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A historic visit to Stirling, Scotland’s medieval capital

4 August 2021

You might know Stirling as a bustling modern city in Scotland’s central belt, but by looking back in time, you’ll discover it’s also famous for being the place where much of this country’s history was written.

It has been the setting of stories so epic they seem lifted straight from fantasy, where awesome battles were fought and kingdoms were made.

Stirling is well worth visiting, and we’ve put together this itinerary so that you can experience all of the amazing history it has to offer over the course of a weekend.

Following this list, you’ll be walking in the footsteps of legendary heroes like William Wallace and Robert the Bruce!

Bannockburn and the Battle of Bannockburn Experience

The Battle of Bannockburn is one of the most important and celebrated conflicts in Scottish history, and visiting the very spot where this battle took place is an amazing way to learn about this country’s bloody past.

The battlefield lies just outside Stirling, still within sight of the towering Stirling Castle, and is free to explore (although you’ll have to pay for the visitor centre experience).

You’ll find a monument marking the spot where Bruce is said to have raised his banner before the battle, as well as a glorious bronze statue of Bruce himself. As you gaze upon these inspiring monuments, it might feel strange knowing that you’re standing on the same grassy field where soldiers fought hundreds of years ago.

The Battle of Bannockburn was where Robert the Bruce led the Scottish army to victory against Edward II, paving his way to winning the First War of Scottish Independence.

One of the most memorable parts of this experience is the digital recreation of the battle in the visitor centre, which will show you the armies from a bird’s eye view on a virtual map of the battlefield.

After you see how it played out, you’ll even get the chance to take control of soldiers on this digital board, pitting them against an army controlled by fellow guests to try and win the battle for your side. Who will win this time?

Stirling Castle

As you head into Stirling itself and explore the ancient, cobbled streets of Stirling’s old town, admiring the old-fashioned buildings as you ascend, you’ll eventually stumble upon Stirling Castle at the city’s apex.

Built atop a large hill in the 12th century (or maybe even before), this magnificent castle has stunning views over the surrounding Scottish landscape.

The walls of Stirling Castle have faced the wrath of many armies throughout its long history - in fact, during the first war of Scottish independence, it changed hands eight times in just 50 years. In the past, the castle was said to be situated at the point where the highlands and the lowlands meet, and so it was considered by many to be the key to controlling Scotland.

While its exterior may be impressive, there’s plenty to explore inside the castle as well. The Great Hall and Royal Palace have been painstakingly restored, and as you wander the halls, you’ll discover amazingly detailed tapestries which have been recreated from the 16th century.

Much of history has been made within the walls of Stirling Castle and it's an essential stop for those who want to take a deep dive into the city's past.

Stirling Old Bridge

Away from the city centre, you’ll find the old bridge standing high above the River Forth. This well-preserved bridge is free to visit, and is a significant historical landmark.

While its current form was built in the 16th century, it existed long before that and is the site where the famous Battle of Stirling Bridge took place.

This battle happened in 1297 when forces under Sir William Wallace ambushed the English army as they were crossing the narrow bridge. The subsequent skirmish was a slaughter: the Scots are thought to have killed over 5000 English soldiers and barely lost any of their own. Considering how tranquil the bridge is nowadays, it might be difficult to comprehend the bloodshed that took place here.

The Battle of Stirling Bridge is perhaps Wallace’s most famous and is also likely what cemented him as such a legendary warrior in history.

But for those interested in Wallace, this bridge is just a stop along the way to the main attraction.

The Wallace Monument

On the wild fringes of the city stands the Wallace Monument, likely Stirling’s most famous landmark.

This towering feat of architecture can be seen for miles around, so even if you don’t visit it while you’re here, you won’t be able to miss it.

Wallace was one of the leaders of the Scottish army during the First War of Scottish independence, and while he was a notoriously capable and fearless warrior, he didn't survive the conflict.

In 1305, he's said to have been betrayed by a fellow Scot, and was captured and executed by the English. Thanks to Wallace’s initial efforts, Robert the Bruce would go on to win the war and become king of Scotland. In the 19th century, the Wallace Monument was built to celebrate and immortalise Wallace’s achievements in this war.

Built atop a forested hill, you'll find a visitor centre at the foot. The trail up to the monument itself might be a bit tricky for some, but there are plenty of spots to rest along the way. There are also intricate woodwork statues dotted along the path to occupy you on your way up, each relating to different aspects of Scotland’s history.

Once you're inside, you'll find Wallace’s actual sword, a massive two-handed blade measuring 5 feet and 4 inches that would have been impossible for all but the largest warriors to wield in battle. While we don’t know much about what Wallace looked like, after seeing this sword, you’ll have no doubts about his strength.

And after all that trekking up hills and stairs to the top of the monument, you'll be rewarded with an indescribable view from the top - an unmatched panoramic that encapsulates the whole of Stirlingshire. We promise that it’s an unforgettable sight.

If you’re at all interested in the medieval times or the history of Scotland, there are few places quite as fascinating as Stirling.

This breathtaking city has deep roots in Scotland’s epic past, and following this itinerary is sure to give you an appreciation of its historical significance. If learning about the hardships this country has faced or the legendary figures who shaped it sounds like it could be your cup of tea, then a visit to Stirling is a must.