Scotland: How to Spend Two Days in Stirling. Truth be told we’d never heard of Stirling, or for that matter most of the places we visited before or after. When it came to Scotland, we were complete newbies. It was our 20th country, Scotland, and while we’ve seen spectacular places around the world, the landscape of Scotland defied imagination.

The Red-eye Flight to Edinburgh

The red-eye flight. I’ve written about this topic a few times. I think we’re finally getting the hang of red-eye flights out of Washington, DC – Dulles Airport. We can fly from Dulles to Europe (Lisbon or Edinburgh, for example) in 7 hours, which is pretty good. Especially, for someone such as myself who does not like to fly. With a little happy pill cocktail, I’m getting good at sleeping for at least half of the flight. I’ll take it. But, I rarely sleep on the return flight as the return is always in the middle of the day. Are you on team red-eye, or team middle of the day?

“Airplane travel is nature’s way of making you look like your passport photo.” – Al Gore

Our First Trip to Scotland

Because this was our first trip to Scotland, we wanted to see as much of the country as we could in our planned three weeks. As I’ve mentioned before we don’t drive when in Europe, especially in countries where they drive on the “wrong” side of the road, such as they do in Scotland. All things considered, we thought it wise to divide our time. We booked a 10-day guided tour, and we traveled on our own for twelve days. Having arrived in Edinburgh two days before we were scheduled to join our tour, we used those days to eat, sleep and acclimate.

A couple of red-eye flight zombies upon arrival in Edinburgh.
Stirling – Gateway to the Highlands

What we didn’t know about Scotland, could have filled a book. We just knew we wanted to go, go, go. I mean, it’s Scotland! We didn’t make it to the highlands, but we’ll return one day. There’s so much more to experience.

We traveled by train from Edinburgh to Stirling, where our organized 10-day tour with Scotland Folk Tours would begin, and end. Why hassle with renting a car and figuring out the rules of the road when one can just hop aboard a comfortable train and be there in an hour? It’s so easy.

Geographically speaking, Stirling is set in the most narrow region of Scotland; connecting the highlands with the lowlands. Throughout history anyone and everyone had to pass through Stirling. As such, it became the center of Scottish history, with Stirling Castle standing guard for centuries.

Stirling Castle

Our Scotland Folk Tours guide, Fiona, was the best! She started our tour of the castle by telling us it was her favorite castle in all of Scotland because of the incredible history. Nearly every Scottish monarch either lived in the castle, or died there, or was coronated there. I will always remember standing in the approximate spot where Mary Queen of Scotts was coronated as an infant. I don’t mind telling you, I became mildly obsessed fascinated with Mary Queen of Scotts while in Scotland. Now there’s a story!

Stirling Castle

Stirling itself, is a fairly small city and as such it’s pedestrian friendly. Fiona guided our group along the streets of Stirling (all the while sharing historical tidbits) to the top of the hill above the city, because that’s where all good castles were built; on top of hills. Preferably, volcanic hills. Stirling Castle sits 250′ above the valley floor. You can imagine the views! Well, when it wasn’t pouring rain, but even then the views were pretty great. We spent probably close to three hours (including a lunch break) touring the castle and listening to Fiona’s fascinating tales of kings, queens, battles and folklore.

William Wallace Monument on the hill.

Trivia Tidbit: In the 1995 movie, “Braveheart” Mel Gibson played the role of William Wallace. It was deemed to be one of the most historically inaccurate films ever made. The term “Braveheart” was actually associated with Robert the Bruce, not William Wallace. We’ve never seen the movie, but it’s a little tidbit I learned so I thought I’d share. Hopefully, I didn’t burst any Mel Gibson bubbles.

If you go:

If you find yourself in Stirling and planning a visit to the castle, we highly encourage you to join an on-site tour. There is so much information to take in, having a guide will help tremendously.

  • Stirling Castle – Castle Wynd, Stirling, FK8 1EJ
  • Book online, in advance, for reduced ticket price
  • Guided tour included in ticket price – depart every 30 minutes
  • Senior ticket discount
  • Gift shop
  • Cafe – quite nice
  • Restrooms
  • Ample parking
  • On public transportation route

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The King’s Knot

Once we left the castle, Fiona led us back down the hill where she pointed out the King’s Knot, located just below the vantage point of the castle. A medieval playground of sorts, it was where royals jousted, hunted, and/or hawked. It dates back to approximately 1100. Of course, there was a ladies lookout in the castle, where they had the best views of the festivities.

The Church of Holy Rude

Upon arrival in Stirling, we took a long walk around the city of Stirling and found ourselves at The Church of Holy Rude. And, yes, it’s pronounced as it’s spelled. The Holy Rude is a Christian relic believed to be the cross on which Jesus died. We were fortunate to meet a docent who shared the history of the church. She showed us the spot where the infant son of Mary Queen of Scots was crowned James the VI, King of Scots in 1567. When he became King of England, he became James the 1st. Those family trees were convoluted!

As the story goes, as best I can remember, in 1656 there were two ministers. One staunch minister, John Knox, who basically preached his way or the highway, and the other who was more open to other beliefs and ideologies. As John Knox would not bend, the city council built a wall dividing the church in half and it stayed that way until 1935.

What may be the most stunning aspect of the church is the oak beam ceiling, which is original dating back some 600 years. The church is the second oldest building in Stirling, the castle is the oldest, and it is the only surviving church in Scotland where a coronation took place.

The Church of Holy Rude – Stirling, Scotland
How to Spend Two Days in Stirling

Stirling may be a somewhat small city, but it is overflowing with history. We very much enjoyed our stay and while we didn’t see everything, what we did see was fascinating. Here’s a few suggestions for how to spend two days in Stirling.

  • Stirling Castle
  • Holy Rude Church & Cemetery
  • The Wallace Monument
  • The Old Town Jail
  • King’s Park & King’s Knot
  • The Golden Lion Hotel – our accommodation – recommend interior room
  • Maharaja Indian Restaurant 4*
  • Brea Restaurant 4*

From Stirling, we traveled with our tour group to Peebles, Scotland where we were based for three nights. Stay tuned!

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