Stirling

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Stirling was granted city status in 2002, and although it is only a new city it has been of great strategic importance for Scotland for centuries, sitting as it does at the lowest of the ancient crossing points of the great River Forth. Evidence has been found to suggest that this has been the site some form of fortification since prehistoric times, guarding the passage from the lowland regions to the highlands, making this one of the prime spots for controlling the entire country. Stirling has been the site of many a bloody battle between the Scots and the English and much of the history of the nation is concentrated in and around the area. The last fortification to be built on the site of this ancient crossing is Stirling Castle which has stood for centuries against invaders from England.

Photo by Alan Weir
Photo by Alan Weir

The Castle

Any visit to Scotland would not be complete without a visit to Stirling Castle, after Edinburgh Castle, Stirling is not far behind in the magnificence stakes. Like Edinburgh, Stirling Castle also sits on high volcanic rock and watches over the city, it can be seen standing guard whichever side of the city you approach from. This castle has seen many monarchs come and go during its long and often bloody history. This was the house of the Stuarts and saw the coronation of Mary Queen of Scots in 1543. The castle interior gives you some insight about what life was like here, and unlike some ancient attractions Stirling Castle is remarkably child friendly.

Gateway to the Highlands

If you travel north from Stirling you will be entering the beautiful highland region of Scotland and will come across the ancient village of Doune. The name of the village may mean nothing to you but you will almost certainly recognise its castle. It is actually a Royal Hunting Lodge rather than a castle proper, and if it looks familiar it is because it was used as a location in a very iconic film. This was the location of the castle in Monty Python and the Holy Grail. This region of Scotland is rich is folklore as well as history, and as you travel you will encounter a lot of references to Rob Roy, Scotland’s answer to the Robin Hood of Merry Old England, there are trails and visitor centres where you will discover lots of information about this local hero.

The True Scotland

Stirling is very much a representation of the true Scotland, the history, the battles, the heroes and villains from the past. This is not a city that offers a softened and romanticised view of the past, it is a city that allows you to feel and experience the past. Much blood has been spilt in and around the city across the centuries and left an imprint on the city that makes it more down to earth and more real than some other tourist friendly destinations.  Stirling offers everything to the visitor, a stunning highland backdrop, a majestic castle and plenty of city streets to explore.

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