Welcome to my guide to the best free things to do in Stirling…
Want to visit Stirling but keep costs to a minimum? This is for you.
Welcome to my guide to the best free things to do in Stirling. So what can you expect from this city? Well, one thing’s for sure, if you love Scottish history then you’ll love it. Stirling equals history with a capital H.
Sometimes described as a ‘little Edinburgh’, Stirling brings together cobbled streets, historical monuments, and a beautiful castle perched on a rock overseeing the streets below. I did say it’s a bit like Edinburgh!
I’ve lived here for nearly two years so I’ve had plenty of time to get to know the city. As well as all the historical attractions, there are lots of lovely cafes, restaurants, bars and outdoor activities. It’s small but mighty!
And if you don’t want to spend a lot of money while you’re here then no worries – I’ve put together a list of free things to do in Stirling.
Let’s crack on with my list of activities in Stirling…
Visit Stirling Bridge
Stirling Bridge is a beautiful stone bridge located a short walk from the city centre. It arches over the river and looks seriously pretty. Built in the 1400s or 1500s, it’s an example of a medieval masonry arch bridge
This bridge played a significant role in Scottish history as the site of the famous Battle of Stirling Bridge in 1297, where William Wallace led the Scots to a decisive victory against the English army. Fun fact – while this battle does feature in the movie Braveheart they chose not to feature the bridge. Instead, it takes place on a muddy field! Random, but true.
And I’m not sure why though, as the tactics they used at the battle were actually pretty neat. Only two men on horseback could cross the narrow bridge at a time. Wallace waited for around 2000 men to cross and then attacked. Because they were surrounded by the bend in the river they were unable to retreat and Scotland won their victory.
Spot the Wallace Monument
The magnificent Wallace Monument in Stirling was opened in 1869 and pays tribute to William Wallace. Wherever you are in the city you’ll catch a glimpse of it peeping out over the skyline, reminding you of all the history that has gone down here in Stirling. There’s an entrance fee to climb the monument but the views at the top are pretty special!
However, if you’re looking for free things to do in Stirling then discovering where you can find the best views of the Wallace Monument from the city is a fun activity. It’s one I’ve almost done by accident over time.
If you head to the Riverside area of the city (cross the bridge near the railway station and keep walking) you’ll find a leafy green park beside the Forth River. Here you’ll see a lovely view of the monument, fringed by branches on either side. Or why not head to Stirling Bridge and capture the famous stone arches with the monument on the horizon above?
Climb Dumyat Hill
If you like outdoors activities then why not make a trip to Dumyat when you’re visiting Stirling? Dumyat is one of the Ochil Hills and is located just outside of the city. You can drive or get a bus to from the city centre to near Stirling University and walk from there.
I actually know the name of the hill from a book we read as a class at primary school called Light on Dumyat. I can’t remember too much about it apart from there is a character called Mot (Tom backwards). But that’s an aside. Dumyat stands 418 meters high and it’s a really popular walk. You can tell by the crowds of people I see doing it each week.
It’ll take you about an hour to get up and an hour down, at a reasonable pace. The views at the top are lovely and you’ll also get another perspective of the Wallace Monument.
Visit the Beheading Stone
The Beheading Stone is located on the top of Gowan Hill in Stirling, which is in the east of the city, approximately around a 15-walk from the centre of town. The hill also has a few other names – Murdoch’s Knowe, Hurlie Haw, and the aptly titled Heiding Hill.
A short steep walk will take you up to the top of the hill. It’s here that you will see the traditional medieval execution block encased in a metal cage with a plaque.
Apparently, the executions here were reserved for people who had committed treason. One of the most notable people to be executed here was the Duke of Albany in 1425, who was the grandson of King Robert II, the founder of the Stewart Dynasty.
Despite its gruesome history, I really like this location. It’s peaceful and has views from all sides. There’s even a bench if you want to take five after the climb. Don’t miss the cannons and the view of the Wallace Monument from here – it looks great from up here!
Take a walk around King’s Park
King’s Park is another one on the list of free things to do in Stirling. Of course, it also ties into the history of the city and was once used as the hunting ground for the court.
There’s not too much to say about King’s Park – it’s simply a large green space. There are tennis courts, a skate park, and a children’s play area. Although, a large area of the park is taken up by a golf course, so you might have to keep an eye out for rogue golf balls.
Either way, it’s a pleasant area walk around for an hour or so. One of the things I like about this area is all of the beautiful houses that surround it. They’re all large, traditional Victorian houses – I always like to daydream about which one I’d live in if I was loaded!
Explore the Top of the Town
This area of town is steeped in history. Even the local corner shop has cannons outside of it. It’s a steep walk uphill from the centre of town to get here, which is another similarity with Edinburgh – there are a lot of hills in Stirling! But it’s worth it when you get here.
It’s here that you’ll see the Old Town Jail, which was built in 1847 and was once voted the worst prison in Britain due to overcrowding. It’s now a great visitor attraction where you go on a tour guided by various actors. Apparently, there are surprises along the way, eek!
Keep going up the hill in the old town and you’ll also come across the Church of the Holy Rude and the old town graveyard. And finally, at the top, is Stirling Castle!
Planning a trip to Stirling? You might be interested in these other blogs:
- The Wallace Monument: a guide
- Visiting Stirling Castle: my top tips
- Where to eat brunch in Stirling
- The best restaurants in Stirling
- Toast: the busy cafe that hits the spot