If you’re looking for a quick and convenient getaway in Scotland, then the charming city of Stirling might just be the perfect destination. Located in the heart of the country, Stirling is easily accessible from both Glasgow and Edinburgh, making it an ideal destination for a mini-break. With just a quick 30-minute train ride from these bustling cities, you can escape to a charming place where history and modern-day living intertwine.
Stirling is a city packed with history and culture, and there’s always something new to explore. From the mediaeval fortress atop a volcanic hill to the bustling city centre filled with shops, restaurants and pubs, Stirling offers a unique blend of experiences that are sure to captivate every visitor.
Whether you’re a history buff, a foodie, or a shopaholic, the city has something for everyone, and you’ll never be stuck for things to do while travelling in Stirling. Join us as we take a closer look at the top things to see and do when embarking on an adventure to this Scottish gem.
Breakfast & Brunch Options
Begin your day with a visit to Vera Artisan Bakery on Barnton Street, where you can indulge in a wide selection of sweet and savoury treats.
Just a short walk away, HBW Coffee offers the perfect spot for brunch (or, of course, your following day’s brekkie), serving up specialty coffee, and delicious bakes and brunch dishes made from locally sourced ingredients. The signature, seasonally changing donuts aren’t to be missed!
The Best Place For Scottish Beef In Stirling
Drop in for lunch or enjoy an early dinner at The Birds and the Bees, a modern bistro offering a delicious selection of both traditional Scottish dishes and plates with more global influences. Order off the grillhouse menu, which sees prime Aberdeen Angus steaks served with a rich haggis, whisky and bacon sauce. Superb!
A Celebratory Dinner
For an evening meal with a real sense of occasion, head to Brea Restaurant. This upscale establishment offers a contemporary take on traditional Scottish cuisine, with dishes such as venison tartare and wild mushroom risotto, or rolled Scottish haddock stuffed with smoked salmon and dressed with dill cream setting the tone for a sophisticated celebration of local produce. The cullen skink here is excellent, too.
The wine list is extensive and the staff are knowledgeable, making this the perfect spot for a romantic night out or a celebratory dinner.
An Old School Italian Trattoria Experience In The Heart Of Stirling
Craving some Italian cuisine? Look no further than Mamma Mia. This family-run establishment serves up classic dishes from the length and breadth of Bel Paese, with the pasta dishes particularly good; the Mafaldine con le sarde, a speciality from Sicily featuring the island’s distinctive sweet and sour flavour combination, here of sardines, raisins, pine nuts, wild fennel and saffron, is a top notch tribute to the food of Southern Italy.
With the instantly recognisable red and white tablecloths of many a beloved neighbourhood Trattoria back in the Motherland, and Pavarotti blasting out over the speakers, Mamma Mia is a nostalgic, atmospheric kind of place, and we love it.
The Ideal Place For Lovers Of Whisky
Whisky enthusiasts will adore The Curly Coo Bar, a quirky establishment boasting over 130 different whiskies. The knowledgeable staff are always on hand to recommend the perfect dram based on individual preferences, ensuring a memorable tasting experience.
Put On Your Dancing Shoes
For a true taste of Scottish culture, head to Nicky-Tams Bar and Bothy. This lively venue offers a fantastic selection of local beers, accompanied by weekly toe-tapping traditional music performed by talented live musicians. It’s an ideal spot to soak up Stirling’s convivial atmosphere and famed hospitality.
Settle In To The Settle Inn For A Historic Pint
Or, for a pint or two served with a side order of history, head to the Settle Inn. Originally known as the Red Lion, the Settle Inn in St Mary’s Wynd is Stirling’s oldest alehouse, having opened its doors in 1736. This historic pub boasts a cosy atmosphere, with low ceilings, exposed stone walls, and a roaring fireplace. It’s the perfect spot to enjoy a pint of local ale while soaking up the rich history of Stirling.
Explore Stirling’s Fascinating History
No visit to Stirling would be complete without exploring the iconic Stirling Castle. Perched atop Castle Hill, visitors can wander through the Great Hall, Royal Palace, and Chapel Royal while delving into the castle’s rich history. Be sure to take in the breathtaking panoramic views of the surrounding countryside from the castle walls, and don’t forget to check out the famous Robert the Bruce statue.
The towering National Wallace Monument stands proudly on Abbey Craig, commemorating legendary Scottish hero Sir William Wallace. Ascend the 246 steps to the top for awe-inspiring views of Stirling and an up-close look at Wallace’s famed sword.
For even more fascinating historical sites, do check out:
- Church of the Holy Rude – This church can be dated to the 15th century and is famous for being the site of James VI’s coronation.
- Old Town Jail – This is a former prison that dates all the way back to the 19th century and is now a museum to showcase its history
- Cambuskenneth Abbey – This ruined abbey was established in the 12th century and served as a site for royal burials
Immerse Yourself In Stirling’s Illustrious Past
Step back in time to 1314 at the Battle of Bannockburn Experience. This immersive attraction utilises cutting-edge technology to bring the historic battle to life, offering visitors the chance to participate in a thrilling 3D battle simulation and test their skills as mediaeval warriors.
For a day filled with adventure, make your way to Blair Drummond Safari Park. Home to over 350 animals, including lions, giraffes, and chimpanzees, guests can enjoy close encounters with these magnificent creatures, watch live shows, and explore the park’s adventure playground.
Day Trips From The City
Stirling is located at the crossroads of Scotland’s Lowlands and Highlands. This allows Stirling to serve as a gateway to some of the most stunning landscapes in the country. Every route out of Stirling is a scenic one with all sorts of wonders waiting for you to explore them.
Some of these nearby attractions are Loch Lomond, the Trossachs National Park, the Ochil Hills, and the rugged Highlands. The ideal location for an outdoor enthusiast or for someone just looking to escape the city. This applies even more to those who love to hike, which is a great activity to enjoy in Stirling’s surrounding countryside. Here are some of the best hikes nearby:
- Dumyat Hill: 3.5 miles (5.6 km) round trip, offers panoramic views of the surrounding countryside. Located 4 miles (6.4 km) from Stirling city centre.
- The Ochil Hills: various hikes ranging from 3 to 10 miles (4.8 to 16 km), with stunning vistas of the Trossachs National Park. Located 8 miles (12.9 km) from Stirling city centre.
- The Wallace Monument: 2 miles (3.2 km) round trip, an easy hike with historical significance as it leads to the aforementioned monument dedicated to William Wallace. Located 2 miles (3.2 km) from Stirling city centre.
- Ben Lomond: 8.5 miles (13.7 km) round trip, a challenging hike with rewarding views of Loch Lomond and the Highlands: Located 36 miles (58 km) from Stirling city centre.
- Loch Katrine: various hikes around the loch, including a 12-mile (19.3 km) loop. A beautiful spot for a leisurely stroll or a more strenuous hike. Located 25 miles (40 km) from Stirling city centre.
Embrace Stirling’s Thriving Arts & Cultural Scene
Apart from its fantastic restaurants, pubs, historic landmarks and sites, Stirling also maintains a vibrant arts and culture scene.
You can head out and visit a range of galleries and museums, including the Stirling Smith Art Gallery and Museum and the Engine Shed. These in particular, offer an insightful look at Scotland’s architectural heritage. Stirling also hosts a variety of festivals and events throughout the year.
Adding more opportunities to immerse yourself in the experience and culture. Some of these events include the Stirling Bridge International Arts Festival, which happens every July, and the Stirling Highland Games (this year taking place on Saturday 19th August), which are occasions for celebrating Stirling’s traditions and customs.
Here are some other festivals celebrated in Stirling:
- Stirling Winter Festival – This festival is a celebration of the winter season and takes place in November and December.
- The Bloody Scotland Crime Writing Festival – This festival celebrates the best in Scottish and international crime writing and typically happens in September.
- The Stirling Fringe Festival – This festival celebrates art in all of its forms, from music and theatre to visual arts and spoken word. It tends to take place in May.
The Bottom Line
Whilst you certainly won’t be able to fit in every suggestion we’ve offered today, we hope you’re now equipped with enough itinerary pointers to fill your 48 hours in Stirling whatever your tastes and budget. Have a great trip!