The Other Stirling

Irish Festivals & Events

Trapped by not having a return flight back home,(volcanoes again)) I took myself off to Stirling today to see some more of the youngest city of Scotland. That might surprise you, given its long links with key events in Scottish history, but yes, it is Scotland’s youngest city.

When you think of Stirling, the first thought you might have is the castle. This monument to the Scottish past sits astride a hilltop with commanding views over the surrounding land. Nearby is Bannockburn, famed for the success of Robert the Bruse over the English and, of course, there is the national monument to William Wallace. But what else should you see if you go there?

Easily accessible from both Glasgow and Edinburgh by rail (from Glasgow it takes about 25 minutes by fast train and from Edinburgh about 55 minutes.) it would help if you wore stout, comfortable, walking shoes. In the old part there are cobbled streets and if you head up to the old prison or the castle it is a steep walk. Coaches take day trippers up there or should do but today some idiot parked on a double yellow line which resulted in a coach being unable to make the corner. Neither able to go forward or backward, a queue soon built up in the narrow streets. The coach party, some quite elderly, made the walk instead.

Not only is the castle up there but so is the old town cemetery by the old church. (the Church of the Holy Rude) This is the church where James VI (who became James I after Queen Elizabeth died) was crowned in 1567 after his mother, Mary Queen of Scots was executed. As a church, it isn’t very big or even very grand. But its links with history bely its small size. Wander around the churchyard and, for the eyes of southerners, there are some odd sights like the skulls that appear on some headstones.

There is the ruined palace that the Earl of Mar began but never finished called Mar’s Wark and just down from that is the youth hostel. From the road, it’s a grand building and almost the nearest accommodation to the castle. Hostels weren’t that conveniently located in my day! Continue down the hill and you come across the Municipal Buildings, a small concrete structure with green and rust colors intermingled with the natural concrete color. Nobody was looking at it but to my mind, it stands out so blatantly against the rest of the city’s architecture that you have to look,- as does the modernist bridge that is the first sight you have of Stirling as you pull into the station. Did I like either? Not sure, but I won’t forget them.

So there’s a lot more to Stirling than you might think. And as a base for exploring nearby places, it’s ideal.