Free Things to Do in Stirling

Cambuskenneth Abbey

What will you do on a visit to Stirling? There is so much to see and do in this historic town, once the capital of Scotland.

Whether you are a student here, visiting on holiday, or popping over on a day trip from Glasgow, there are historical sites and hidden gems around just about every corner.

Of course, trekking through historical sites can get pricey, but there are so many interesting things for free in Stirling that it is the perfect spot to visit on a budget. If you are looking for things to do today, Stirling will not disappoint, as the city is celebrating its 900th anniversary in 2024! Here, we have a partial list of the engaging, interesting, and absolutely exciting things you can see and do in this small town, with its big history and stunning surroundings.

All About Stirling

On the right bank of the River Forth, at the intersection of the Scottish highlands and lowlands, sits Stirling, a city that was established as a royal burgh in about 1130. Stirling Castle, perched high on a volcanic plug, became a royal residence under Alexander II of Scotland. There was a time when it was said that ‘he who holds Stirling, holds Scotland’, and indeed it played an important role in Scottish history. Near Stirling, Sir William Wallace routed the English in the Battle of Stirling Bridge in 1297 and later, in 1314, the Battle of Bannockburn won Scottish independence once again. From that point until the middle of the 16th century, Stirling shared the rank of a capital city with Edinburgh, with all the privileges that entails, and Stuart kings regularly inhabited the castle. Once the Scottish and English crowns were united in 1603, Stirling became of less strategic importance, but it is still a very interesting place to visit and a popular destination for tourists. There are many fine examples of 16th and 17th-century architecture in Stirling, with historic churches and mansions, the remains of a town wall, and the “auld brig” over the Forth, and the skyline is dominated by the glorious Stirling Castle. There is plenty to see, just walking around the cobbled streets of this historic city, which is quite compact and easily walkable. Many people begin their exploration of Stirling at Stirling Castle, which does have an admission fee, but there are plenty of things to see that don’t.

Tollbooth Gallery

Tolbooth Stirling is a music and arts venue, at the top of the old town in Stirling city centre, and Tollbooth Gallery is located inside. With a history of exhibiting first-rate artwork, this beautiful gallery, with its wonderful natural light, is well worth a visit. In addition to fine art, the gallery features exhibits from local amateur visual art collectives and some renowned new media exhibitions. Newly equipped to host innovative installations, the Tolbooth Gallery has an impressive in-house suite of digital technology. You can view all of the exhibitions at the Tollbooth Gallery free of charge.

Stirling Smith Museum and Art Gallery

Another museum without an entry fee, the Stirling Smith Museum and Gallery features Scottish history collections, fine art, and archaeology, as well as an exhibit that will interest sports fans- the world’s oldest football. It is easy to overlook this hidden gem, which is located in the shadow of Stirling Castle, but it is a wonderful place to delve into the history of the area in its permanent ‘Stirling’s Story’ exhibition.

Mar’s Wark and Cowane’s Hospital

Heading towards Stirling Castle, you will find Mar’s Wark, the façade of a 16th-century mansion built by John Erskine, Earl of Mar and keeper of Stirling Castle. A few yards away sits Cowane’s Hospital, an alms house established in 1637 using funds left by John Cowane, a wealthy merchant whose statue now sits in the hospital building. Does it come to life and dance in the courtyard for Hogmanay? Some locals believe it does! There is a very interesting exhibition about the hospital’s history, as well as a beautiful garden.

Parish Church

Interested in architecture? Do not miss the Parish Church in Bridge of Allan. Designed in 1904 by famed architect Charles Rennie Mackintosh, the chancel furnishings are particularly significant. As an added bonus, you can take a scenic riverside Darn Walk.

Cambuskenneth Abbey

An Augustinian monastery set in a loop of River Forth, Cambuskenneth Abbey was founded in 1147, by David I. Today, only the bell tower still exists, enclosed in a small cemetery, but in the past, the abbey saw many historical events unfold. Robert the Bruce held a parliament here after the Battle of Bannockburn, Scottish nobility swore loyalty to David Bruce as King Robert’s heir, and James III is buried here, beside his wife, Queen Margaret. This significant abbey features a fascinating collection of medieval grave slabs and architectural fragments.

The Old Town Cemetery

Between the castle and the Church of the Holy Rude, you will find a small valley that contains this historic graveyard. Wander about, and you can enjoy beautifully ornate gravestones, statues, and monuments that include the Martyrs Monument, honouring two sisters, Margaret and Agnes, arrested and executed for their beliefs, and the Star Pyramid, dedicated to those who gave their lives for Scotland’s civil and religious liberty. You can also climb a small hill for an outstanding view of Stirling Castle, the church, and the cityscapes that surround them.

King’s Knot

A landscaped, grass-covered, stepped mound in a field near the castle, this spot is known locally as the cup-and-saucer. It used to be part of the royal gardens, created in 1628 to be used for leisure activities like hunting and jousting. Today, it’s popular with locals and dog walkers, and it is a wonderful spot for relaxing and enjoying a stunning view of Stirling Castle.

Notable Walks

Stirling is a wonderful place to walk, whether you want a leisurely stroll or a challenging hike.

  • The Battle of Bannockburn Heritage Trail lets you relive Robert the Bruce’s heroic victory. A two-mile trail located near Stirling, it goes through the battle site and nearby area, marked with helpful signs, offering walkers an opportunity to enjoy the beautiful scenery and learn about Scottish history.
  • Visit the Wallace Monument and take the Abbey Craig Walk. Atop Abbey Craig hill, you will find the Wallace Monument, a breathtaking 220 foot sandstone tower built to commemorate William Wallace, the 13th-century Scottish hero. You can visit the monument itself if you pay the entry fee, and take in the view from the top, but the car park and trails are free. The Abbey Craig Walk offers sweeping views of the surrounding countryside and Stirling Castle, and the path is easy to navigate. It is a little under five miles long and mostly flat, suitable for walkers and hikers alike.
  • The Stirling Castle Walk views the same scenery from a different point of view. Beginning at the majestic castle, where you will enjoy stunning views of the city, you’ll walk past many historical monuments, including the Wallace Monument. Further down the trail, you will encounter the Stirling Bridge, site of one of the most significant battles in Scottish history. From there, you will head through the city before ending your walk at the lovely Garden of Remembrance.
  • The Davie Cunningham’s Wood Walk is a tranquil trail through the Ochil Hills. Five miles long, it is essentially a leisurely walk in the country, along the banks of the River Forth, through beautiful forests and meadows, and past the ruins of the old Norman castle of Stirling.
  • The River Forth & Touch Estuary Walk begins at the Stirling Bridge. From there, it goes along the banks of the River Forth and then to the Torch Estuary, a wildlife reserve. Well-maintained and easy to navigate, this is a beautiful walk with opportunities for wildlife viewing and enjoying a wide variety of wildflowers. At the end of the estuary, there is a picnic area perfect for taking a break before heading back.

Venturing Further Afield

Stirling is in reasonable proximity to Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park, if you fancy a day out in nature. Another interesting place to get outdoors near Stirling is the BLiSS Trail of Art and Architectural Installations. An award-winning, eye-catching installation, the BLiSS trail links the villages of Strathyre, Balquhidder, Lochearnhead, and St. Fillans, and features an eclectic mix of roadside art and architectural features. There is even an app you can download, with a map and audio tour.

Store Your Things While You Spend Some Time in Stirling

If you are looking for a place to stash your things in Stirling, look to Storage Vault. Whether you are decluttering, moving, or renovating and need space for your personal goods, you need storage for your business, or you are a student needing to stow your gear, Storage Vault is here for you. Proudly owned and operated in Scotland, we have 15 years of experience in commercial property and a dedication to providing an exceptional storage experience. We offer a wide range of premium storage units to individuals, families, businesses, and students, and our unbeatable prices with no long-term commitment have made us Scotland’s fastest-growing self-storage company. We offer 24/7 extended access, so you can always get to your stored items, and our friendly team provides advice and support. Protected by state-of-the-art security systems, our 15 modern facilities across Scotland offer ideal storage solutions, no matter what you are storing.

For more information about our wide range of storage units, convenient locations, and our flexible terms, with no up-front fees or hidden costs, reach us by telephone at 0800 802 1822.

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