STIRLINGSHIRE

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The TrossachsThe region of Stirling has always been an integral part of Scotland’s history.  William Wallace and Robert the Bruce fought for Scotland’s independence here, and for a time, the Bridge of Stirling was the only way one could go to the untamed woodlands of the Highlands from the fertile Lowlands.  In a way, Stirling was the strip of land that united two otherwise diverse regions.  That it should be the place where the heroes of Scots would fight their battles for independence seems quite apt.  Nowadays, to study Stirling’s history would be to get a good glimpse into the whole country’s history.  Even standing at the top of the Stirling stronghold will give you a good idea, as from there you can both see the Highlands and Edinburgh.

While Stirling stirs pride among the Scots, The Trossachs, which is easily accessed through Stirling, stirs their imagination—as it did Sir Walter Scott, who introduced the beauty of the place through Lady of the Lake and Rob Roy.

 

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Places of Interest:   1. The Trossachs (area inside dark blue border)  2. Killin  3. Lake Katrine  4. Ben Lomond  5. Aberfoyle  6. Callander  7. Doune  8. Dunblane  9. Stirling

 



The TrossachsThe Trossachs- which means 'Bristly Place' in Gaelic- was largely undiscovered terrain by daytrippers until Sir Walter Scott thought to write Lady of the Lake, and Rob Roy and ultimately introduced his fellow Scotsmen to this piece of Highlands in Central Scotland.  For travelers who aren’t ready for the wilderness that is the Highlands, the Trossachs is a great way to start.  Its diverse landscape – the magnificent peaks, the glens, the lush forests, and the lochs – is a gentler, friendlier version of the Highlands.  The picture of the Trossachs that Walter Scott painted with words does not prepare one for the sheer beauty of it. 


The Trossachs is encompassed in a wider Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park that was created in 2002 and also includes Argyll Forest Park, Breadalbane, and Queen Elizabeth Forest Park.

 

Ever since the publication of Walter Scott’s works centering around Trossachs characters, visitors have flocked to the area, and its popularity has not changed a bit since then.  In fact, in summer, visitors in coach tours as well as hill walkers and bikers take advantage of the great weather and scenery, which may deter you from coming during this time of the year.  Most coach tours only pass by through the day, though, so you have plenty of night-time peace to be had during summer.  For a different perspective of the Trossachs, though, come at fall, when the leaves turn golden and rusty, and there are less people.  Go on foot, or on a mountain bike, because the scenery is best experienced, not just seen.

 



Inchmahome PrioryAs a village that depends on the summer Trossachs crowd, Aberfoyle does not have much to offer other than being a great base for exploring the surrounding countryside, as it is right at the heart of the park and surrounded by the Queen Elizabeth Forest Park, which has great trails fit for everyone.  You will also find in Aberfoyle, along with crowds of tourists during the summer, the great David Marshall Lodge Visitor Centre (+44 1877 382258), which offers great information about the Trossachs.  Here you can get brochures, maps and cycle routes, and even information on the wildlife you can keep an eye out on once you go on your chosen trail.

The Duke’s Pass, which was opened in the 1930s, is a great alternative route to the Trossachs and Loch Katrine.

Sights
East of Aberfoyle, you will find the “only lake in Scotland” (which is actually a loch but was simply mistranslated), the Lake of Menteith.  Right in the middle of the lake is the island where the ruins of Inchmahome Priory (+44 1877 385294, £4.70) stand.  This is the monastery run by Augustinian monks that sheltered a young Mary Queen of Scots, when Henry VIII started to force her hand in marriage to his son, as a way to unite Scotland and England.

Along with the start of different waymarked trails through the Queen Elizabeth Forest Park, you will also find in the David Marshall Lodge Visitor Centre the biggest Go Ape (from £30) in the UK.  Along with the rope bridges and swings, it also has the longest ziplines in the UK. 

 

Hotels

        

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Set in an unassuming bungalow, Corrie Glen Bed and Breakfast (Manse Road, +44 1877 382427, from £27.50) is located in the outskirts of Aberfoyle, with great sweeping views that make it a relaxing place to stay in. 
 
For first-time visitors to Aberfoyle and the Trossachs, the
Forth Inn (Main Street, +44 1877 382372, £35-50) is an excellent choice because it’s right at the heart of Aberfoyle.  The six en-suite rooms are all comfortable and large, and tastefully decorated.  The Forth Inn is also known for its good food, so it’s a great place to grab a bit to eat even if you’re not staying.

 

 

 

On the opposite side of Aberfoyle and the eastern gateway to the Trossachs, Callander is significantly larger than its neighbor, and gets even more crowded during summertime, with tourists on their way to the Trossachs and on to West Highlands.  One of the key routes to the Highlands, the Pass of Leny, is also here, which accounts for even more tourists.  However, Callander has a character that is still there even after the tourists have gone.  It is a particularly good place for bird watchers, as it lies directly on the Trossachs Bird of Prey trail.

 



Loch KatrineThe lake that Sir Walter Scott made famous in his poem, Loch Katrine is a sight to behold, surrounded by mountains on all sides and dotted with small islands.  On the practical side, it is Glasgow’s biggest water reservoir, but it draws tourists from everywhere.  The classic way to see the loch is by boarding the Victorian steamer SS Sir Walter Scott (+44 1877 332000, £14), which runs twice daily and lets you see the whole length of Loch Katrine to the other end at Stronachlachar.  It returns two hours later.  There is a cheaper and faster alternative cruise (at £11), but of course it does not make any stops.  Currently, until April 2011, the ship will be in maintenance.

 


 

 

Falls of Dochart, KillinKillin, a village situated west of Loch Tay, is another pretty base for anyone exploring the Trossachs.  What sets it apart is the lovely stone bridge over the River Dochart, which is a great place to enjoy a picnic on a sunny day.  The focal point of the village, though, is the unusual Falls of Dochart, a series of rapids that flow through the river itself and over which the stone bridge stands.  The whole village is a charming carefree place, with a main street that’s full of character.

 

Hotels

        

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With sweeping views of the River Lochay and Ben Lawers, the Bridge of Lochay Hotel (Aberfeldy Road, +44 1567 820272, £40-45)is a cozy value-for-money hotel with a great warm lounge and equally warm staff.

Falls of Dochart Inn (Gray Street, +44 1567 820270, £80-95).  This historic inn is quite comfortable, though the furnishings look quite dated.  It is located right across the river rapids, though, and the sight is welcome after a day of exploring the Trossachs.

 



 

Doune Castle on River TeithNorthwest of Stirling, you will find Doune, a village that encloses the semi-ruined Doune Castle (Castle Road, +44 1786 841742, £4.20) for which it is famous for.  It is quite remarkable for a Scottish castle as it was built in a single period.  It stands on a small hill by the River Teith.  Unlike many Scottish castles that reflect different time periods and may not even look the way they did when they were first built, this castle survives looking as it did when it was first finished.  It was built by Robert Stewart, Duke of Albany, but it is more famous for being the setting of the 1970 film Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

 

Hotels

        

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Dunblane CathedralDunblane is a diminutive but pretty town that deserves a stop if only for the historically significant Dunblane Cathedral (The Cross, +44 1786 852388).  The town, a few miles north of Stirling, has been an important religious site for the Celts since the seventh century, and the cathedral itself has been in existence since the twelfth century.  Most of what we see now dates back from the thirteenth century, and has been restored, mostly during the nineteenth century, to highlight its Scottish Gothic features. 

Most recent in the national memory is the murder of sixteen schoolchildren and their teacher by Thomas Hamilton, and the church commemorates this horrendous event with a four-sided standing stone at the head of the church, which now stands with a Celtic standing stone dating from the tenth century.

 

Hotels

        

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Stirling CastleYou cannot discuss Scotland’s history without mentioning Stirling.  It is Scotland’s smallest city, and was granted city status only in 2002, but its impact on the country is one of the biggest.  After all, this is where, in 1297, William Wallace (known to film buffs as the hero in Braveheart) won for Scotland against England at the Battle of Stirling Bridge, and then a few years later, in 1314, Robert Bruce led the country to independence at the Battle of Bannockburn.  Clustered around the magnificent crag-top Stirling Castle, and the well-preserved medieval town that grew around it, Stirling is a miniature Edinburgh, only more laidback and less sophisticated, made vibrant by its significant student population.  Many travelers start here with the sole intention of visiting its most famous landmark, but end up discovering that the rest of the city is worth exploring.

Sights (See map below)
Stirling CastleStirling Castle (Castle Wynd, +44 1786 450000, £9).  Visible around Stirling for miles, this fortress set on a magnificent crag looks awe-inspiring even years after its golden age.  It looks even more imposing when you view it from the west, where a portion of the crag is exposed.  The area on which it stands has been important to Scotland for centuries, and during its period, the castle was attacked at least sixteen times.  Most what still exists dates from the period of the Stuart monarchs’ residence here, from the fourteenth to the sixteenth century, and the highlights help paint a picture of its significance, both in history and architecture.

The castle itself, with its numerous fascinating features, is a great place to explore without a guide, because the possibilities are endless.  Audio guides are a great way to supplement your own tour, as it helps bring to life the castle and its long history.  Highlights of the castle include the Great Hall, which was built in the early 1500s and looks quite distinct with its brightly painted walls and high wooden beam ceilings.  Here you will find the Great Kitchens, where you can watch a reenactment of the hustle and bustle of a royal kitchen in the midst of preparing a feast fit for a king.  Another feature, the Chapel Royal, was the last of the structures built in the fortress. 

Gardens also dot the different parts of the castle. The most infamous among them is the Douglas Gardens, the site supposedly of the death of the eighth Earl of Douglas, who was purportedly killed by James II himself. 

Stirling BridgeThe Old Town
, with its charming cobble-stoned streets, is enclosed in town walls that were installed as a way to deter Henry VIII’s advances towards Mary Queen of Scots, whom he wanted his son to marry.  You can follow the whole path of the wall through the Back Walk

The Old Town Jail
(St. John Street, +44 1786 450050, £6.50) houses a colorful exhibit detailing the history of the Victorian prison—an added kitsch to the exhibit is the weekend reenactment by actors who play multiple characters with gusto.  The prison roof affords great views of the city.

National Wallace MonumentThe National Wallace Monument (Hillfoots Road, +44 1786 472140, £7.50).  This Victorian Gothic tower, built in the 19th century to commemorate one of the country’s greatest heroes, is a prominent landmark seen across town.  The five-story tower features displays of Wallace’s steel sword, busts of Scottish heroes, among others.  A climb to the top of the tower affords one sweeping views of nearby Fife and Ben Lomond.

Bannockburn.  While it is debatable whether the actual Battle of Bannockburn actually happened on the spot where the Heritage Centre (Glasgow Road, +44 8444 932139, £5.50) is now located, it is not debatable that Robert the Bruce, the Scottish king who claimed for Scotland her independence, is the country’s greatest hero.  The Heritage Centre itself helps people relive the triumph of the first Scottish king, illustrating his wise tactics that helped his army win against the more substantial English army.     

 

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Points of Interest:   1. Stirling Castle  2. Old Town Gaol  3. National Wallace Monument  4.  Bannockburn Heritage Centre

 

Hotels

        

To compare Stirling hotel prices that are available right now simply enter your dates into the search box at the left.  You will see the best prices from the world's major hotel booking services.

 

Or you can check out our reviewed hotels below and contact them direct

Willy Wallace Independent Hostel (77 Murray Place, +44 1786 446773, £30-36-double/£11-15-dorm).  The rooms here are bright and spacious, and the staff quite sociable.  This budget hostel set in an old Victorian structure is a few minutes away from the train station, making it quite convenient.

Stirling SYHA Hostel
(St. John Street, +44 1786 473442, dorms from £16.75).  The location of the hostel, at the top of the city and smack dab in the old town, is a double-edged sword—the top of the town is quite a trek to go to, but it is in the middle of the old town, which is in itself attractive and near the castle.  The hostel is an attractive converted church, and the rooms are en-suite.

 One of the relatively new guest houses in Stirling, and recently refurnished, the
Abbeycraig (5 Dumyat Road, Causewayhead, +44 1786 463174, from £25) has tasteful décor and comfortably spacious rooms, with views of the Wallace Monument. They also have free Wi-Fi for those who can’t live without the internet.

Elegantly furnished in a combination of lush and modern,
The Old Tram House (42 Causewayhead Road, +44 1786 449774, from £25-30) is quite well-equipped with all that you can possibly think of needing, including a laptop in the lounge free for guests to use should you need to go online.  The dining room makes guests feel as if they are in a luxurious hotel.  The location of the guest house is also quite strategic, being on the bus route.

Neidpath Bed and Breakfast (24 Linden Avenue, +44 1786 469017, from £26).  Many guests enjoy the view from this bed and breakfast, but most are not quite satisfied with the size of the rooms.  The great welcome from the hosts more than make up for this, as well as their willingness to transfer you to another room, if the one you booked does not meet your needs and if there are available ones.

Formerly a Victorian house,
Kilronan House (15 Kenilworth Road, Bridge of Allan, +44 1786 831054, £30-33) has big rooms that are all en-suite, and is in the relaxing spa-town of Bridge of Allan.  It is highly recommended for those who want a relaxing weekend.

Castlecroft Bed and Breakfast (Ballengeich Road, +44 1786 474933, from £55) is right under the hill going towards the castle, and is a great base for exploring historic Stirling.  Walking up the hill can be quite dangerous from here, though, as there are no concrete shoulders and it can get quite muddy and slippery.  The views from the lounge are amazing, though.

Linden Guest House
(22 Linden Avenue, +44 1786 448850,from  £60).  Warm hosts and cozy and immaculately clean rooms, all of which are en-suite—these are all you need to create a great guest house.  The two family rooms are spacious enough for a big group.

The location of
The Portcullis Hotel (Castle Wynd, +44 1786 472290, £82-87) is quite enviable—right across from the castle, and in front of Argyll’s Lodging, which means great views right from your window, and first dibs on the castle.  The restaurant is quite popular, though, which means the hotel can get quite noisy.  The furnishings of the four en-suite rooms are quite traditional, and there’s no Wi-Fi at all.