For those who don’t know, Stirling is where I lived for a little under a year while I earned my Master’s Degree.
Okay, technically, I lived in Bridge of Allan, which is a small town within the Stirling area, but still!
Stirling is an area I became familiar with very quickly, and it is a beautiful area. It made my day every single day, no matter how tired I was or how cold it might’ve been. So I wanted to write about different touristy places to see and some fun local spots I enjoyed spending time.
Different Sites and Sights
If a city has a castle, I think it’s universally accepted that you should visit said castle. Stirling Castle is no different!
Stirling Castle is one of the sites I recommend for most visiting Scotland. I feel that it’s a little less daunting than Edinburgh Castle. I’ve never seen Stirling Castle as crowded Edinburgh Castle—and big crowds can easily overwhelm me! It also doesn’t feel as big—though it very well could be! But Stirling Castle still contains a ton of history, a lot of which is very engaging.
My favorite fact about Stirling Castle is in regards to that bright gold color you see in my photos below. That color shows what the castle would have been in the time royals were living there in the 1500s. A lot of people hate the color. Some locals even thought it was done to make the castle look silly!
But I think this is because many of us are used to seeing castles as these very faded, stone buildings; we forget that they were probably more opulent and grand when they were the homes of royalty. To me, it’s fascinating to be able to see the comparisons of those two colors—the faded grey and the royal gold—and try to imagine Stirling Castle in all her glory in the 1500s.
The Wallace Monument is definitely a sight to behold, both up close and from afar. But I ended up writing quite a bit about the Wallace Monument, including a detailed description of the inside of the monument itself, so I felt it was due its own entry.
Check out The Wallace Monument here, but enjoy some of the photos of the monument below!
The Church of the Holy Rude and Cemetery
Note about me: I LOVE cemeteries. You’d be shocked at how many pictures I have of cemeteries and old graveyards. In my To Scotland book, I touch on this love while walking through the Glasgow Necropolis.
I needed to make that disclaimer since most of the photos for this section are of the cemetery. But I have a feeling that anyone that goes to visit the Church of the Holy Rude would also have a difficult time not photographing the cemetery. There are so many interesting stones and monuments, and there are some gorgeous views during your walk-through.
Obviously the church is worth visiting as well, especially if you’re a fan of old cathedrals and admiring the architecture. It’s also right next to Stirling Castle, so both the cemetery and the church are easy to fit into a Stirling trip.
Also, because I can be immature sometimes, every time I see the name “Church of the Holy Rude”, I can’t help pronouncing it a little like a valley girl saying “omigawd, how rude“.
I’ve heard great things about the Stirling Prison tour, but I haven’t done it yet.
Surprising, I know, because you’d think after a year of living in Stirling, I would’ve done and seen it all. But honestly when you’re studying abroad for a full year, you tend to do the touristy things in your area early in your stay, while the excitement is still fresh and new. Then you sort of settle into comfort and routine, as you get further along in your studies. Or at least I did.
So within my first week or two, I’d been all around Stirling Castle; the city centre area; the Holyrood Cathedral and the cemetery; and the Wallace Monument. But as the weeks went by and classes became more involved, my focus changed (see, Mom and Dad, I DID study!)
But as I said, I heard great things about this tour, and I’m hopeful to fit it in soon. When I do, I’ll definitely report back! It’s close to Stirling Castle, on the same road walking up to it, so it’s a site you’d have the option of doing if you’re in Stirling city centre area.
This is another one of those sites that I haven’t gotten to see. The few times I’d been in the area to look around, it wasn’t open. I never seem to get there when it’s open, but again it’s another one that’s right next to Stirling Castle, so it’s an easy one to include in your trip.
Yes, go check out my old university campus because it’s GORGEOUS. Seriously, there’s a loch on the ground, complete with its cranky swans (seriously, we got warned; don’t mess with the swans). There’s a castle. I’ve heard there’s some standing stones behind the campus, though I only heard about this within the past year. This one is outside the city centre area, so a bit challenging to squeeze in if you’ve got limited time in Stirling. But everyone needs options, right?
Are you looking for a nice cafe to grab a coffee, tea, or latte? Perhaps even a bite to eat?
Go. to. The Burgh.
A fellow student introduced me to this cafe, and I love it. Yes, still love it. I don’t get to Stirling as much when I visit Scotland, as I spend more of my time in Glasgow. But when I do, you can bet I make a stop at The Burgh.
There are so many different types of drinks and plenty of food. Plus, it’s just a nice environment to sit down, chill out, and enjoy. Whether you’re there with friends, enjoying a laugh over lunch with lattes, or you’re escaping the cold weather and enjoying a nice cuppa, The Burgh just has such a nice feel to it.
Thistles Shopping Mall
Okay, if you’re just visiting Stirling, you might not want to hit up a mall. That’s totally understandable.
But this is good to know if you’re a student and staying in Stirling for a stretch of time.
Thistles is the shopping center in Stirling, at the heart of city centre. It’s in the midst of all the other shopping areas in Stirling, so you can’t miss it.
As students, we could often be found at the Waterstones Bookstore, or at the Primark, looking for fun clothing at a student-affordable prices. There were also a few secondhand shops in the area, the Debra being my favorite. I’d definitely recommend secondhand shops, as someone who’s trying to be a lot more conscious about the clothes they’re buying.
But there are a few different shops in Thistles that are sure to be great for students: Sports Direct, Lush, WH Smith, several different clothing shops, and a few different pharmacies and phone stores. If you’re staying in the Stirling area, you’ll get to know Thistles quickly.
And just outside of the Thistles Shopping Centre are a bunch of other shops and cafes as well: Argos, Pound Stretcher, Cafe Nero, Marks and Spencer, and New Look to name a few.
This one’s worth a mention because my friend who joined me for a Scotland visit in 2018 loved this restaurant. She’s not a “take pictures of food and/or take pictures of restaurants” type of person, but this restaurant got her to do that. I think it was her favorite meal she’d had while in Scotland for a week.
And I only knew about it because in 2017, my friends—Ashley and Nieske, who I mention in my entry about Falling in Love with Glasgow—found it while walking around our old stomping grounds. We equally loved it.
Check out Brea if you’re looking for a good meal with a lot of different drink varieties, and maybe would like a break from pub food.