Stirling Introduction Walking Tour, Stirling

Stirling Introduction Walking Tour (Self Guided), Stirling

On the River Forth in central Scotland, you'll find the picturesque city of Stirling. Its location at the lowest crossing point over the river made it a strategic spot to start a settlement. The town dates back to ancient Roman times, though much of the city is medieval and Victorian. It was a small market town that grew while becoming known as the "Gateway to the Highlands."

Stirling is the smallest city in Scotland, but there is much to see. Stirling Castle is a magnificent medieval structure that dominates the town. It sits atop a rocky crag that is at the center of Stirling. On a visit to the castle, you can explore the interior of the Royal Palace, visit the regimental museum, see castle exhibitions, and stroll through some lovely gardens on the castle grounds.

Stirling is famous historically as the site of the Battle of Stirling Bridge in 1297, led by Scottish hero William Wallace. The Stirling Old Bridge is interesting to visit. Crossing this stone bridge offers many lovely views.

Around the castle are the medieval streets of Old Town, the heart of Stirling. You can feel the history as you explore the winding cobbled roads. Take a walk on Broad Street as you head up towards Stirling Castle in the area known by locals as the "Top of the Town." Don't miss the historical Stirling Tolbooth and the monument called the Mercat Cross along the way.

On a hilltop near Stirling Castle is the medieval Church of the Holy Rude. You'll want to explore the churchyard that holds the Old Town Cemetery, a graveyard filled with unique gravestones and monuments. Don't miss the Stirling Old Town Jail nearby. No longer operating as a prison, this Victorian jailhouse is now open for tourists to tour and explore.

Experience the charming city of Stirling on this self-guided walking tour that explores the city streets and notable landmarks while offering spectacular views of the rolling hills and countryside.
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Stirling Introduction Walking Tour Map

Guide Name: Stirling Introduction Walking Tour
Guide Location: Scotland » Stirling (See other walking tours in Stirling)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 9
Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.3 Km or 1.4 Miles
Author: karenv
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Stirling Old Bridge
  • Stirling Castle
  • Argyll’s Lodging
  • Old Town Cemetery
  • Church of the Holy Rude
  • Broad Street and the Tolbooth
  • Stirling Old Town Jail
  • King Street and Athenaeum
  • Stirling Arcade
Stirling Old Bridge

1) Stirling Old Bridge

The Stirling Old Bridge is a medieval stone bridge that spans across the River Forth. The beautiful old four-arch bridge is cobbled and for pedestrians and cyclists only. It was at one time a toll bridge with gates on either end, charging fees for the transportation of goods across it.

It is not far away from the original location of the narrow, wooden bridge where the famous Battle of Stirling Bridge took place in 1297. The old bridge collapsed during the battle. A leader of this battle was the well-known Scottish hero, William Wallace, famously portrayed by actor Mel Gibson in the 1995 film "Braveheart."

Crossing this graceful old bridge offers many lovely views, including the Wallace Monument, Stirling Castle, the river, and the splendid surrounding hills and countryside. The bridge is just a short walk from Stirling Castle and less than a mile from the central part of town.
Stirling Castle

2) Stirling Castle (must see)

No tour of Stirling is complete without a visit to Stirling Castle. Early records show that this landmark structure dates back to the early 12th century. This architecturally magnificent castle sits atop a rocky hill known as "Castle Hill" that overlooks the city of Stirling. The grand castle is surrounded on three sides by cliffs.

Of historical importance, this castle was an early childhood residence of Mary, Queen of Scots. She was crowned Queen in the castle chapel in 1543. Mary was only nine months old at the time. In the past, Stirling Castle was the site of multiple sieges. The last took place in 1746 when Charles Edward Stuart, in popular memory known as Bonnie Prince Charlie, failed in an attempt to take over the castle.

Within the high walls of the fortress-like castle grounds are buildings mainly constructed during the 15th and 16th centuries. These historic structures include the Royal Palace, the Great Hall, and the Chapel Royal. Don't miss the Great Kitchens, offering a glimpse into the workings of a 16th-century royal kitchen.

In the castle vaults, there are special exhibitions offering stories to give visitors a little history of the place. Within the castle walls, you'll find a regimental museum displaying a collection of military artifacts and treasures of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, a line infantry regiment of the British Army.

Stirling Castle offers extensive grounds and gardens to explore. On the south side of the castle are the Queen Anne Gardens. This gorgeous garden area is well-maintained, with lovely beds of flowers and sweeping lawns. There are also magnificent views of the surrounding town and countryside.

Stirling Castle is a must-see landmark you don't want to miss, with lots to see and experience. The walk up the winding cobbled lanes of Stirling's Old Town is a fun way to explore the city as you make your way to the castle. Special events and tours are available. There are also gift shops and a cafe named for the unicorn statues seen around Stirling Castle.
Argyll’s Lodging

3) Argyll’s Lodging

Argyll's Lodging is a beautiful 17th-century townhouse. For its time, it is considered the most complete and well-preserved in Scotland. With Renaissance-style architecture, the location of this splendid historical mansion is on Castle Wynd on the hill approaching Stirling Castle.

Conical corner turrets and ornate stonework enhance the design and visual appeal of the building. An elaborate gated archway leads from the road to an inner courtyard and garden. At one time, a large formal garden existed at the rear of the property. There are currently lawns outside the rear door and some attractive views.

The building served as a military hospital from the early years of the 19th century until 1964. After that, it opened as a youth hostel. More recently, the grand old structure became a museum with interior rooms lavishly restored with period furnishings, paintings, tapestries, and decorations. Rumor is that some folks believe the old house is haunted!
Old Town Cemetery

4) Old Town Cemetery

The Old Town Cemetery is a burial place located on the grounds of the churchyard of the Church of the Holy Rude. This historic graveyard is situated in a valley between Stirling Castle and the church. A visit to the Old Town Cemetery offers a slew of unique gravestones and important monuments on view.

The cemetery is of historical significance for the city of Stirling. A recent restoration took place with extensive work completed to restore the stonework, iron railings, and landscaping. The project helped bring the cemetery back to its Victorian style.

In terms of history, significant monuments in this cemetery include the ornate Martyrs Monument, featuring marble statues of an angel watching over two sisters, Margaret and Agnes, arrested and sentenced to death for their beliefs. Don't miss the stunning Star Pyramid, dedicated to all who suffered martyrdom for civil and religious liberty in Scotland. The pyramid, towering over the cemetery, is located in an elevated area below Stirling Castle.

The peaceful cemetery is visually stunning, offering panoramic views of the River Forth plus the surrounding city and countryside. Take a stroll on the paths around the Old Town Cemetery. You'll get a fascinating glimpse into the history of Stirling and its citizens of the past.
Church of the Holy Rude

5) Church of the Holy Rude (must see)

Founded in 1129, the Church of the Holy Rude is a medieval parish church featuring striking architecture and lovely stained glass windows. A fire destroyed the original wooden structure in 1405, and construction on a new church building began a few years later.

It is the second oldest building in Stirling and is known as one of the most important medieval churches in Scotland. Located on a high hill and not far from Stirling Castle, the west tower of the Church of the Holy Rude is a prominent feature of the Stirling skyline.

This magnificent church is still in use today, holding Sunday worship services and special events. The historic churchyard includes the Old Town Cemetery, a must-see graveyard of historical importance with many noteworthy graves and monuments.

One bit of trivia is that King James VI was crowned in this church in 1567 while still an infant. This event occurred after his mother, Mary, Queen of Scots, was imprisoned and forced to abdicate her throne. The Church of the Holy Rude is one of only three churches still active in Great Britain that have held a coronation.
Broad Street and the Tolbooth

6) Broad Street and the Tolbooth

Broad Street is a medieval cobbled road located in the Old Town section of Stirling. This road travels from Bow Street towards Stirling Castle and the Church of the Holy Rude. Look for the pair of wheeled cannons that stand in the space at the foot of Broad and Bow Street.

Broad Street was the market street of medieval Stirling. The road contains several historic houses, including Norrie's House, a 17th-century townhouse enhanced by gorgeous architecture. Mercat Cross is also on Broad Street. A monument marking the place that once held markets, Mercat Cross is a pillar topped with the figure of a unicorn called "the Puggy" by locals.

Across the road from the Mercat Cross stands the Stirling Tolbooth. Designed by architect Sir William Bruce, the building features a distinctive Dutch pavilion roof, a clock tower, and a belfry topped with a weather vane. The Tolbooth was at one time used as a courthouse and a prison. Today it serves as a music and performing arts venue.
Stirling Old Town Jail

7) Stirling Old Town Jail (must see)

Located in the heart of Stirling is the Old Town Jail. It is set back from the street and features turrets prominently seen in the city's skyline. Built during the prison reform period, it opened in 1847 after the old Tolbooth Jail was deemed overcrowded and was rated as the worst prison in Britain. Although living conditions improved with the new jail, the strict regime of solitude, labor, food, and discomfort would still have been an impediment.

In 1888, the Old Town Jail was turned into a military prison and used as a detention barracks to discipline members of Scottish regiments. It operated into the 1930s, the prison closing for good in 1936. It was abandoned and neglected until finally undergoing restoration in the early 1990s.

No longer operating as a prison, the Stirling Old Town Jail is now a tourist attraction. A visitor can take a self-guided tour and explore the prison cells. There are also weekend performance tours with live characters that bring the history of this jail to life.

Up on the roof, you can visit the exercise yard. Afterward, head to the observation tower to get magnificent views of the city and surrounding landscape. For an immersive experience, try one of the escape rooms and learn what it's like to try and make a break from a Victorian prison.

A top attraction in town, a visit to the Stirling Old Town Jail is a great way to explore and learn about life in prison. A fun bit of trivia is that in the 1950s, the Caledonian Confectionary Company stocked ingredients in the building. The scent of sweets was said to drift throughout Old Town!
King Street and Athenaeum

8) King Street and Athenaeum

King Street is a cobbled road featuring broad sidewalks and regal historic buildings. The street is a great place to explore, boasting a variety of shops and restaurants. In the 18th and 19th centuries, King Street became known as a place for banking, with most of Stirling's banks located along this road.

The oldest building on King Street is the Golden Lion Hotel, where a statue of a gold lion stands above the columned entrance to greet you. Originally known as Wingate's Inn, the hotel opened in 1786 and is still in operation. The Victorian-era Stirling Arcade is a noteworthy shopping spot on King Street.

The Athenaeum is a prominent building that sits at the top end of King Street. It was built in 1816 and was originally a library and reading room. With beautiful architecture and design, the structure features a curved facade, a belfry, a tall clock tower, and a spire. A statue of Scottish hero, William Wallace, sits atop the arched entranceway of the building.
Stirling Arcade

9) Stirling Arcade

The Stirling Arcade is a beautiful Victorian shopping mall built in 1882. The building features gorgeous architecture and an ornate glass roof that brings in the light. Here you will find a diverse mix of specialty shops and boutiques where you can shop for an assortment of merchandise.

William Crawford was a businessman and property developer who was the brainchild behind its design. Once known as the Crawford Arcade, it originally housed two hotels, residential flats, shops, and a theater called the Alhambra. The stunning interior of the building is restored. The old and unused Alhambra Theatre is still there, though hidden behind retail shops.

Located in the city center, the Stirling Arcade spans from King Street to Murray Place, with entrances on either end. Inside, a central walkway offers a pleasant place to stroll and explore. It is one of only a handful of 19th-century arcades in Scotland that still survive.

Walking Tours in Stirling, Scotland

Create Your Own Walk in Stirling

Create Your Own Walk in Stirling

Creating your own self-guided walk in Stirling is easy and fun. Choose the city attractions that you want to see and a walk route map will be created just for you. You can even set your hotel as the start point of the walk.
Stirling Castle Walking Tour

Stirling Castle Walking Tour

Sitting atop Castle Hill in Stirling, Stirling Castle is one of the largest and most important castles in Scotland, both historically and architecturally. Before the union with England, the Castle was also one of the most used of the numerous Scottish royal residences, acting as both a palace and a fortress. Several Scottish kings and queens have been crowned at Stirling, including Mary, Queen of...  view more

Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 0.8 Km or 0.5 Miles