Stirling – A City of History

Stirling truly is a city like no other. Nowhere else in Britain has such a concentrated, rich and visible history including everything from 6000 year old standing stones, Celtic vitrified forts, a Roman road, medieval battlefields, castles, abbeys, royal graves, jousting fields, sites of Royal christenings and coronations, the world’s oldest football as well as witches and pock marked buildings from musket shoot outs!

Stirling Castle

The most immediate attraction is the castle, with it’s imposing battlements, looming high above the city and surrounding area, holding many stories and secrets of times past. Dating from as far back as 1107, the castle has developed and evolved over the centuries, often at the whim of the reigning monarch or just as likely, as a result of damage during one conflict or another.

Stirling sits at the lowest crossing point of the River Forth and for the last 2000 years was the main way an army could march north or south, this means that every invading force from the Romans to Bonnie Prince Charlie, including, Celts, Picts, Angles, Vikings and the English tried to capture Stirling and this crossing point: to hold Stirling was to control Scotland.

The most important victory in Scotland’s military history was fought within sight of Stirling Castle. The Battle of Bannockburn took place on Midsummer’s Day 1314. The castle was under siege by the Scots, having been held by the English for 10 years. King Edward II of England led a 17,000-strong army to relieve the siege. King Robert the Bruce’s army of 8,000 men drove the English army into boggy ground by the Bannock Burn and inflicted a massacre.

The statue of Robert the Bruce near Stirling

Nowadays, the battlefield houses the Battle of Bannockburn Experience, telling the story of this crucial event in Scottish history. You can be at the heart of the action, taking your place on the battlefield, standing face-to-face with fearless medieval warriors. Thanks to the latest technology, you can experience medieval combat like never before and see how the battle between the armies of Robert the Bruce and Edward II changed the path of Scotland’s history, forever. Outside, the iconic statue of Robert the Bruce stands over the battlefield.

Another impressive silhouette dominating the skyline, is that of the Wallace Monument. If you climb the 246 steps to the top of the monument, you will be met by one of Scotland’s most breathtaking views, from Ben Lomond and The Trossachs in the West, and through The Forth Valley past the city of Stirling and The Ochil Hills to The Pentland Hills in the East.

The monument was built to commemorate the life of Sir William Wallace, overlooking the scene of his greatest victory, at the Battle of Stirling Bridge, in 1297.

Inside the Monument you can visit the Hall of Arms to learn the story of how the Battle of Stirling Bridge was fought and won, then climb to The Hall of Heroes to hear the story of Wallace and how he came to be acclaimed as a national hero. The Wallace sword forms a striking centrepiece to the floor sitting on stone quarried from the Abbey Craig when the Monument was being built.

Legend has it that William Wallace’s arm is buried in Cambuskenneth Abbey – also worthy of a visit as the likely HQ for the Siege of Stirling Castle during the Battle of Bannockburn; the site of Robert the Bruce’s first post-Bannockburn parliament.

Other sites of note include the Old Town Cemetery where The Service Stone sits, damaged by musket fire in the 1651 siege of Stirling. Also find the Ladies’ Rock, where Ladies of the Court would watch jousting on the fields below the Castle. The same rock was the location of one of Bonnie Prince Charlie’s artillery positions during his siege of Stirling Castle in 1746 – his troops were blown apart in half an hour!

A rather more macabre stone will greet you if you make the short climb up Mote Hill. Sitting alongside a pair of cannon, the Beheading Stone is the traditional execution place for Medieval Stirling, where it is thought that James I publicly executed his cousin, Murdoch, the Duke of Albany.

Stirling is a beautiful city – a place perfect to lose yourself in centuries of history and folklore.

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