Straddling the River Forth a few miles upstream from the estuary at Kincardine, STIRLING (Web: www.visitstirling.org ) appears, at first glance, like a smaller version of Edinburgh. With its crag-top castle, steep, cobbled streets and mixed community of locals, students and tourists, it's an appealing place.
Stirling was the scene of some of the most significant developments in the evolution of the Scottish nation. It was here that the Scots under William Wallace defeated the English at the Battle of Stirling Bridge in 1297, only to fight – and win again – under Robert the Bruce just a couple of miles away at the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314. Stirling enjoyed its golden age in the fifteenth to seventeenth centuries, most notably when its castle was the favoured residence of the Stuart monarchy and the setting for the coronation in 1543 of the young Mary, future Queen of Scots. By the early eighteenth century the town was again besieged, its location being of strategic importance during the Jacobite rebellions of 1715 and 1745. Today Stirling is known for its castle and the lofty Wallace Monument, a mammoth Victorian monolith high on Abbey Craig to the northeast.