As a budget traveller, finding affordable destinations that offer a rich cultural experience can be challenging. Stirling, Scotland has a lot to offer to tourists on a tight budget. This charming city, located in the heart of Scotland, is steeped in history, culture and tradition. We were on a road trip in the height of tourist season and had been travelling for several weeks in a campervan. As we got closer to Edinburgh, prices had been raising, leaving slim offerings in our preferred budget range. Finding an affordable campsite became an equally challenging experience, but we found a lovely campsite just a few kilometres outside the city of Stirling.
The Witches Craig campsite is an ideal option for budget travellers, with its affordable rates and excellent amenities. The campsite features spacious camping and caravan pitches, hot showers, and a laundry facility. The cost of camping is £22-25 per night for a tent pitch or £28-32 for a caravan site with electricity, making it a great value option for budget travellers.
The campsite is impeccably maintained, beautifully landscaped, and is tucked beneath some stunning cliffs. The wood carvings and whimsical accessories located all around the campsite will charm you. A bus stop is conveniently located just outside the main gates that goes straight into Stirling, allowing us to leave the van behind and not worry about parking in the city.
History of Stirling
Stirling has a rich and complex history that dates back over a thousand years. The town played an important role in Scottish history, serving as a strategic stronghold and a site of numerous battles and conflicts. One of the most important events in Stirling's history was the 1297 Battle of Stirling Bridge when the forces of William Wallace defeated the English army.
Stirling Castle served as a royal residence for centuries and was the site of several important events, including the coronation of King James IV. The castle played a key role in the Wars of Scottish Independence, and it was the site of several sieges and battles.
Mary, Queen of Scots was born in the town in 1542 and spent her early years at Stirling Castle. Mary was crowned Queen at the age of nine months in the castle's Chapel Royal. The town was also the site of the 1746 Battle of Falkirk when the English defeated Bonnie Prince Charlie.
Stirling's history is also closely tied to the history of the Scottish Reformation. The town was a centre of religious conflict during the 16th century, and it was the site of several important events, including the signing of the National Covenant in 1638. The covenant was a document that asserted the independence of the Scottish church and paved the way for the establishment of the Presbyterian Church of Scotland.
Church of the Holy Rude
Holy Rude Church is an important historical site in Stirling, dating back to the 15th century. The church served as the parish church of Stirling until the mid-20th century and is now a popular tourist attraction. The church's most notable feature is its unique crown spire, which is a prominent feature of Stirling's skyline. This is one of the few timbered churches remaining in Scotland.
Visitors to Holy Rude Church can explore the church's interior, which features a range of historical and religious artifacts. One of the highlights is the church's impressive stained glass windows, dating back to the 19th century. The church also has a number of interesting memorials and monuments, including the tomb of James III and his queen, Margaret of Denmark.
To make the most of a visit to Holy Rood Church, take time to explore the church's interior. The church is located in Stirling's Old Town, so visitors can also take the opportunity to explore the town's other historical sites and attractions. The church is a short walk from Stirling Castle, and visitors can combine a visit to both sites for a full day of historical exploration in Stirling.
Holy Rude Church is open to visitors from April to October, with varying hours depending on the day of the week. Admission is free, although donations are welcomed to help maintain the church and its historical artifacts. Make sure to check the church's official website for up-to-date opening hours and any temporary closures.
Across the street from the church is Cowane's Hospital. Cowane's Hospital is a historical building in Stirling that dates back to the 17th century. The hospital was established by merchant John Cowane, who left money in his will to fund a hospital for the "poor, aged, and infirm" of Stirling. Today, the building is a unique example of Scottish baronial architecture and serves as a museum and cultural center.
The gentleman is said to dance on the streets of Stirling on New Year's Eve.
Visitors to Cowane's Hospital can explore the building's interior, which features a range of historical and cultural exhibits. The hospital's main hall is a notable feature, with its impressive vaulted ceiling and unique architectural details.
Gowan's Hospital is open to visitors from April to October, with varying hours depending on the day of the week. Admission is free, although donations are welcomed to help support the Cowane's Hospital Trust and its mission to preserve the hospital's historical legacy.
Gowan's Cemetary and Garden
While this may not be everyone's cup of tea, I always enjoy meandering through cemetaries and reading gravestones. Beside Gowan's Hospital is a lovely cemetary and garden area that provides a peaceful respite from the bustling town center. The gardens have been restored in recent years, and visitors can now enjoy a range of plants, flowers, and other natural features. The gardens are well-maintained and offer a tranquil setting in which to relax and take in the sights and sounds of Stirling.
Visitors can explore the various winding paths and walkways and can admire the numerous sculptures and other artistic features that are scattered throughout the space.
Likely the biggest draw is Stirling Castle which sits atop a hill overlooking the city, and is a must-visit attraction for history enthusiasts. Admission to the castle costs around £16 per adult, and opening hours are from 09:30 to 18:00. The castle offers a glimpse into Scotland's rich history, with notable things to see including the Great Hall, the Chapel Royal, and the Royal Palace.
The Great Hall
The Great Hall was a new palace built by James V to impress his new French bride. Unfortunately, she didn't live long enough to enjoy it. He added more and attracted a much more suitable wife in Marie of Guise.
The Great Hall is one of the most impressive parts of Stirling Castle. Built in the 16th century, it was used for important events and gatherings. The hall is decorated with intricate carvings and has a magnificent hammer-beam ceiling. Visitors can also see a collection of weapons and armour used during the castle's history.
The Chapel Royal
The Chapel Royal is another highlight of Stirling Castle. Built in the 16th century, it is one of the few surviving royal chapels in Scotland. The chapel has beautiful stained glass windows and an ornate altar. Visitors can also see a collection of artifacts related to the castle's history, including the Order of the Thistle, Scotland's highest order of chivalry.
The Royal Palace
The original Royal Palace is another important part of Stirling Castle. It was the residence of the Scottish monarchs in the 16th century and has been carefully restored to its former glory. Visitors can see the king's and queen's chambers, the presence chamber, and the privy chamber. The palace also has a collection of tapestries and other artifacts related to the castle's history.
Costumed interpreters wander the Palace sharing stories and interesting artifacts with visitors. I was quite intrigued with this display of early golf clubs and a variety of balls.
The largest ball in the photo is believed to be one of the earliest football/soccer balls. This is a replica of one found in the castle walls in the mid-1600s.
Be sure not to miss the views from the castle's ramparts. The castle's location atop a hill provides panoramic views of the surrounding countryside, including the Wallace Monument and the Ochil Hills. The views from the ramparts are particularly impressive on a clear day, and visitors can easily spend an hour or more taking in the scenery.
The Wallace Monument
The Wallace Monument is a towering monument dedicated to the legendary Scottish hero, William Wallace (the hero from the Braveheart movie). Located a few miles from Stirling, the monument offers visitors a chance to learn about the history and culture of Scotland. There are many things to see when visiting the Wallace Monument, including the Hall of Heroes, the Crown, and the viewing platform.
The Hall of Heroes
The Hall of Heroes is the first stop for visitors to the Wallace Monument. It features a collection of exhibits and artifacts related to Scottish history, including the life and legacy of William Wallace. Visitors can learn about Scotland's history and culture through interactive displays, audio-visual presentations, and exhibits.
The Crown is the next stop for visitors to the Wallace Monument. It is a small room at the top of the monument that houses the famous (and incredibly large) Wallace Sword, which was used by William Wallace during the Wars of Scottish Independence. The Crown also has a collection of other artifacts related to Wallace and his legacy.
The Viewing Platform
This was the highlight of my visit to the Wallace Monument. Located at the top of the monument, it offers panoramic views of the surrounding countryside, including the Ochil Hills and the Forth Valley. Visitors can take in the stunning scenery and enjoy a bird's eye view of Stirling and its landmarks.
From the viewing platform, you can see the battleground of the Stirling Bridge. We were amused to realize that the historic battlegrounds are currently used by the local rugby club. I love seeing historical places being used as community spaces.
The Wallace Way
A really interesting thing to do is the Wallace Way Walk. This is a trail featuring woodcarvings that follow Stirling's history from the Ice Age up to the building of the Wallace Monument. It will take you about 20 minutes to complete the circuit from the parking lot to the Monument. This is a fairly steep stone path so those with mobility issues may wish to miss this.
Visitors should allow several hours to explore the monument and take in its history and culture.
Battle of Bannockburn Visitor Centre
Another important historical site is the Battle of Bannockburn Visitor Centre, which commemorates the famous battle fought in 1314. Admission to the centre costs around £12.50 per adult, and it takes around 2 hours to explore the exhibits.
The Battle of Bannockburn was a pivotal moment in Scottish history, as it saw the army of Robert the Bruce defeat the English forces of King Edward II. The battle took place in 1314, and it is celebrated as a symbol of Scottish independence. The Bannockburn Visitor Centre is located on the site of the battle.
The Bannockburn Visitor Centre is a state-of-the-art facility that features interactive exhibits, audio-visual presentations, and artifacts related to the battle, including weapons, armour, and other equipment used by the Scottish and English armies. The centre offers visitors a chance to experience the battle from the perspective of both the Scottish and English armies. Visitors can learn about the tactics used by the Scottish army and the role played by Robert the Bruce in the battle.One of the highlights is the Battle Game, which offers visitors a chance to experience the battle through a 3D interactive display.
Getting Around Stirling
Getting around Stirling is easy, with regular bus services connecting the city's main attractions. The city is also compact and easily walkable, with most attractions located within a short distance from each other. Food and Drink For food and drink, visitors should try traditional Scottish dishes such as haggis, neeps (rutabaga), and tatties (potato scones). Stirling has many pubs and restaurants serving delicious food and drink at reasonable prices.
Stirling is an excellent destination for budget travellers. With its rich history and culture, there is plenty to see and do, and the city's compact size makes it easy to explore. The Witches Craig campsite is a great value option for those looking for affordable accommodation, while the city's attractions offer excellent value for money. I highly recommend a visit to Stirling to experience the best of Scotland's history and culture.
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