Day 4. A day in Stirling

We decided to spend the day in Stirling and booked anytime day return tickets from Edinburgh Waverley at £16.90 per person.  Stirling lies 37 miles north west of Edinburgh and is often referred to as the gateway to the Scottish Highlands.  The journey time was only 45 minutes and it seemed no time at all that we were alighting the train and starting to explore another of Scotland’s fine cities that was once the capital of Scotland.

Stirling Arcade
The beautiful Stirling Arcade

One of the first places we came across on leaving the station was the Stirling Arcade on Murray Place, a beautiful Victorian shopping centre with a great mix of retailers and an inviting cafe for our morning coffees.

Stirling city centre
The centre of town

Considering it was mid-summer, it was a gloomy day but at least it wasn’t raining as we made our way up the steep cobblestone main street towards the castle.  Stirling Castle stands on a craggy, volcanic rock and was the favoured residence of Scotland’s kings and queens.

View from Stirling Castle walls
Views from the castle

When Edward I invaded Scotland from England he discovered that the castle had been abandoned.  Stirling Castle was then occupied by the English until the Scots regained it at the Battle of Stirling Bridge.  More recently, the castle has undergone a major upgrade to its furnishings and decoration but still retains it’s likely 16th century appearance.  The views from the castle walls afforded us with panoramic views out across the city and along the Forth Valley despite the lack of sunshine.  Sadly, it wasn’t possible to gain a view of the castle from its entrance and by the time we had returned back down to town it was obscured in mist.

Views from Stirling Castle
Views to The Trossachs from the castle

The area just below the castle on the city’s highest hill is known as Top of the Town and here stands the Church of the Holy Rude.  The church is the second oldest building in Stirling and was founded in the 12th century.  It has similar associations with the monarchy to the adjacent castle, as a young Mary Queen of Scots worshipped there.  More significantly it is also where her infant son James VI was crowned King of Scots in 1567 in a ceremony performed by the Bishop of Orkney.

Valley Cemetery, Stirling
The Valley Cemetery

After visiting the church we then followed the path leading round to the fascinating valley cemetery to the north, which is separated from the church graveyard by a passageway.  The hillside cemetery contains some interesting headstones and statues and is well worth a wander.

Argyll's Lodging, Stirling
Argyll’s Lodging

Slightly further down the hill are two more interesting features.  The first, Argyll’s Lodging on Castle Wynd is thought to be Scotland’s most splendid and complete example of a 17th century townhouse, said to be fit to receive and impress royal guests with its grand rooms and exquisite artwork.

Old Town Jail, Stirling
Stirling’s Old Town Jail

Sadly as with most of Stirling’s attractions it hadn’t yet re-opened at the time of our visit nor had the Old Town Jail which offers an insight into the history of local crime and punishment.  I’ve visited numerous former prisons both in the U.K. and as far afield as South Korea and each of them has offered a different but equally fascinating appreciation into life behind bars.

Stirling Smith Art Gallery and Museum
Stirling Smith Art Gallery and Museum

On our return back down the steep hill to the town centre we did manage to find that the Stirling Smith Art Gallery and Museum was open and offered free admission.  This stylish museum stands in two acres of grounds of ornamental flower beds and picnic tables.  The gallery contains portraits of Bonnie Prince Charlie and William Wallace, the latter being one of the main leaders during the First War of Scottish Independence.

The world's oldest football in Stirling Museum
The world’s oldest football

Unusual artefacts that caught our eye included the oldest football (from 1540) and the oldest curling stone (1511) ever made.  The world’s oldest football was actually made in Stirling and discovered behind the panelling of the Queen’s Chamber in Stirling Castle when it was decorated in the 1540’s.  Mary Queen of Scots was resident there at that time and later in life was known to have an interest in all sports, especially golf and football.

The Gallery Cafe, Stirling Museum
The Gallery Cafe

The two staff on duty were both very friendly and helpful, making us feel very welcome and providing more insight into some of the items on display.  After looking around we popped into the inviting little Gallery Cafe for a drink before setting off for a tour of the town centre and a look around the shops.

Interesting buildings in the centre of Stirling
Interesting buildings in the centre of Stirling

The centre is compact and easily walkable with a good mix of shops, cafes and bars along the high street and along the roads leading from them.  Our walk continued to the indoor Thistles Shopping Centre which includes a large variety of household names.  Interestingly, by chance we came across a small free tourist attraction just inside the Port Street entrance next to WH Smith’s.

Entrance to the Bastion Jail and Thieves Pot, Stirling
Entrance to the Bastion Jail and Thieves Pot

Following a sign attached to the wall, we carefully made our way down a narrow spiral staircase to the Bastion Jail and Thieves Pot.  This 16th century dark cell beneath what was once the bastion contains a display of its history as part of the Royal burgh’s defences.

Interior of Bastions Jail and The Thieves Pot, Stirling
Down in the Thieves Pot

From information boards we learnt that above the cell used to be a defensive tower guarding one corner of the town’s walls.  It’s only small, but very interesting to take a look at and quite extraordinary that it has been preserved within the modern shopping centre.

Stirling station platform
Waiting on the platform for our return train to Edinburgh

A little more shopping followed before we returned to the station just as it was starting to rain.  Stirling had been easy to reach from Edinburgh and I would very much like to have an opportunity to return at some point when all the attractions are operating normally.

 

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Spending a day in Stirling, Scotland

 

48 thoughts on “Day 4. A day in Stirling

  1. ThingsHelenLoves

    What a gorgeous place. Have you seen any of Outlander, Marion? I think some of it was filmed in Stirling and your images definitely inspire thoughts of the show. One for the list if I’m ever that far back up North.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Sallie Williams

    I really enjoyed this blog – we were in Stirling in 2019. It was a fascinating city and the people there were so nice. We stayed in the dorm at the university and didn’t have a car so had to try to navigate the bus system. A local saw that we were lost and, not only did he help us figure out which bus to ride, he rode with us and walked us back to our dorm in the rain! Can you believe it? We loved all of Scotland and would love to return.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. A beautiful small town with historic buildings. Your walk is well conveyed in the photos and narrative. I was wondering about your note on jails. What would make us visit this kind of place? Is there a dark side in us?

    Liked by 2 people

  4. I’ve always wanted to visit Scotland. The landscape looks incredible and there is much history here. The area below the castle looks beautiful. That’s too bad that most of Stirling’s attractions weren’t open. I guess it’s a good excuse to return someday. Take care. Linda

    Liked by 3 people

    1. How wonderful that you are planning a visit to Scotland in December and that your brother actually lives in Stirling. Hopefully the Christmas Markets will be back in full swing by then too. Something really nice to look forward to! Hope you are having a good weekend. Have you arrived in Montenegro yet? Marion.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Not just yet. We leave on the 30th and are crossing all digits that their open border policy isn’t about to be scrapped. Since we booked our stay (of course!) they have had a sudden surge of cases. Nothing too dramatic in the grand scheme of things, but enough to make us concerned that they might close up or ask for PCR tests at the 11th hour. Let’s see…

        Liked by 1 person

  5. We only managed Stirling Castle graveyard when we were there as the castle was closed. But that was extremely interesting though. Stirling looks lovely from your photos, we only drive through it. I can only visit through your wonderful posts

    Liked by 3 people

  6. Never been to Stirling, but I have been to the Scottish Highlands, and I’ve only seen Stirling in passing on the coach ride back to Glasgow (where I based the day trip from). Stirling looks too beautiful to be a real city; everything looks like an austere painting! Should I return to Scotland, I’ll have to take time to check Stirling out!

    Liked by 5 people

  7. So nice to be able to hop a train and be in another center so quickly. Our country is too big to support decent train service. Love the beautiful architecture and history. Thanks for sharing Marion. Allan

    Liked by 3 people

  8. Great tour. I have only been to Stirling once for pleasure and then spent most of the time at the fantastic castle – as you say, restored to an astonishing level – and wandering around Stirling Bridge in search of ghosts from the battle! We need to explore the town more, so your post was particularly interesting. Next time you’re there, think about visiting the Wallace Monument and Cambuskenneth Abbey, just outside town. It’s also not far from Bannockburn, of course – but, frankly, that’s underwhelming considering its importance.

    Liked by 4 people

  9. This early post covid time is great for visiting places. Yes, many tourist attractions are still closed but those that are open at least are not crowded! It’s great you take that unique opportunity to visit some historic places.

    Liked by 4 people

  10. Another great discovery of a place I did not know much about! Love your view from the castle and how interesting to read about the oldest football. And who would have thought there would be a jail in a modern shopping centre 😲.
    Thanks for sharing more about Stirling Marion. Take care.

    Liked by 4 people

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