Stirling is the gateway to the Highlands. Although only granted city status in 2002, its history is drenched in blood, battle and royal intrigues.
William Wallace defeated the Earl of Surrey’s larger army in the Battle of Stirling Bridge ( September 11th 1297). The bridge visible today is not that of the famed battle and the main battle is believed to be in the area of Abbey Craig where the Wallace Monument now stands.
The Wallace Monument is a Victorian Gothic tower which was built on the 19th century and has a viewing platform. The tower is also home to William Wallace’s five foot long sword.
Robert the Bruce followed in Wallace’s footsteps when his forces defeated the Edward II army at the nearby Bannockburn field in 1314. The 700 hundredth anniversary of the battle falls this year and a full calendar of events to celebrate and commemorate the date are in place. See also: Stirling History and Information
Stirling Castle itself sits magnificently above the valley floor looking down on the ancient town to the east and Bannockburn field to the south west. The castle buildings have been extensively restored over the past 30 years and the works on the Great Hall were completed in 1999. The majority of the buildings in the castle complex were constructed between 1490 and 1600.
The castle is currently maintained by Historic Scotland and is a must see for anyone visiting the area. The restoration work on the great hall and the Royal lodgings give the visitor a genuine feel for the period. The castle also is host to falconry displays and re-enactments during the summer season.
The Stirling Valley leads visitors into the Highlands and the Trossachs. These are the historic stomping grounds of the infamous Rob Roy McGregor. McGregor is Scotland’s answer to Robin Hood and his adventures where immortalised by the romantic poet William Wordsworth and later in Hollywood movies. His family tomb can still be visited at Balquiddher.
The area has many walking routes for all levels of ability and the beautiful Queen Elizabeth Forest Park. The forest park has a fantastic visitor centre at David Marshall Lodge and is also home to the award winning Go Ape high wire climbing experience.
If you are seeking something less historic, Stirling Valley is also home to Blair Drummond Safari Park. The park has it’s own pride of lions, amur tigers and two elephants amongst many others.
The 120 acre park was first opened in 1970 and is involved in captive breeding and research programmes. Visitors can drive through the reserves to observe lions, tigers, rhinoceri, elephants and bactrian camels (among other species).
The park also offers sea-lion shows, a boat trip to their Chimp Island and a walk through enclosure of ring-tailed, brown and red ruffed lemurs. Lemur Land is a fabulous experience for children and adults alike with the animals and visitors sharing the same habitat. There is also an impressive collection of prey birds which are shown three times a day.
To round off the experience there is the more sedate pet’s farm where visitors can feed wallabies, llamas, goats, ponies and pot bellied pigs. The park also has a large mob of meerkats.
When visiting the European brown bears you may find yourself shadowed on the walkway by Blairdrummond’s free roaming marmosets. These friendly and inquisitive animals add a novel twist to your visit.
The price of admission includes the sea lion show, Chimp Island boat ride and bird of prey displays.
Furthermore, the park has several large play parks for all ages and the more adventurous visitor can try the flying fox, giant astraglide slide or the pedal boats.
For guest houses in Stirling please see: Stirling Guest House and B&B