Historic Stirling

Aerial view of Stirling Castle
Aerial view of Stirling Castle - Photo credit: Historic Scotland - Photo credit: Historic Scotland

Gazing across to the mighty National Wallace Monument and the equally impressive Ochil Hills takes some beating.

The view from the bedroom window of Hotel Colessio in historic Stirling on a crisp Spring morning was enough to encourage leaping out of the comfy sleep zone, ready for the day ahead.

A beautiful Victorian landmark building, the four star hotel is well placed for a visit to the medieval castle and its grandeur entrance, complete with stone pillars, is a welcome start.

Inside, the hotel has seen considerable investment which has resulted in well-appointed bedrooms and bathrooms, a large downstairs bar area, ballroom and a modern dining room prepared for a hearty breakfast.

It’s the perfect place for exploring this lovely city which sits perfectly between Glasgow and Edinburgh and is bursting with history.

From its cobbled streets, stunning historic houses and eye-catching restaurants and shops, this Scottish gem is really worth a visit.

Hotel Colessio
Hotel Colessio – Photo credit: Focus Hotels

A five-minute walk from the hotel takes you to the Church of the Holy Rude, founded in 1129 during the reign of David, as Stirling’s parish church and where James VI was crowned.

Its name is taken from The Holyrood, a Christian relic, alleged to be part of the true cross which Jesus died on.

Next door and overlooking the town is Cowane’s Hospital, a 17th century Almshouse which is said to be one of Scotland’s finest pieces of architecture, with a beautiful, landscaped garden.

Part of the Top O’ The Town, they sit next to the city’s old jail, built in 1847 and which boasts a very colourful history. Once dubbed Britain’s worst jail, it is now a top tourist attraction and tours of the reformed prison show you what life was like inside the grim building.

Modern day additions of two escape rooms make it a fabulous day out for all the family and a welcome pre bite before a walk up to Stirling Castle, one of Scotland’s greatest stone monuments perched on top of a volcanic crag.

Generations of monarchs have enlarged, adapted and embellished the castle and visitors can explore its three main enclosures and admire the refurbished Royal Palace, childhood home of Mary Queen of Scots.

Bedroom at Hotel Colessio
Bedroom at Hotel Colessio – Photo credit: Focus Hotels

The palace’s design was based on European Renaissance fashions to show off James V’s power and good taste and the inside has been cleverly created to ensure they resemble when the Scottish king’s grand scheme was finished.

You can stand in the Grand Hall, the largest medieval banqueting hall ever built in Scotland, go into the Chapel Royal which was elaborately redecorated for the coronation visit of Charles in 1633 and there is a newly refurbished Argyll and Sutherland Highlander Regimental Museum to look round.

Walking through James V’s majestic palace, you can discover one of Scotland’s great art treasures in the Stirling Heads Gallery and fun for all the family can be found in the Unicorn garden.

The best part of a visit though is to stand tall on the castle battlements and admire the stunning views of the King’s Knot, lush grounds below and the Royal Park where the monarchs used to enjoy their daily strolls.

Just walking around Stirling is a joy, with beautiful old sandstone homes lining the well-kept streets and one residential neighbourhood is where you will find The Stirling Smith Art Gallery and Museum, with free admission.

Artist Thomas Stuart Smith (1814 to 1869) was an accomplished painter who could turn his hand to anything. He was also an avid collector of art, and the museum is a result of his legacy to the town and which features works from such great names as Anne Redpath and William MacTaggart, all known for their expressive handling of colour and brush strokes.

Part of the museum is dedicated to The Stirling Story, which takes the visitor through the city’s history with excellent written and visual exhibits including the world’s oldest football, said to be owned by Mary, Queen of Scots.

Stirling Castle
Stirling Castle – Photo credit: Historic Scotland

Until 7th April 2024 and to celebrate the museum’s 150th anniversary, an excellent exhibition by MACH2, by brothers David and Robert Mach is showing off some quirky pieces of art using coloured dressmaking pins and foil sweet wrappers.

Amazing pieces of artwork from a pinned face of artist Picasso to a life sized tiger made from Scotland’s icon Tunnocks teacake wrappers are on display.

Just a spit and a hop from the centre is one of Scotland’s most distinctive landmarks, The National Wallace Monument, which stands above a field where William Wallace led his troops to victory at The Battle of Stirling Bridge.

A national hero, Wallace was brought to life by American actor Mel Gibson in the 1995 film Braveheart which follows the peasant’s rebellion against the English.

And if that is not enough history for you, The Battle of Bannockburn Visitor Centre run by National Trust for Scotland is where you can see a digitally created version of Robert the Bruce’s famous fight between the army of Scottish King Robert the Bruce and King Edward II of England’s men in 1314, when the Tartan soldiers used their knowledge of the terrain to beat the English.

It’s all tub-thumping good fun, in a wonderfully spectacular part of Scotland! For more information on visiting Stirling, please visit: www.visitscotland.com.

Author Bio:

Rebecca Hay is an experienced travel writer and member of The British Guild of Travel Writers. Follow her adventures with her family on Twitter and Instagram @emojiadventurer and on Facebook via EmojiAdventurers2.

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