Stirling is a taste of both the Lowlands and the Highlands. It is packed with castles and tales of people who are larger than life, and it is blessed with awe-inspiring, natural beauty.
“Hold Stirling and you control the entire country…” This simple strategy has ensured that a castle, or some sort of fortification, has existed here in Scotland since prehistoric times. The city of Stirling grew up around the castle, a castle that is not one building but a grouping that changed over hundreds of years. Most importantly, the city and castle is on the main route north from the Lowlands, and it guards the route to the Highlands.
Stirling is associated with King Arthur and some believe it was the locale for Camelot. In recorded history, we know that Alexander I dedicated a chapel here. Below the castle, Old Town Stirling is protected by the 16th century walls built to keep Mary, Queen of Scots, safe from Henry VIII. And, it was here, that the infant James VI was crowned in 1567. This area was also the home of Rob Roy, whose exploits still echo through the Highlands.
3 miles south of Stirling, the Bannockburn Heritage Center stands by the field where Robert the Bruce defeated the English in 1314. After the battle, he razed the castle so the English could not have it. A bronze equestrian statue stands here to commemorate the man, and hero, who became a symbol of Scottish Independence.
Like Edinburgh Castle, Stirling Castle sits high on a rocky crag. It is a magnificent castle and is one of the finest examples of Renaissance architecture in Scotland. Stirling occupied a key position in Scotland’s battle for independence. Seven battlefields can be seen from the castle, and the 220-foot Wallace Monument at Abbey Craig recalls Wm. Wallace’s (the man the movie Braveheart was based upon) defeat of the British in 1297 at Stirling Bridge.
The entire region is a hiker’s and walker’s paradise, as it has been since the Victorian era. The forests and wildlife are unique to this area and are protected as part of Loch Lomond National Park. When you get out and walk, you get a true feeling for the reason that people fought so hard, and were willing to die, for this country. The natural world here is about as perfect as it gets.
There is something about Stirling that feels like a fairy tale. Its sense of time is similar to Edinburgh, but the hustle and bustle is turned down. The atmosphere is easy to absorb. With its winding cobblestone streets, and the old town clinging to the slopes beneath the castle, you can feel the layers of time and heroism.
Take a quiet walk in the moonlight on Stirling’s magic streets. It’s an experience to be savored.