Towns, villages and the great outdoors
If the historic town of Stirling is not enough to satisfy your urge to discover sights that are beautiful, inspirational and unique, then explore the outlying areas. You will be delighted by scenic towns and villages, meandering rivers and rolling hills. Escape the hustle and bustle of city life and see other sides of Scottish life and history entirely. Better still, good train and bus links help make exploring even easier.
Bridge of Allan
On Stirling’s doorstep is the old Victorian spa town of Bridge of Allan, with its fine choice of independent boutiques, shops, galleries, cafes and its very own Scottish Brewhouse, the Allanwater. A good selection of boutique hotels and guesthouses have long made this a popular destination for visitors.
University of Stirling
Between Bridge of Allan and Stirling lies the stunning campus of the University of Stirling, regularly described as one of the most beautiful campuses in the world, and comprising 330 acres of grounds. Historic Airthrey Castle and the Hermitage Woods are among the attractions.
If a pleasant riverside walk takes your fancy then the famous ‘Darn Walk’ between Bridge of Allan and Dunblane is for you. This enjoyable five-mile route has links to the Roman era and features in the adventure novel ‘Kidnapped’ by Robert Louis Stevenson (and keep your eyes peeled for Stevenson’s Cave – supposedly the inspiration for castaway Benn Gunn’s cave in Treasure Island).
Dunblane itself –only ten minutes’ drive from Stirling centre – is a historic cathedral town, well furnished with shops and leisure facilities. The atmospheric medieval cathedral is picturesque, but nobody comes to Dunblane without taking a selfie at the golden post box dedicated to the town’s most famous son, double Olympic tennis champion, Sir Andy Murray.
Venture to the quiet village of Doune and imposing Doune Castle stands in wait, with its mighty gatehouse, magnificent Lord’s Hall and musician’s gallery. Once upon a time this was a royal residence, a home to widowed queens and a Jacobite prison. The castle’s formidable presence has earned it appearances in Monty Python, Game of Thrones and Outlander.
Set on the River Teith, Callander is frequently described as the Gateway to the Highlands (and Lowlands, on your return) and offers a delightful base for any exploration of Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park, as well as ‘Rob Roy Country’. Here you can indulge in outdoor pursuits galore, to balance the enjoyable shopping – try cycling, walking, climbing, fishing and more. Live entertainment is a regular attraction at many of the hospitable local venues.
The neighbouring area of Falkirk provides amazing things to see and do – and all less than 20 minutes’ drive from Stirling. Do not miss the world’s largest equine sculptures, The Kelpies, close to the world’s only rotating boat lift, the remarkable Falkirk Wheel, which links two scenic canals in family-friendly Helix Park. Around Falkirk are sections of the UNESCO World Heritage Roman Antonine Wall, baronial Callendar House and the Museum of Scottish Railways.
Only ten minutes’ train ride from Stirling is the small Clackmannanshire town of Alloa, where the restored Alloa Tower offers splendid views over the Firth of Forth. The shire nestles between the glorious Ochil Hills and the River Forth and at any time of year is an ideal base for explorations of beautiful scenery, historic attractions and cultural and leisure amenities such as the six nearby and immensely scenic golf courses. Gartmorn Dam Country Park & Nature Reserve is as popular with visitors as it is with wildlife.
Stirling sets a high standard for visitors: the villages, towns and scenery all around add to the enjoyment.