Central Scotland

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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.

  • County: Stirlingshire, Central Scotland
  • Great for: Art Gallery | castles | historic houses | landmarks | museums | whisky |
  • Refreshments: Unicorn cafe at Stirling Castle, Macrobert Arts Centre, Deanston Distillery, Callendar House
  • Please note: researched/updated November 2023. If anything’s changed or you have tips to share, do get in touch:
  1. 3. Bus to Deanston Distillery

    The £9 tour with a taster at friendly Deanston is well worth stopping off for. The contrasting smells and temperatures as you visit the mash rooms, stills and warehouses bombard you, along with plenty of good-humoured info about whisky making.

    • Hop on the regular bus 59 outside the station (stance D – just over the road) and ride through the countryside with the Ochils ahead.
    • Look out for Stirling Castle on its cliff, another old bridge to the left and turret-y Blair Drummond House, hidden in the trees to your right.
    • The bus stops right outside Deanston distillery, a former cotton mill on the River Teith.
    • As well as being a welcoming place to visit, Deanston has some serious eco-credentials: The river powers its turbines (and 75% of the energy generated is sold on to the national grid); the casks are all recycled several times before finally becoming plant holders; and the whisky is made with yeast and malted barley from Perthshire, and water from the Teith. The left over chaff feeds local cattle and the pot yields become fertiliser.
    • The Ken Loach film, The Angels Share was partly filmed at Deanston.
    • Tours take place regularly during the day. The “Classic” tour includes an extra taster while the whisky and chocolate tour lines up four different pairings (book in advance for that one!)
  1. 4. and on to Doune Castle...

    Atmospheric Doune Castle is also a star of the screen, featuring several times in Monty Python and the Holy Grail and as Winterfell in the pilot for Game of Thrones. It is also a major location for Season One of the hit show Outlander, where it becomes Castle Leoch. Sam Heughan, who plays Jamie Fraser in Outlander, has added extra sections to the original audio guide narrated by Monthy Python’s Terry Jones. Follow Good Journey’s directions.

    • Pretty Doune village, with a choice of cafés, is two stops further than Deanston on bus 59. If you’re impatient, you can walk there, strolling back along the River Teith, over the bridge and straight along the A84 (there is a pavement, but it’s quite busy).
    • To reach the castle, walk through the village until you see the brown sign for Doune Castle and follow it right. The surrounding countryside is lovely – amble down to the river behind the castle to see the walls from all sides.
  1. 5. Falkirk

    Explore a chateau-style stately home for free and see the world’s largest equine sculptures. The luxurious, but affordable café at Callendar house is a great place for lunch or tea.

    • Twenty minutes back on the train towards Edinburgh or Glasgow brings you to Falkirk Grahamston station. From here it’s a twenty-minute walk or five minute taxi ride to Callendar House. See map below.
    • Admire the Georgian kitchen, eat oatcakes with Mull cheddar, or Stornoway black pudding in the tearoom, and walk round the wooded garden.
    • Stroll out onto Callendar Road, catch Bus number 1 (runs frequently) and get off on Redding Road, “opposite Overton Crescent”. Head past Tesco to the Grand Union Canal to admire the Kelpies, two huge stainless steel horse heads.
    • The town’s other stupendous visitor attraction is the Falkirk Wheel, the world’s only rotating boat lift. Transform Scotland have produced detailed instructions for how to get there car-free, including a canalside walking route from Falkirk High Station. Follow Good Journey’s directions.
    • Bus 3 runs every twenty minutes in the daytime between the Kelpies and the Falkirk Wheel via the centre of town. Energetic visitors could jog or bike the four miles between the two, using the Wheel2Kelpie trail guide.
    • You can book a 50-minute boat trip on this impressive lift, which will raise the boat up 35 metres to join the Union Canal and back to the Visitor Centre.