Our city guide to Stirling

Known as "the Key to the Kingdom", the beautiful city of Stirling lies at the heart of Scotland both figuratively and literally. With an enchanting Castle to rival Edinburgh it was once the Royal seat of Scotland and has played a pivotal role in the nation's turbulent history.

Located north of Edinburgh, Stirling nestles amongst the hillsides of central Scotland with the scenic Trossachs National Park and Loch Lomond to the West and the dramatic mountains of the Highlands to the north. Today the town's location is appreciated for its picturesque setting but once its central position with routes to the corners of the nation made Stirling a strategic stronghold and the backdrop for many events in the tempestuous Scottish history.

Stirling sits in the shadow of the stunning Stirling Castle, a fortified hill-top stronghold perched high over the city and flanked on one side by a dramatic rock face. Its appearance naturally draws comparisons with Edinburgh Castle and indeed, throughout the middle ages Stirling was the Royal seat and centre for Scottish Crown and Power. As a result the surrounding hills and fields were the setting for many of Scotland's renowned battles in the nation's historic plight for independence from England. Most notable are the Battle of Stirling Bridge which was depicted in the 1995 movie Braveheart and the Battle of Bannockburn when Robert the Bruce and his men achieved a significant Scottish Victory over a seemingly superior English army. A new visitor centre at Bannockburn is due to open in the anniversary year of 2014.

Stirling town itself is a charming centre; running down from the Castle esplanade the Old Town is a maze of cobbled lanes contained within some of the best preserved town walls and defences in Scotland. This area houses a number of intriguing sites and visitor attractions including the medieval Church of Holy Rude, the Victorian Old Town Jail and the renaissance mansion of Argyll's Lodging. On the outskirts of town and towering upon yet another rocky crag is the stunning Wallace Monument. Dedicated to the memory of Scottish hero, Braveheart William Wallace, this 220 foot tower is situated on the site of the Battle of Stirling Bridge. At the foot of the hill upon which it stands there is a statue carved in the likeness of Mel Gibson (!) but the tower itself houses a number of more genuine exhibits including Wallace's actual sword and if you can face the climb to the top, the monument offers magnificent views over Stirling and the surrounding countryside.

Stirling is a charming town that has played a significant role in Scottish history and should not be missed on any tour of Scotland..

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