Free to see
Who needs money when there’s so much to see, do and enjoy in and about Stirling for free?
Yes, free – you don’t need to spend a penny to savour some of the most entertaining, engaging and entrancing attractions anywhere in Scotland.
First, why not make tracks for the brand-new Engine Shed by Stirling town centre – it’s Scotland’s first-ever hub dedicated to the conservation of buildings. Here you can learn about the country’s heritage in buildings through interactive exhibits, 3D theatre, augmented reality experiences and hands-on activities that bring Scotland’s built heritage vividly to life.
The Stirling Smith Museum and Gallery can transport you back in time with its compelling Scottish history collections, fine art and archaeology – and sports fans must not miss the world’s oldest football. Result!
Founded in 12th century and setting for a Royal coronation, The Church of the Holy Rude by Stirling Castle is the second oldest building in the town, indeed so old it’s said King James IV helped build it. Highlights include the original oak-timbered roof and stained glass windows.
If architecture is your thing, then the Parish Church in picturesque Bridge of Allan is a must. Famed architect Charles Rennie Mackintosh designed the chancel furnishings including the communion table, pulpit and organ screen in 1904. The scenic riverside Darn Walk offers a cost-free breath of fresh air.
Equally refreshing is Bridge of Allan’s Allanwater Brewhouse. Delve behind the scenes of a working micro-brewery, meet the brewer and dip into the secrets of making a hand-brewed Scottish pint using 100 percent natural ingredients. Entry and tastings are free.
One of Scotland’s most significant abbeys, Cambuskenneth Abbey hosts a fine collection of medieval grave slabs and architectural fragments. Its dramatic early gothic bell tower is formed in handsome stonework and it was here in 1488 that James III was buried after the Battle of Sauchieburn.
Located in the 17th century stable block of Kinneil House, Kinneil Museum provides an interpretative centre for Kinneil Estate, and the ‘2,000 Years of History’ exhibition tells the story of the park from Roman times to the present day. You’ll be associating with Emperor Antoninus Pius, Saint Serf, Mary, Queen of Scots, inventor James Watt and many other iconic figures.
The Maid of the Loch – Loch Lomond’s Paddle Steamer – is always worth seeing on the world famous Bonnie, Bonnie Banks of Loch Lomond, at Balloch Pier. Last in a long line of paddle steamers on the loch, she was also the last such vessel built in Britain. Don’t be fooled by the name, Dollar Museum is free to enter and it’s not about currency – you’ll find out about the 877 Battle of Dollar between Danes and Scots (spoiler alert: the visitors win), see evocative Neolithic stone carvings, check out the recreation of Granny’s Kitchen, and more. This fine, independent local museum can carry you deep into Dollar village’s fascinating history.
In Falkirk, elegant and turreted Callendar House is a favourite spot for picnics with its leafy park, woodland walks and outdoor play area. You can enjoy a close-up look at an imposing stretch of the Antonine Wall World Heritage Site, which marked the ultimate northern frontier of the Roman Empire. Callendar House itself features impressive historical exhibitions and a working 1825 Georgian kitchen. The Park Art Gallery adds to the attractions close by.
Remember, you can also enjoy a lot of Scotland’s natural beauty without putting your hand in your pocket. Head for the great Scottish outdoors – the Falls of Falloch and the Falls of Dochart are two free treats, or for the more energetic, climb Ben Lomond, or visit a nature reserve such as Kinneil or Inchcailloch. Everywhere you go, the views are a gift.