Where to stay: Because Stirling is a fairly small city, there are limited budget accommodation options. There are a handful of low-cost Airbnb options, but because there are so few it will be best to book far in advance. There are also some hostels in the city, many of which are in great locations. I haven’t stayed there personally, but the Stirling Youth Hostel is in the middle of the city very close to the castle, so it’d be worth checking out!
Where to eat: Stirling is the perfect place to sit in a pub next to a warm fire and meet locals who are lounging around. The Portcullis is an inn right next to the castle, and has a decently priced food menu. Several locals told me that this was the best pub to go to in Stirling! If you’ll be there for dinner you might want to book ahead, as it became quite busy during the dinner rush. There are also several really great cafés located in downtown Stirling that are great options for escaping the cold or the rain (if you’re not lucky enough to have sunny days)!
What to do: Unfortunately, there aren’t any free tour options in Stirling, although there is a free bus tour company that’s been testing out the waters, so be sure to ask around if it’s running while you’re there! You can buy a walking tour ticket, although I’m not entirely sure it’s necessary in this tiny city. I would recommend starting at Stirling Castle, as it’ll give you a good idea of the history of the city, and it’s very close to the center. You get a tour included in your ticket, so be sure to take it! The views from the castle are also really spectacular, so be sure to spend some time checking those out. There is another historic building across the street from the Portcullis near the castle that’s included in your castle ticket, so if you have extra time you can head over there, too! You’ll definitely want to go to the Wallace Monument while you’re in Stirling. If you’ve ever seen the film Braveheart, this is the monument that was built to commemorate the battle portrayed in the film. The monument is just outside of the city, so you can either take a bus, taxi, or you can walk if you’re feeling extra adventurous. Once you’ve arrived and purchased your ticket, you’ll have the option of walking to the monument or taking a bus. If the weather is nice, the walk to the monument is really great. The map you’re provided with will show you which trails to take if you want good views on your way up, and it’s really a great way to spend part of the day (just be sure to wear good walking shoes!). The monument requires a bit of a walk up to the top, but there are different exhibitions inside regarding the history of Stirling and Wallace that’ll give you a break. The views from the top are absolutely incomparable, though, so it’s definitely not something to be missed!
Overall Opinion: I absolutely fell in love with Stirling, it’s a perfectly charming Scottish city. It’s known as the “Gateway to the Highlands”, and after visiting, I can certainly see why! The landscape surrounding the city is spectacular, and I love that it isn’t completely overrun with tourists like the nearby cities of Edinburgh and Glasgow. Stirling would make a great day trip from either city, as trains run between them regularly and it’s located almost directly in between both cities, but it’s also a great city to spend a relaxing weekend in. I visited in August, and it was actually quite chilly, so be sure to plan for the weather depending on when you go- it’ll be very cold in the winter!