Image: Visit Scotland / Kenny Lam
Stirling's strategically-significant location at the lowest bridging point of the River Forth and right in the centre of Scotland has made it an important place for trade for centuries and secured its place in Scottish history. It was once said, "he who holds Stirling, holds Scotland", and it's easy to see why.
Positioned where the Highlands meet the Lowlands of Scotland, and towered over by its impressive castle, Stirling is both geographically striking and rich in history, wih plenty to do for visitors all year round.
Stirling is an excellent place to visit for a city break and an equally interesting and convenient stopping-off point as part of a longer itinerary touring around Scotland.
Culture & History
Image: Visit Scotland / Kenny Lam
It's impossible to miss splendid Stirling Castle as it watches over the city from on high, and this will likely be close to the top of any visitor's list of things to do. With commanding views across the city and countryside and plenty of history to discover, it's the perfect family day out. Don't forget to pay a visit to the statue of Robert the Bruce on horseback whilst you're there.
The history and significance of the area in and around Stirling is really something to behold, and the historical attractions alone will likely keep you busy for days. Don't miss Doune Castle and the multi-award winning Battle of Bannockburn visitor centre for starters.
Artistic attractions in Stirling include Smith Art Gallery and Museum, for an impressive collection of local and national art and artefacts. The exhibitions on offer at The Engine Shed explore and celebrate the built heritage of the local area and beyond.
For something a little different, head to Stirling Old Town Jail, where live performance art brings this space and its stories to life, and there's even an escape room you can try!
A novel way to get around and a perfect option for families, the Go Forth Stirling Land Train is highly recommended to help you get your bearings and see a different side to the city.
If you're looking for an evening's entertainment, head down to the Macrobert Arts Centre at the University of Stirling, which has a theatre and cinema space with packed programmes on weekdays and weekends.
Places to Eat & Drink
Image: Unsplash / Katherine Chase
Stirling's best eateries include award-winning Brea Scottish restaurant, specialising in delicious dishes using locally-sourced ingredients.
Family-run Fletcher's Bar & Rooms serves a range of Scottish and international dishes, while pub classics with a twist can be found at Nicky Tam's Bar & Bothy and the Kilted Kangaroo. Nawab is a very popular Indian restaurant with locals and visitors alike.
For fine dining, try Cronies Restaurant at the Golden Lion hotel, or treat yourself to Chez Roux at Cromlix near Dunblane. The Gallery is also a unique and excellent fine dining experience, based on the campus of Forth Valley College (with fabulous views) and prepared and served by its students. Austrian-themed Herrmann's is also well worth a try. Stirling's fine dining options are numerous and varied, going well beyond what you might expect for a city of its size.
Informal cafe options for a delicious breakfast or brunch include Flip 'n' Shake, specialising in American-style pancakes and waffles.
For drinks, Friar's Wynd wine bar is excellent, or try an incredible range of brewed-in-house beers at Allanwater Brewhouse at Bridge of Allan. Visits to Deanston (for whisky) and Stirling (for gin) distilleries are also highly recommended.
Nature & Green Spaces
Image: Visit Scotland / Kenny Lam - Bannockburn
Kings Park in the city centre is a popular park and recreational area. On the outskirts, Plean Country Park has acres of parkland and woodland to explore, with trails suitable for walking, biking and horse-riding.
The BLiSS trail is a collection of art and architectural installations which connects four villages in the area around Lochearnhead. It's an excellent family day out and can be reached from Stirling in under an hour by car.
Stirling city is also within easy reach of the Ochil Hills and Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park, making it the gateway to walkers' paradise. Surrounded by mountains, lochs, glens, forests and endless greenery, you'll find Stirling to be an excellent base for outdoor pursuits in some of the most spectacular areas of Scotland.
For wildlife, we highly recommend Argaty Red Kites, a feeding station just a short drive from the city where you can observe these rare and beautiful birds in all their glory from dedicated viewing hides.
Image: Visit Scotland / Kenny Lam - Wallace Monument
Undoubtedly the best views of Stirling can be seen from the 67-metre-high tower of the National Wallace Monument. Built in the 19th century as a memorial to Scottish hero William Wallace, this impressive structure is now one of Scotland's most celebrated landmarks, receiving more than 100,000 visitors each year. Located on the outskirts of the city, it's only a short drive away from the centre of Stirling and is well-served by local buses.
For a wonderful perspective on Stirling's Old Town, the Observation Tower at the Old Town Jail is a must-visit.
The David Stirling memorial in Dunblane is slightly further afield, but worth the detour due to its commanding views across the surrounding countryside.
Stirling Old Bridge, a medieval masonry arch bridge in the city centre which connects one bank of the River Forth with the other, was once one of the most important crossing points in Scotland. These days, it's a great place to pause and look up and down the river to enjoy views of Stirling and its immediate surroundings. There are also great views of the old bridge structure from the new bridge close by.
For those who venture further afield, the views over Loch Katrine from Ben A'an are absolutely spectacular. This is a relatively easy walk up one of the closest hills to the city of Stirling (at just under 1 hour's drive), and one of the most popular in the Trossachs.
Getting to Stirling
Image: Visit Scotland / Kenny Lam
Stirling's location at the intersection of the Highlands and Lowlands, and the north and south Scotland, means there are plenty of convenient ways to reach the city.
By road: Stirling is close to both the M80 and M9 motorways, so it's incredibly well-connected by road. In fact, about half of Scotland's population lives within an hour's drive of Stirling, so it's one of the easiest places in the country to get to.
Local buses in Stirling are run by First Group, and long-distance coaches connect the city with destinations further afield in Scotland.
By air: Stirling itself does not have a commercial airport, although it's close to the general aviation hub of Cumbernauld. However, the city is under an hour's drive from both Edinburgh and Glasgow airports, so it's easy to fly into either of these international airports and connect with Stirling.