Nestled close to Glasgow and Edinburgh, yet only a short hop from some of Scotland’s most beautiful scenery, the ancient town of Stirling is well worth a visit. Synonymous with two of Scotland’s greatest heroes, William Wallace and Robert the Bruce, the town and its surrounds have witnessed many crucial struggles between the Scots and the English. The infamous Battle of Bannockburn, when Robert the Bruce forced Edward II’s much larger army to retreat, was fought just a few miles away in 1314. Being so close to the bigger cities of Glasgow and Edinburgh, Stirling can easily be visited in a day, but it is a pleasant city in which to linger.
The Settle Inn
The Settle Inn is a quaint little pub tucked away on the back streets of Stirling. Its location looks as if it would be a place best suited to a quiet drink but don't be fooled, good banter is guaranteed, and the weekly quiz draws quite a crowd. Its low-hanging ceilings – which look as if they are made of dark, dripping chocolate – and dim lighting make it look more like a farmhouse cottage than a pub. Stirling's oldest ale-house is a real treat and a unique one at that. With a warm welcome and homely atmosphere, it's no surprise there are so many regulars.
St. Mary's Wynd, 01786 474 609, opening times vary.
Stirling Castle stands high above the city on an extinct volcano. The decadent building has played a huge part in the life of some of the most famous royals, including Mary Queen of Scots, who used to spend her childhood summers at the grand estate. Marvel at the
stunning views of Stirling and at the magnificence of the Great Hall while discovering an important part of Scotland's history. Interactive exhibits, recreations and galleries make this trip all the more worthwhile.
Castle Wynd, Old Town, 01786 450 000, www.historicscotland.gov.uk, open daily 9.30am–4.30pm, £8.50 (£6.50), child £4.25.
Osta - Restaurant
Situated two minutes from the town centre, Osta is one of Stirling’s tastiest restaurants. Whether you’re indulging in a cocktail and unwinding by the piano bar or getting to grips with the scrumptious menu, Osta has it all, from tapas to cheesecake. With friendly staff and pleasant surroundings, this is one of Stirling’s finest restaurants. Osta is great for having a romantic meal or a spot of wine before a big night out.
Osta, Upper Craigs, 01786 430 890, www.osta.uk.com, open daily 9am–late.
Walk up the Dumyat
Sample the spectacular sights of Stirling with a brisk stroll up the Dumyat. Some call it a mountain; others say it’s a hill. Either way you will have every right to feel snug when you reach the summit. Once there, the beauty of the surroundings will take your breath away. Make a day of it and take along a picnic, and don’t forget some warm attire, it gets really chilly up there.
Hill Climb, Dumyat, Stirling, free.
Wellsfield Horse Riding
Imagine yourself atop a trusty steed cantering freely through rolling hills. Suitable for beginners as well as advanced riders and boasting both an outdoor and an indoor arena, Wellsfield offers a lively and adventurous day out. With the option of pony trekking also available, you can experience the tranquil beauty of Stirling’s countryside while getting a real work-out. With three miles of enclosed bridal pathways, Wellsfield offers an experience you’d never find in the city but is close enough to town that you can return to your creature comforts (and a sore bum) with ease. The British Horse Society Approved Equestrian Centre offers qualified, experienced and welcoming instructors and well behaved ponies.
Horse Riding, Wellsfield Farm, Stirling, 01324 822 800, open daily, £15 per lesson or ride.