Also known as "The Gateway To The Highlands", Stirling used to be the only connection to the Highlands and has therefore a significant position in history. Major battles for Scottish independence took place in and around Stirling. Stirling Castle is one of the great royal residences of Scottish history.
Stirling is located on the main A9/M9 route from the central belt of Scotland to the Highlands, and is located approximately 28 miles (45 km) from Glasgow via the M80 motorway, 35 miles (56 km) from Edinburgh directly via the M9. Driving time is approximately 30 minutes if there are no traffic problems.
Edinburgh Airport is the nearest, and most convenient airport for Stirling by far. It is located 29 miles (47 km) from Stirling, and is easily reachable via the M9 motorway. See the main Edinburgh article for full details.
Glasgow Airport has more transatlantic and long haul flights than Edinburgh, although harder to get to from Stirling due to the unpredictable nature of cross-Glasgow road journeys since it is on the "wrong" side of Glasgow, although things have now improved markedly following the completion of the M80 and M74 motorways in 2011.
Prestwick Airport is approximately 60 miles (97 km) from Stirling. Again, inconvenient to get to by road as it involves going across Glasgow, but half price (or free, depending on origin) rail travel is available if you show your flight paperwork when buying your rail ticket at the airport. Involves changing trains in the centre of Glasgow (i.e. from Central to Queen Street stations), but well worth the effort in terms of the cost saving.
- Wikivoyage has a guide to Rail travel in the United Kingdom.
The local service pattern is as follows (all these services are run by ScotRail):
- From Glasgow - approximately on 20min to 30min intervals from Queen Street (High Level) station, all trains to Alloa, Dunblane, Inverness and Aberdeen call at Stirling.
- From Edinburgh- approximately half hourly from Waverley/Haymarket stations, all trains to Dunblane and Inverness call at Stirling
- From Inverness/Aberdeen/Dundee/Perth - hourly, note that in general, only trains to Glasgow Queen Street call at Stirling - most Edinburgh trains go via Fife and the Forth Bridge.
Stirling has two direct rail services from London per day, otherwise a change in either Glasgow or Edinburgh is required if you are travelling from south of the border.
- East Coast; the once daily Highland Chieftain service from London King's Cross to Inverness calls at Stirling via York, Newcastle and Edinburgh. Approximate journey time 5hrs 30min. Fares start at around £14 for a one way "Advance", rising to approximately £115 for an off-peak return.
- Caledonian Sleeper; the overnight Highland sleeper train service from London Euston to Inverness calls at Stirling, leaving at 8pm the preceding evening. Note that this arrives in Stirling at around 5:30am (before any other public transport is running); it may therefore be more convenient to use the Lowland sleeper train to either Glasgow/Edinburgh, and change to one of the local services (above). Prices £130 return; one way "Bargain Berths" are available online only from £19, depending on how early you book.
Note that Stirling station is equipped with automatic ticket barriers, you need to remember to retain your ticket before leaving the train.
There are regular coach services to Stirling from all over Scotland run mainly by Scottish Citylink, with regular departures from Glasgow (Buchanan Bus Station) and Edinburgh (St Andrew Square Bus Station) calling en route to either Inverness or Aberdeen. There are also numerous connections from destinations in the Highlands and the North. Fares from Glasgow/Edinburgh are around £4 one way.
If travelling from Edinburgh, the CityLink 909 service runs Monday to Saturday. The bus leaves Edinburgh Bus Station at 10 minutes past the hour from 9:10 until 16:10 with two additional departures at 17:10 and 18:10 which extend to Dunblane (however these services are usually busy with commuters from Monday to Friday and these two services do not run on Saturdays). The journey time to Stirling Bus Station is 1 hour and 10 minutes. The bus returning to Edinburgh from Stirling departs the bus station at 40 minutes past the hour, last 909 service back to Edinburgh is the 17:50 service which begins its journey at Stirling University (this service does not run Saturdays so on a Saturday afternoon the last bus back to Edinburgh leaves at 16:40).
The budget operator Megabus calls at Stirling on its London-Aberdeen route (which confusingly is 'merged' with certain Citylink services from Glasgow), fares start at £1 plus a 50p booking fee, depending on how early you book.
Due to the unpredictability of journeys in the Glasgow/Edinburgh area during rush hour, it is advisable not to rely on coaches being on time - particularly if you intend to connect with other means of transportation. Leave plenty of slack in your itinerary as a precaution, or use the train instead.
There are several buses leaving to towns close by, but for Dunblane the train is a better bet. In summer there is a sightseeing bus which is a cheap way to get to the sights, as you can "hop on and off" at any time.
Suburbs and surrounding towns and villages
There are a few suburbs in the Stirling City area;
- Bannockburn - One of the southernmost suburbs of Stirling, Bannockburn is the site of the Battle of Bannockburn, and the heritage centre for the Battle of Bannockburn. There are Bed & Breakfast areas in Bannockburn.
- Bridge of Allan - The northernmost suburb of Stirling, Bridge of Allan is probably the wealthiest area of the city. It is close to the University of Stirling and the Scottish Institute of Sport. It also next to the Wallace Monument (a landmark in memory of Scottish freedom fighter William Wallace). There are many Bed & Breakfasts and a couple of hotels in this area. Mine Wood and the University of Stirling premises are beautiful places to visit.
- Cambusbarron - In the westernmost suburb of Stirling, you would find the remote Cambusbarron. Cambusbarron is situated next to the M9 motorway and there are no accommodation sites in this area.
- Causewayhead - Causewayhead is almost like an entrance to Bridge of Allan. Here, along Airthrey Road, you would find many Bed & Breakfasts. It contains Wallace High School and a few parks and woodland areas. It is a worthwhile visit.
- Cowie - Southeast of Bannockburn, you would find Cowie. There is no accommodation areas in Cowie, and there are no landmarks apart from the Norbord factory.
- Gargunnock - To the west of Stirling you will find the village of Gargunnock. There is the Gargunnock Inn, a family run lounge bar and restaurant. There are no landmarks, but you could climb the Gargunnock Hills.
- Stirling Castle, Castle Esplanade, ☎ +44 1786 450000. Open daily (closed Christmas and Boxing Days), 1 April-30 September 9.30AM-6PM, 1 October - 31 March 9.30AM-5PM, last admission 45 mins before closing. At the head of Stirling's Old Town - one of the best preserved castles in Scotland, it features the Great Hall, the Palace and the Royal Chapel. In summertime, the castle is crowded with tourists and therefore lacks the medieval flair. Parking is available in front of the castle: Car £4.00, Motorcycle £1.00, Members £2.00. Avoid the car park between June and August after mid-morning, as the queues to park can be very long. Castle tickets can be bought online and tickets printed at home, sometimes saving considerable time. The Unicorn Cafe inside the castle serves good quality food, though is rather pricey. Picnics are allowed (but no alcohol), and picnic tables are freely available. If you're planning on visiting several Historic Scotland properties, purchasing an Explorer Ticket may be a cheaper option, especially if you're planning to visit Edinburgh Castle. Separately run, but part of the ticket price, is the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders Regimental Museum, located in the main courtyard. It has displays and information on this historic regiment, ranging from it's origins in the 18th century, right up to the 21st. A large part of the castle is wheelchair accessible, although the Elphinstone Tower, great kitchens and the regimental museums are not. There is a courtesy vehicle available to take visitors with mobility difficulties to the main courtyard, although it is always best to phone ahead to check availability. Audio guides can be hired for a small charge, and are available in English, French, Spanish, German, Italian, Japanese and Gaelic. Guided tours operate every day, free of charge, although times vary. Admission: adults/students £14.00, child £7.50, concession £11.00, entrance free for Friends of Historic Scotland. 10% discount if a valid Wallace Monument ticket from the same day is presented..
- Wallace Monument, Abbey Craig (1 mile North East of Stirling close to Bridge of Allan), ☎ +44 1786 472140. Nov-Mar: 10:30-16:00; Apr-Jun & Sept-Oct: 10:00-17:00; Jul-Aug: 10:00-18:00. Last admission 45min before closing time. Rising on a hill above Stirling, this monument honours William Wallace who led the Scottish to victory over the English. Inside you can find various displays about the Battle of Stirling Bridge and about important Scottish persons. You have a great view over Stirling and its surroundings from the top. £9.50 adults, £5.90 child 5-15 years, £7.60 concessions, Friends of Historic Scotland qualify for a 10% discount.
- Cambuskenneth Abbey. Site open in summer only (Apr-Sept): daily 9:30-18:30. Last entry 30 min before closing. Ruin of an abbey with only the bell tower remaining. You can see the grave of Margaret of Denmark and James III on this site. Free.
- Stirling Old Bridge. Always open. The site of one of the major battles where Scotland (under the lead of William Wallace) defeated the English in the struggle for Scottish independence. Although this is not the original bridge, which was made of wood, it gives a good impression of where the battle may have been. Free.
- Church of the Holy Rude, St John Street (at the head of St John Street). Beautiful church with impressive stained glass. Also wander around in the adjacent cemetery. No admission fee, but donations welcome.
- Bannockburn, Glasgow Road, Stirling, ☎ +44 1786 812664. Daily 10:00-17:00 (17:30 between Mar-Oct). Booking necessary at busy times. The battlefield is the site of another major victory for the Scots over the English in 1314. The Bannockburn Heritage Centre opened in 2014, after a complete rebuild. A path leads to a statue of Robert the Bruce, King of Scotland, who led the Scottish forces. From the statue you have a great overview of the landscape. £11 adults, £8 children.
- Argyll's Lodging, Castle Wynd (on the right as you approach the castle), ☎ +44 1786 450000. The well preserved 17th century town house, erected by the 1st Earl of Stirling, is a fine example of renaissance architecture. Sometimes closed for functions, so check ahead. Admission fee included in the Stirling Castle ticket..
- Smith Art Gallery and Museum, Dumbarton Road. Tuesday-Saturday 10.30AM - 5PM, Sunday 2 - 5PM. Small art gallery, local museum and popular cafe - Stirling Story Exhibition gives a good intro to the history of the area and local industry, would fill a couple of hours on a wet day. Free.
- Stirling University (Towards Bridge of Allan; walking distance from Stirling train station: 40min). Landscaped park and estate which became home to the University of Stirling in 1967. Features Airthrey Castle and a nice lake with lots of wildlife on its grounds.
- Hillwalking. Behind the university (near Bridge of Allan) is a path up to a hill called Dumyat with a summit cross (418m).
- Briarlands Farm (on the A84 4 miles west of Stirling, right next to the Safari Park.). Feb - Dec 10:00 - 17:30. Scotland's finest maize maze and various other activities for families. £5.25.
- Blairdrummond Safari Park, Blair Drummond, FK9 4UR (a couple of miles to the west of Stirling on the A84), ☎ +44 1786 841456. The park is open daily 10:00AM – 5:30PM. Last admission 4:30. The park is closed in winter, reopening in March.. Scotland's only genuine African Safari Park. You are able to go on safari through the game reserve, on the boat to chimp island, and stop off at the sea lion show or even have a free bar-b-que (you supply the food) next to the enormous children's play area.
- Stirling - The Home of World Football. The oldest known football was discovered at Stirling Castle, and is on display in the Smith Museum.
- Port Street is dominated by the usual range of high-street shops and banks. Stirling has a limited range of independent shops which tend to be located on side streets or north of the train station.
- Europa Music. An excellent Independent music store specialising in everything they can.
- Thistle Centre. Large city centre shopping complex featuring the usual range of British high street stores. Open late Thursday nights.
- Supermarkets Include Tesco, located 5 minutes from the train station, which has a good, if limited, range and is cramped inside, Sainsbury's 5 minutes further from Tesco which has a marginally better selection and higher quality products and Morrison's which is 20 minutes walk from the city centre. All these supermarkets remain open until at least 9PM Monday-Saturday. Sainsbury's is open until 10pm 7 days a week.
- Hermann's, Mar Place House, 58 Broad Street, ☎ +44 1786 450632. 12pm-2:30pm, 6pm-9:30pm. Austrian/Scottish fusion restaurant. Offers delicious local produce with an original twist.
- Cook's of Stirling (Formerly The Bank Restaurant), 78 Upper Craigs, ☎ +44 1786 430890. all day dining. Contemporary Scottish and international cuisine, using locally sourced produce. Mains starting from £10.
- Jimmy Chung's, 14 Friars Street, ☎ +44 1786 469911, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. A Chinese restaurant which offers buffets at variable prices (e.g. all-you-can-eat breakfast buffet) 7 days a week. A chain that has a few restaurants in Scotland and one in Ireland (Dublin).
- Hot & Spicy, 21 Baker Street, FK8 1BJ. tasty food to go.
- Willawan Thai Restaurant, 9 Baker Street, FK8 1BJ.
- The Greengrocer Cafe, 81 Port St, FK8 2ER. superb gourmet sandwich lunch menu and amazing cakes.
- Greggs various locations, including opposite of Post Office and one if you follow the pedestrian area to the west. They sell great valued sandwiches and bakery.
Stirling has three night-clubs - two in the city center and one out near Bridge of Allan - all of which require you to be at least 18 and to have proper ID with you. Usually, the bouncers won't let you in with sneakers, but you can try.
- Fubar, 6 Maxwell Place. 2 floors, upstairs you'll find the 70's dancers BOOGIE EXPRESS on a Saturday night. £8 entry at weekends..
- Dusk, Baker Street, ☎ +44 1786 464904. New card system in place for Fridays and Saturdays, allow free entry before 12 and cheaper drinks. Mondays and Thursdays entry from £3 with drinks from £1..
- The Meadowpark and The Beat. The Beat is the club near Bridge of Allan, it's near the main entry for the University, and tends to be popular on Tuesday and Wednesday when the town centre clubs are closed.
- Nicky-Tams, 29 Baker Street. Stirling's Most Haunted Bars - a bar with a friendly atmosphere, mostly visited by students of the university. Monday night is WII Night upstairs on the big screens,Wednesdays 9PM is jam night, Saturday 4PM til 6PM local musicians are featured. Sun night is ever popular Quiz/DJ Night, great prizes and bubbly on offer!! Fresh Food is served from 12PM-9PM daily, and all food is sourced locally from Farm Assured Farms for the best tastes. Beer from £2.50a pint. Cocktails from £2. Shots from £1. Student prices Sun, Mon & Thur night. One of Stirling's best bars!
- The Corn Exchange, 11-13 Corn Exchange Road. Used to be Pivo, recently taken over. Decent food and good meal deals.
- Cape, 1 Corn Exchange Road. Formerly Varsity. A bar with a great atmosphere, good selection of cocktails. Free live music on Sunday evenings.
- The Portcullis, Castle Wynd, ☎ +44 1786 472290. Located at the bottom of the castle car park. Good whisky selection. Also offers good quality meals and accommodation.
- The Settle Inn, 91 Saint Mary's Wynd, ☎ +44 1786 474609. Traditional pub close to the castle. Frequent live music. Board games available for customers to play.
- Stirling Youth Hostel, St John Street (Turn 2nd left after Highland Hotel), ☎ +44 1786 473442, e-mail: email@example.com. 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. Book ahead during summer. £11.50-13.50/5.00-11.50 (Adult/Child). Open all year.
- Willy Wallace Backpackers Hostel, 77 Murray Place, ☎ +44 1786 446773, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Located in the centre of the old town, mixed dorms, lounge. £12-15.
- Hillview Cottage, Kirk Lane, Blairdrummond, FK9 4AN (Situated in Blair Drummond, about 5 miles from Stirling.), ☎ +44 1786 841679, e-mail: email@example.com. Interesting slightly eccentric Stirling Guest House with great woodland and hill views. This is a large comfortable Scottish B&B with en suite bedrooms and a wireless network. Rooms start at £29.00 per person per night and include a full cooked breakfast. Open all year, with Christmas and New Year specials.
- Holiday Inn Express Stirling, Springkerse Business Park (From the M9/M80 Junction 9, take the A91 toward Stirling/St Andrews for 6 km. You will find the hotel on the A91 at Springkerse.), ☎ +44 1786 449922. Has 80 air conditioned guest rooms, meeting facilities, a licensed bar, coffee lounge and free parking. Is located about 20 mins walk from centre of town but is adjacent to retail park. The Stirling Park and Ride Bus runs from the nearby Morrison's Supermarket to the city bus station every 12 minutes during the day Mon-Sat. Includes complimentary continental breakfast with every room rate.
- Lake of Menteith Lakeside Hotel, ☎ +44 1877 385258. Easily accessible lakeside hotel, 14 miles from Stirling, you drive through remarkable Scottish scenery and upon reaching Port of Menteith, the Lake unfolds before you with the hotel nestling lakeside.
- Cook's of Stirling (Formerly Adamo Hotel), 78 Upper Craigs, ☎ +44 1786 430890, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. A full service hotel, located close to the centre of the old town, walking distance from the Castle and city centre, free parking for guests and free WiFi throughout the hotel. An ideal location to tour the local area
- Stirling Central Library, Corn Exchange Road. Open Mo-Sa until at least 5PM. Several computers with free internet access available, though you may need to join a queue.
- Tourist Information Centre, 41 Dumbarton Rd, ☎ +44 870 720 0620, e-mail: email@example.com.
- Post Office, Located within WH Smith, opposite Marks & Spencer, Thistle Shopping Centre
- Bridge of Allan — a town north-west of Stirling which is nice to walk around; the Lecropt Kirk is close-by
- Dollar — (10 miles east of Stirling on the A91) to visit Castle Campbell and walk through Dollar Glen.
- Doune — (10 miles northwest of Stirling off the A84) with Doune Castle, 14th century castle with a great view over the landscape. Take a walk along a river right behind the castle. The castle was used during the filming of Monty Python and the Holy Grail to portray most of the castles in the film.
- Dunblane — with Dunblane Cathedral, an impressive cathedral with an early Pictish stone found on the site.