- For the village in southeast Ontario see Belleville (Ontario)#Stirling
Stirling is a city in the central lowlands of Scotland, and historically the county town of Stirlingshire. For centuries this was the main route between the Highlands and the Lowlands, guarded by the castle on its battleship of a crag, and with the River Forth sweeping round as a moat. The Scots won two famous victories against the English on the nearby fields, at Stirling Bridge and at Bannockburn. Medieval Scottish rulers made it their residence and capital.
Stirling had a population of 37,910 in 2020. The city limits also include Bridge of Allan, the village north of the river which is now the campus for Stirling University, and Dunblane further north - these are both described on their own pages.
The River Forth meanders east out of the Trossachs across a broad plain, and swells when it's joined by the River Teith - this made Stirling the lowest point that early architects could span with a bridge. A few miles downstream the river becomes tidal, and you had to cross by ferry until modern times. So if you controlled the bridge at Stirling, you controlled the all-weather route between Edinburgh and the Highlands. Better still, you got to levy tolls and taxes on everyone who needed to pass.
The city was inevitably bashed about in several conflicts, the last at the hands of the Jacobites, who in 1746 failed to capture the castle and blew up their own ammo depot in pique. Stirling has since then been a quiet market town, making its living from agriculture. Before the railways, huge cattle drives would plod over the bridge and through town towards southern markets, even as far as London Smithfield. When 19th and 20th century heavy industry developed, this was to the south around Falkirk and downstream in Grangemouth, Fife and the Lothians; Stirling was relatively untouched and preserved its old centre. There's nowadays a ring of light industry and suburbs, but the big boost was the 1967 establishment of the University of Stirling. This has some 8500 undergraduates and 4000 postgraduates.
1 VisitScotland Stirling iCentre is the TIC, in the Old Town Jail on St John St near the castle. It's open daily 10:00-17:00.
Get in edit
By plane edit
Edinburgh Airport (EDI IATA) is the nearest, and has a good range of flights domestically, within Europe and beyond. It's 29 miles / 47 km southeast of Stirling, a 30-min drive along the M9 motorway. Or take the bus or tram from the airport to Haymarket or Edinburgh Park for frequent trains to Stirling.
Glasgow Airport (GLA IATA) likewise has good domestic and European flights but fewer long-haul. It's also the wrong side of the city for Stirling. By road, follow M8 east then M74 to avoid city centre traffic, then head north on M73 to M80. Or take the airport bus into Glasgow then the train.
By train edit
- Wikivoyage has a guide to Rail travel in Great Britain
Stirling has trains every 30 mins from Glasgow Queen Street, Edinburgh and Haymarket, and Perth; and hourly from Aberdeen and Dundee. There are trains every 15 mins from Dunblane and hourly from Alloa. From Inverness there's an hourly service, alternately direct or changing at Perth.
From Manchester or Birmingham change in Glasgow. From London, York and Newcastle you usually change in Edinburgh, but there are two direct daytime trains from London King's Cross taking 5 hr 30 min.
Two Caledonian Sleeper trains run overnight from London Euston. The Highland Sleeper, departing around 21:00, calls at Stirling before 05:00 on its way to Inverness; the southbound train picks up shortly after midnight to reach Euston by 08:00. You might prefer to take the Lowland Sleeper north near midnight, changing in Glasgow around 07:00 for a morning train to Stirling; the southbound train leaves Glasgow Central at 23:30 to reach Euston by 07:00.
1 Stirling station is central, and staffed during opening hours. A few convenience shops here. Keep your ticket handy for the exit barriers.
By bus edit
First Scotland East Bus X36 runs from Glasgow Buchanan station to Stirling M-Sa every 30 min and hourly Sunday, via Cumbernauld and Denny. But don't get on the X36 operated by Stagecoach West Scotland, or you'll end up in Ardrossan.
Scottish Citylink Bus 909 runs from Edinburgh St Andrew Square every two hours via the airport, Bo'ness, Grangemouth and Falkirk to Stirling (90 min), with two buses a day extending to the University campus. Buses run M-Sa 07:00-20:00 and at midnight from Edinburgh, 04:30-17:30 from Stirling; only two on Sunday. There's also a slower First Bus 38 between Edinburgh and Stirling via Linlithgow and Falkirk.
Bus 978 also runs daily from Edinburgh and continues to Doune, Callander, Crianlarich, Tyndrum, Dalmally, Taynuilt and Oban.
The buses from Glasgow to Aberdeen and Inverness rush past on the M9 and don't call at Stirling. The Megabus from London Victoria leaves at noon (M-Sa) and calls at Birmingham, Manchester, Preston, Lancaster and Glasgow, reaching Stirling just after midnight, and continuing north via Perth and Dundee to Aberdeen. The southbound bus doesn't call at Stirling, travel via Edinburgh or Glasgow.
National Express NX 592 leaves London Victoria every night at 23:00 and runs via Heathrow Airport, Carlisle and Glasgow to reach Stirling at 08:30, continuing to Perth, Dundee and Aberdeen. Change at Perth for the connecting bus to Pitlochry, Aviemore and Inverness. The southbound bus calls at Stirling around 21:00 to reach London by 07:00.
By road edit
Stirling is on the main A9/M9 route from the central belt of Scotland to the Highlands, some 28 miles (45 km) northeast of Glasgow via M80, and 35 miles (56 km) northwest of Edinburgh via M9. From London and the Midlands it's usually quickest to follow M6, M74 then M73 onto M80.
Get around edit
The town and castle are best explored on foot.
Uni-link Bus UL runs every 30 min from Stirling bus station to the University of Stirling campus. Bus 54 also runs there every 30 min via Bridge of Allan village.
First Bus 51 runs every 30 min from Alloa and Stirling to Bannockburn, taking 20 min from town centre to the battle site.
Nextbike offer app-based bike hire in Stirling. Bikes cost £1 for 30 minutes, or £10 for the day. Bikes are hired and returned to stations around Stirling, from Bannockburn to Bridge of Allan.
- 1 Stirling Castle, Castle Esplanade FK8 1EJ (Limited parking here, seek alternatives), ☏ . Daily Apr-Sept 09:30-18:00, Oct-Mar 09:30-17:00. Pocket-sized edition of Edinburgh Castle, similarly poised on a crag with steep cliffs on three sides and tail of glacial rubble. It dates back at least to the 12th century, but most of the interior is from the 15th and 16th when James IV, V and VI developed it as a royal residence in Renaissance style. It became an army base in 1800 and remains the HQ of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, though they are nowadays quartered in Edinburgh. Visits take in the Great Hall, the Palace and Chapel Royal, the kitchens, tapestries, vaults, the gardens, and Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders regimental museum. There is limited access for those with restricted mobility, but the "access gallery" gives them a view of the hard-to-reach sections. Argyll's Lodging just outside the castle is normally included in the ticket, but it's closed for building work, as is part of the castle: ticket prices are therefore reduced. Unicorn Cafe inside the castle serves good quality food but is pricey. Adult £14, child £8.40, concs £11.20.
- Argyll's Lodging, Castle Wynd (on the right as you approach the castle), ☏ . Closed. The well-preserved 17th-century town house, erected by the 1st Earl of Stirling, is a fine example of renaissance architecture. It's been closed for some years for building maintenance, re-opening date not known.
- Valley Lane Cemetery is on the south flank of Castle Hill, with 19th century funerary monuments. The pyramid in the adjacent gardens is not a grave, but a monument of 1863 "to all those who suffered martyrdom in the cause of civil and religious liberty in Scotland".
- 2 Church of the Holy Rude, St John Street FK8 1ED. Beautiful church dating to 15th century with impressive stained glass; James VI of Scotland was crowned here. See also the adjacent cemetery, where one gravestone depicts an 1822 victim of body-snatching. Free, donations welcome.
- Mar's Wark opposite Holy Rude is the facade of a 16th century townhouse, and that's all that remains.
- 3 Smith Art Gallery and Museum, Albert Place / Dumbarton Road FK8 2RQ. Tu-Sa 10:30-17:00, Su 14:00-17:00. Small art gallery, local museum and cafe. Galleries One & Two have rotating exhibitions. "Stirling Story" in Gallery 3 sets out the history of the area and local industry. Displays the world's oldest football - did Mary Queen of Scots really play keepy-up with this? Free.
- 4 Cambuskenneth Abbey, Ladysneuk Road FK9 5NG (use footbridge from Riverside Drive). Apr-Sept daily 09:00-17:30. Ruins of an Augustinian 12th century abbey, on a loop of land far side of the meandering River Forth. It's mostly just courses of masonry but the bell tower has been restored. You can see the graves of Queen Margaret of Denmark and her husband James III here. Free.
- 5 Stirling Old Bridge, north edge of town (next to modern A9 bridge). Always open. This stone bridge was built some time in the 15th century. The timber bridge that it replaced, 180 yards upstream, caused the English downfall at the Battle of Stirling Bridge in 1297: see Bridge of Allan for this story. Free.
- Bridge of Allan lies across the river: visit here for the Wallace Monument and Stirling University. It also includes Cambuskenneth Abbey, but that's easier to reach from Stirling.
- 6 Bannockburn (Battle of Bannockburn Experience), Glasgow Road, Stirling, ☏ . Daily 10:00-17:00. England's King Edward II tried to install a puppet king on the throne of Scotland, and garrisoned Stirling Castle. In 1314 the Scots under Robert the Bruce besieged the castle then attacked the English forces to the south at Bannockburn. They won, a victory still celebrated today in the song Flower o' Scotland. There's a monument and statue of Robert the Bruce that you can visit free anytime. But what the crowds come for is the Battle of Bannockburn Experience, a 3D immersive battle game - no paintball involved but lots of CGI as you manouevre your assigned army unit. Admission is only by timed slot, with limited capacity so they often book out. After briefing and familiarisation, you spend 45 mins in battle play. Adult £11.50, child (minimum age 7) £8.50.
- What's on? Tune in to Central on 103.1FM or read Stirling News.
- Cinema: Vue Cinema is on Forthside Way just south of the railway station.
- Live music: Albert Halls is on Dumbarton Rd, and Tolbooth is on St John St next to the Visitor Centre. Alhambra Theatre has closed.
- AMF Bowling Alley is on Forth St east of the railway station.
- Football: Stirling Albion were promoted in 2023 so they play soccer in Scottish League One, the third tier. Their home ground is Forthbank Stadium, capacity 3800, by the Sports Village a mile east of city centre.
- Alloa Athletic also play in League One. They play at the Recreation Ground in Alloa, capacity 3100.
- Rugby: Stirling County RFC play rugby union in National League One, the amateur game's second tier in Scotland. Their home ground is Bridgehaugh Park, just north of the A9 bridge out of town.
- Golf: Stirling GC is southwest on Dumbarton Rd. White tees are 6504 yards, par 72.
- 1 Sports Village (aka The Peak) is the main fitness facility, on Forthside Way a mile east of town. It has a swimming pool, ice rink, climbing wall, gym and fitness classes. Stirling Albion football ground is across the road.
- See Bridge of Allan for walks in the nearby hills.
- 2 Blair Drummond Safari Park, Blair Drummond, FK9 4UR (six miles west of Stirling on A84), ☏ . Mar-Oct daily 10:00-17:00. Drive-through safari park, plus enclosures for chimps, sea lions, bugs, birds of prey, petting farm etc. Plus lots of theme-park stuff like pedalos and zipwires that charge extra. No dogs. Adult £18, cheaper online.
- Briarlands Farm (on A84 next to Safari Park). Feb-Dec daily 10:00-17:30. Children's farm: petting zoo, fruit-picking, go-karting, trampolines, a maize maze and other family activities. Adult £5.75.
- Stirling Highland Games are in August at the Sports Village, with the next on Saturday 19 Aug 2023.
- Port Street has the usual range of high-street shops and banks. Stirling has a few independent shops, mostly on side streets or north of the railway station.
- Farmers Market is held on Port St 10:00-16:00 on the second and fourth Saturday of the month.
- Europa Music at 10 Friars St is an independent music store, open M-Sat 09:30-17:30, Sun 12:00-17:00.
- Thistle Marches is a shopping centre just south of the railway station with the usual range of high street stores. Open late Thursday nights.
- Supermarkets include Tesco 5 mins north of railway station, Sainsbury's a little further north, and Morrison's a mile to the east. They're mostly open until 22:00.
- Stirling Arcade, King Street, FK8 1AX, ☏ . A Victorian shopping arcade, built in 1881, housing several boutique shops and cafés.
- 1 Made in Stirling (MiS), 44 King Street, FK8 1AY (a 5 minute walk from the train station), ☏ . 10AM-5PM. A collective of local artists, wanting to change the Stirling high street and champion makers from in and around Stirlingshire. Great location for Scottish gifts and souvenirs.
- Fast food outlets are Greggs (various locations), McDonalds (by station) and Pizza Hut (300 yards north of station). Lots of cheap & cheerful restaurants and takeaways also.
- Poonthais (formerly Willawan), 9 Baker Street, Stirling FK8 1BJ. Tu-Su 12:30-14:00 & 17:30-23:00. Highly commended Thai restaurant.
- Greengrocer Cafe, 81 Port St FK8 2ER. M-F 09:00-17:30. Gourmet sandwich lunch menu and amazing cakes.
- 1 The Crossed Peels, 8 Spittal Street. Daily 08:00-00:00, food until 22:00. Wetherspoon pub with food all day
- Splurge at 2 Hermann's, Mar Place House, 58 Broad Street FK8 1EF, ☏ . Daily 12:00-15:00, 18:00-23:00. Excellent Austrian/Scottish fusion restaurant. Offers delicious local produce with an original twist.
- Nicky-Tams, 29 Baker Street FK8 1BJ. M-Th 11:00-00:00, F Sa 11:00-01:00, Su 12:00-00:00. Opened in 1718, friendly (and dog-friendly) atmosphere, mostly student clientele, food served to 21:00. Live music most nights, pub quiz Sun evenings.
- Corn Exchange (formerly Pivo), 11-13 Corn Exchange Road FK8 2HX. F Sa 11:00-01:00. Now a Belhaven pub, has decent food and good meals.
- The Portcullis, Castle Wynd FK8 1EG, ☏ . Su-Th 11:30-23:00, F Sa 11:30-00:00. Located at the bottom of the castle car park. Good whisky selection. Also offers good quality meals and accommodation.
- Settle Inn, 91 Saint Mary's Wynd FK8 1BU, ☏ . M-W 15:00-00:00, Th Su 12:00-00:00, F Sa 12:00-01:00. Traditional pub close to the castle, dog-friendly. Frequent live music. Board games available for customers to play.
- Fubar, 6 Maxwell Place FK8 1JU, email@example.com. W-Sa 23:00-02:00. Club with 2 floors, programme varies by day. Entry around £10.
- Dusk, Dalgleish Court FK8 1BJ (off Baker St), ☏ . M Tu 22:00-02:00, F Sa 23:00-03:00. Nightclub: Monday is "guilty pleasures", Tuesday is "skint" cheap drinks, Thursday is LivItUp club tunes, Friday is Dusk'n Ladies Night, and they say that Saturday is the pinnacle.
- Stirling Youth Hostel, St John Street FK8 1EA (pposite TIC, turn 2nd left after Highland Hotel), ☏ , firstname.lastname@example.org. Built behind the façade of an old church, it offers 2 to 6-bedded rooms, good self-catering kitchen, internet, friendly staff and TV-room; breakfast £7.50. Book ahead during summer. Open all year. Private room (sleeps 2) £40, dorm beds Adult £15.50, child £14.
- 1 Willy Wallace Hostel, 77 Murray Place FK8 1AU, ☏ , email@example.com. Check-in: 13:00, check-out: 10:00. Located in the centre of the old town, mixed & female dorms, lounge. Open all year. Dorm bed £16, double room £42.
- Premier Inn is on the riverside just east of the railway station.
- B&Bs: those central include Lost Guest House at 4 Melville Terrace, Castle Walk B&B on Back Walk, and Munro's at 14 Princes St.
- The Golden Lion is a 3-star hotel at 8 King St FK8 1BD, B&B double £60.
- Stirling Highland Hotel, Spittal St FK8 1DU (along main street to castle), ☏ . Hotel in Victorian schoolhouse in old centre. B&B double £110.
- Hotel Colessio, 33 Spittal St FK8 1DX (along main street to castle), ☏ . Central boutique hotel. B&B double £90.
- Victoria Square is a pleasant small hotel at 12 Victoria Sq.
- 2 Holiday Inn Express Stirling, Springkerse Business Park FK7 7XH (1 mile east of town on A91), ☏ . Modern chain hotel with 80 a/c guest rooms, meeting facilities, bar, coffee lounge and free parking. 20 mins walk from centre, but use the Park & Ride bus from the nearby Morrison's supermarket, M-Sa every 12 min. B&B double £85.
- Blair Drummond has a caravan site by the safari park.
- 3 Hillview Cottage, Kirk Lane, Blair Drummond FK9 4AN (off A84 near safari park), ☏ , firstname.lastname@example.org. Open all year, with 3 en suite bedrooms (sleep 2, 3 or 4). 50 yards off main road yet quiet. B&B double £70.
- Powis House is an elegant B&B north of town along A91, open Apr-Oct.
- The Cross Keys in Kippen is an old coaching inn with fine dining.
As of May 2023, Stirling and its approach roads have 4G from Vodafone, and 5G with EE, O2 and Three.
The Central Library on Corn Exchange Road has free internet access. It's open M W F Sa 09:30-17:00, Tu Th 09:30-19:00.
The Post Office is within WH Smith, opposite Marks & Spencer, in Thistle Shopping Centre. It's open M-Sa 09:00-17:30, Su 10:00-16:00.
Go next edit
- Bridge of Allan is just across the river. It has riverside walks and the Lecropt Kirk.
- Dollar has scenic Dollar Glen, leading up to Castle Campbell.
- Doune has a 14th century castle with a great view over the valley.
- Dunblane has an impressive cathedral. An early Pictish stone was found here.
|Routes through Stirling|
|Perth ← Dunblane ←||N SE||→ Falkirk → Edinburgh|
|Glasgow ← Cumbernauld ←||SW N||→ merges with|
|Trossachs ← Doune ←||NW SE||→ END|
|ENDS AT / J9 ←||SW NE||→ Dollar → St Andrews|