From stunning medieval castles to fascinating safari experiences and historic battle sites to whisky distilleries, we’ve rounded up the best days out, activities and entertainment in Stirling.
Activities in Stirling
Sat astride the 350-million-year old Castle Hill, Stirling Castle is one of the oldest and most important castles in Scotland. And thanks to its cliff-top position overlooking the River Forth, it’s one of the most stunning and picturesque castles in the UK. Originally dating back to the 14th century, the castle has played a prominent part in Scotland’s history, such as hosting the crowning of Mary Queen of Scots in 1542. It’s survived at least eight sieges during its history including in 1746, when Bonnie Prince Charlie tried his luck. With over 12 areas to explore, including The Great Hall, several galleries and the Queen Anne Gardens, it’s a great day out with a café and gift shop onsite as well.
National Wallace Monument
Another medieval stronghold, Doune Castle is around 10 miles to the north of Stirling and dates back to the 13th century. A grand, and rather opulent castle with a cathedral-like great hall, it’s also well-known as the filming location for Monty Python and the Holy Grail and, more recently, used as a set for Game of Thrones and Outlander. The Monty Python history looms particularly large, with actor and director Terry Jones narrating the accompanying audio tour. As well as some amazing rooms and history on display, the castle offers great views across the Menteith Hills and Ben Lomond on a clear day.
National Wallace Monument
Built to honour Scotland’s 13th-century hero Sir William Wallace in 1846, the National Wallace Monument is a 70m-tall landmark that overlooks Stirling. There are several exhibitions and galleries housed within the monument and a rather tiring 246 steps to climb to get to the top. The view is worth it, however.
The Battle of Bannockburn Experience
A landmark date in Scottish history, the Battle of Bannockburn took place in 1314 and was a two-day battle that forced the English, led by Edward II, to retreat in the face of Robert The Bruce and his assembled army. The battle is now wonderfully commemorated by the Bannockburn Experience, which brings together immersive 3D films, commemorative monuments, historic parklands where the battle took place and a fascinating visitor centre full of information and an excellent café. Our Stirling South hotel is perfectly placed a short drive away from all the action.
Blair Drummond Safari
With over 350 animals, including Scotland’s only giraffes, Blair Drummond Safari is a great family day out packed full of lions, llamas and lemurs. As well as a host of animal environments, including a monkey drive-thru and a boat trip to Chimp Island, Blair Drummond has a brilliant adventure playground, birds of prey shows, a funfair and more. The park is around five miles to the north west of Stirling and a short drive from Doune Castle.
Liquid gold, firewater, hooch, whisky – whatever you choose to call it, whisky is big business here (it’s actually the third largest industry in Scotland!) and the Deanston Distillery is a great place to go behind-the-scenes and see how the magic happens. One of the largest distilleries in Scotland, the building was originally an 18th-century cotton mill before being turned into a distiller in 1966. The only self-sufficient distillery in the country, thanks to its on-site hydro-energy from the River Teith, the 50-120 minute tours take in the manufacturing process, the copper stills and a tasting session, as well as a discount at the well-stocked shop.
The Old Town Jail
Take a trip back in time with a visit to The Old Town Jail which recounts the ‘horrible history of crime and punishment’ in Stirling. The hour-long tours run every 30 minutes and cover the prison’s gruesome history, including infamous executioner Jock ‘The Happy Hangman’ Rankin. If you need a break from the subject matter, the observation tower has impressive views across the Old Town and beyond, including the National Wallace Monument, Tolbooth and the Trossachs National Park.