If you’re into medieval warfare, broadswords, flaying, scotch whisky, castles and impressive landscapes, this article is for you. We’ll take you through some of the medieval history surrounding the city, as well as some of the best things to do, eat and drink in Stirling, Scotland.
To native Scotts, Stirling is considered to be the bridge between the Scottish Highlands and Lowlands. To many Americans and Scottish descendants, it’s commonly associated with William Wallace and his role in the Wars for Scottish Independence. In this article, we’ll cover some interesting historical facts about Stirling, along with some useful tips for navigating and enjoying this city in modern times.
If you’re considering visiting Stirling, you can expect a great culinary experience throughout this laid back central Scottish city. It’s well worth a stop for either a day trip from Edinburgh or a longer stay. 5 Star accommodation can often be found for under $200 per night.
But first… let’s talk a little history.
Historical Facts About Stirling Scotland
1. People have inhabited Stirling as far back as the Stone Age, judging by various carvings and tombs discovered near locations such as King’s Park.
The Battle of Stirling
2. Stirling may be most well known for both its battles and William Wallace. Wallace fought in and around the town against the English against substantial odds.
3. During the 1200s and 1300s, Stirling served as a critical battlefront throughout the War of Scottish Independence.
4. On September 11th, 1297, one of the first battles during the War for Scottish Independence took place at Stirling Bridge.
5. The English Army had at least 10,000 foot soldiers and over 250 cavalry before the Battle of Stirling Bridge. The Scots had 30 odd cavalry and roughly 8,000 foot soldiers.
6. The Scots arrived first at Abbey Craig, just North of the city of Stirling, before the Battle of Stirling. This allowed Wallace and his troops time to plan their battle strategy as they watched the English approach.
7. The English army was led by John de Warenne, 6th Earl of Surrey, and Hugh de Cressingham, advisor to Warenne and English treasurer based in Scotland.
8. Stirling bridge was just wide enough for 2 English horsemen to cross at a time. The Scots waited for thousands to cross before ordering an attack, subsequently bringing spearmen down from higher ground and then cutting off reinforcements on the East side.
9. Thousands of English cavalry were killed, with Warenne eventually ordering Stirling Bridge to be destroyed to prevent the Scots from chasing down the rest of the army.
10. Andrew Moray and William Wallace, heavily outnumbered but strategically sound, defeated the English onslaught.
11. Hugh de Cressingham was one of those killed, and was well known and hated by many high ranking Scots.
12. According to Walter of Guisborough, a 14th century English chronicler, Cressingham was subsequently flayed, and has his skin cut into tiny pieces and distributed among the Scottish victors as trophies.
“The Scots flayed him and divided his skin among themselves in moderate-sized pieces, certainly not as relics, but for hatred of him.”
The Lanercost Chronicle also corroborated his story…
“Of his skin William Wallace caused a broad strip to be taken from the head to the heel, to make therewith a baldrick for his sword.”
13. William Wallace is reported to have made a belt of his sword out of a large portion of Cressingham’s skin.
14. Present day Stirling Bridge lies approximately 180 yards downstream from where the bridge originally stood, judging by man made structures discovered underwater.
15. After his victory at The Battle of Stirling Bridge in 1297, William Wallace was designated Guardian of Scotland.
16. Today, the Wallace Monument serves as a historical marker atop Abby Craig, overlooking the grounds where the battle took place.
17. In 1314, Robert the Bruce officially ended The War for Scottish Independence at the Battle of Bannockburn. At the time, the English occupied Stirling Castle and had been laid siege to for some time by the Scots. In an attempt to route the Scottish rebels, an army of English soldiers, led by King Edward II, was destroyed. The Scottish victory brought about the end of the day.
18. The castle has been under siege at least 8 times. The majority of Stirling Castle has been completely rebuilt, with a good portion of the current composition dating back to the 15th century.
19. Mary, Queen of Scots was crowned at Stirling Castle in 1542.
20. Stirling Castle is one of the most naturally well defended and largest castles in all of Scotland. Cliffs defend 75% of the castle walls.
Things To Do in Stirling Scotland
Hike to the top of Abby Craig to the Wallace Monument. You’re in for a sweeping view of the Scottish country side – mostly former battle grounds – and a gorgeous aerial perspective of the city. But there’s more… Hang around the Wallace Monument long enough and you may get an interesting surprise from a very spontaneous tour guide with quite the Scottish brogue.
Visit Stirling Castle. One of my favorite castles in Scotland, tours begin for free every hour. While a good portion of the interior design has been substantially refurbished, the guides enjoy telling the history of the castle. Actors also fill the rooms throughout the castle, and they’e damn good. History should be your reason for visiting, and it’s definitely worth your time if that’s your thing. The views are also an outstanding bonus.
Checkout Curly Coo Bar, the only Whisky bar in Stirling. Described as a “Cozy wee bar,” Curly Coo is a great place to warm yourself amongst over 120 styles of Scotch Whisky. Walkable from the center of the Stirling.
Visit the Deanston Distillery & Visitor Centre… I don’t think it gets much better. Stop by the visitor center and pickup some documentation about the city of Stirling. Discover the best places to eat and explore and get a tour of this fantastic facility conducted by engaging guides. As they like to say… “today’s rain is tomorrows whisky.”