I do not propose to write a huge amount here on a tip which effectively regards a pretty dilapidated wall in one of the lesser used streets in Stirling, but it is of historical interest and if the reader is vaguely interested I have hopefully provided enough information for them to further research themselves. I should add that the website provided is from a hospital founded by the main protagonist here so may have to be treated with a degree of caution.
As stated, and as the images hopefully reflect, this fairly unprepossesing wall rather looks as if it was built to shore up a large overhang. Actually, it is nothing of the sort and is the last remnant of a very important building in Stirling. It does not look like much now and I nearly walked straight past it but is the last remaining remnant of the townhouse of Sir John Cowane, a man hugely associated with the development of the town.
Cowane was born on this sitec. 1570 into a wealthy merchant family and was eventually taken into the family business which was, well, business. It appears he would trade in just about anything. Building upon his family wealth, he ended up a very rich man. there is little known about him and with suggestions of piracy and eviction of widows and orphans, he may not have been the nicest man you ever met. However, he became a hugely influential and wealthy man and possibly being in fear of death, he did bequeath a large sum for the founding of a hopital.
As I say, not perhaps the most interesting thing I will ever suggest to the VT reader but, if you happen to be walking in St. Mary's Wynd, it is worth stopping for a moment and trying to imagine the former beauty of the place.
Stand with your back to the wall and take in the lovely view over the town!
The Trossachs are 'the Highlands in Miniature' and lie to the north and west of Stirling. The tourists centres are the small town of Callander (15 miles from Stirling) and the village of Aberfoyle (20 miles). Both have very picturesque settings, but actually lie on the edge of the Trossachs. So the main way tourists will normally experience the Trossachs (even the sound of the word encapsulates its very Scottishness) is the drive between them. From Aberfoyle, climbing quickly into the Dukes Pass, winding through above Loch Drunkie and Loch Achray, past Ben Venue to Loch Katrine. Then back, below Ben An, past Loch Venachar, through Brig O' Turk and Kilmahog, to Callander. As a drive, this is only about 20 miles, takes maybe about 40 minutes, and gives you a very concentrated blast of Scottish countryside. But what's your hurry? Stop a few places, stretch you legs, enjoy the views and the fresh air.
If you are based in Glasgow or Edinburgh, and don't have time to tour the Highlands, but wish to see 'the country', then this is the place for you. You can also more than fulfil your tourist shopping needs in Callander (with Kilmahog, woolen mill central) or Aberfoyle.
If you want to stay, there are numerous choices in Callander, some in Aberfoyle, various B&Bs dotted around, campsites, other hotels along the very 'away from it all' road from Aberfoyle to Loch Lomond (Inversnaid), and the Loch Achray Hotel right in the heart.
Much of the Trossachs is in The Queen Elizabeth Forest Park, which in turn is in the new Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park.
A big pineapple shaped building owned by the National Trust. Its a few miles from Stirling, situated in the old walled garden of an estate. There isn't really much there but its kind of fun to see. In the olden days there would have been greenhouses to grow pineapples in but of course now they are just imported from abroad and not really grown in the UK anymore. Nowadays you can rent the building as a holiday let and visitors can wander the gardens & woodland
This is a cascade, actually quite a way from Stirling, and would probably be included in a trip to Fintry, if you wanted a tour of some countryside. There are several ways to reach it, but the most interesting, if you have the nerve to drive it, is the very narrow road from the North Third. It can also be reached along the somewhat wider B818 from Denny or Fintry. Loup, for non Scots, means leap. Another name is the Endrick Falls, the river being the Endrick, which flows to Glasgow. The watershed kind of crosses here, with the Carron flowing East, and the Endrick, West.
There is rough parking on the verge of the road, and a path walk of around ten minutes to the falls - in summmer through head high bracken at points. Don't fall in!
Location is about six miles west of Carronbridge, three east of Fintry. There is a small signpost, but you could easily miss it. I made this trip on a hot sunny July evening, when I just wanted to get out into the country (after baking in the sun before).
About 2 miles out of Doune and well signposted is the Argaty Estate. This farm offers visitors the chance to watch Red Kites flying in the area. There is a hide where you can sit and watch the birds but you can also go with a guide to the area on a guided walk. We were there early in the morning and the notice said that the kites are not often seen in the morning but we were so lucky and saw them flying and also sitting in the trees.
These beautiful birds were driven to extinction by persecution 130 years but have now been re-introduced to central Scotland by the RSPB.
There is an honesty box with the suggestion of a 4 pound donation for adults. the parking area is rough and you have to walk through part of the farm - but seeing these wonderful birds of prey flying free makes the visit worth while.
If you cross the Kincardine Bridge and head towards Stirling on the A905 you will come across a National Trust sign for The Pineapple in Airth. It is a little way off the road but to stop and look at the unusual building and garden - it is worth a few minutes detour.
it was built in 1761 as a garden retreat. IThe building was on the estate of the 4th earl of Dunmore, John Murray. At the time it was built the pineapple was a rare delicacy and also a symbol of wealth. The pineapple is 23 metres high and delicately carved. There is a walled garden with an orchard of crab-apples. you can also walk through the woodland that surrounds the pineapple. There is also a path from the car park that takes you to a pond with a viewing platform.... in the pond are rare great crested newts (we did not see them).
There is an honesty box to pay for your visit.
Best known for the movie 'Monty Python and the Holy Grail' Doune Castle is well worth a visit in it's own right. Unlike Stirling Castle, this 14th Century fortification is largely preserved in it's original state, the only major addition being a Victorian era roof.
From Stirling take the bus to Doune (destination:Callendar) which stops in the centre of the village. From there it's a short walk to the castle.
Just a short drive northwest of Stirling in the town of Doune, this is a well-preserved, relatively quiet 14th century castle whose claim to fame is more recent: it was the setting for scenes from "Monty Python and the Holy Grail." That had a lot to do with me coming here and most others. You can go to the top and yell at "sons of silly persons" in your worst French accent and they'll even give you coconut shells at the ticket counter.
Blair Drummond Safari Park - another place that, as a local., I have not visited for some time - but it's like the description - its a park - it has safari animals. Around 5 miles from Stirling along A84.
Ticket also includes extras; eg pedal boats; astraglide, sea lion show, pets farm, in addition to the wild animal reserves.
Prices (2006): Adults £9.50; Children (3-14)/Seniors/Special Needs £6; Under 3s free.
From Stirling two main sets of hills may be seen - to the North and West, the Southern Highlands - to the North East, the Ochils.
Whilst the former are generally higher and more impressive, the Ochils are ideal for some accessible hillwalking, and you can have a decent hike in half a day. The highest point is Ben Cleuch (721m. 2379 ft).
The Ochils may look steep from the front - this is because they are. However, there are several paths which make them accessible for walking, for example from Menstrie, Alva, Tillicoultry and Dollar.
Main picture is the Ochils from Springkerse. The autumn colours are on the hills, though the pasture below is still lush.
The second picture is a view down Tillicoultry Glen from the path to The Law (law being a Scottish word for hill). There is a circular route up the glen and down the hillside (path visible on left of photo) of around an hour. The third is The Law itself.
Loch Katrine is in the heart of The Trossachs, the Highlands in miniature about 20 miles from Stirling (via Callander).
Pictured is the Sir Walter Scott, which has pleasure sailings in the summer months, along the loch to Stronachlacher. It is the only surviving screw driven steamer in regular operation in Scotland.
Morning cruises last 1hr 45 mins and cost £7.25 adults/ £5.25 senior/U16; afternoon cruises last an hour and cost £6.25/£4.65 (2005 prices).
More info on the background of the ship here.
The private road which runs from Trossachs pier to Stronachlacher has almost no motorised traffic so is ideal for a stroll (15 minutes walk to get full views out along the Loch) or for cycling (about 12 miles to Stronachlacher - it's not flat though). Cycles are available for hire at the Trossachs Pier, from kids bikes up to suspension bikes. The also have the little kid tandem attachments, and a little electric cart for those who can't cycle.
Loch Katrine is also the main water supply for Glasgow. The works required to get the water to Glasgow were a marvel of Victorian engineering.
The second picture was taken late on a January afternoon, as the sun dipped behind the snow-dusted hills.
The third is an October afternoon, as the SS Sir Walter Scott waits to leave on the afternoon cruise.
There is a large pay car park (not always enough in summer), a shop, a cafe, and various information boards on the history/nature at the pierhead.
Doune is a fairly pretty village about 8 miles from Stirling - the castle is - not a ruin but not developed - it really gives you a sense of the history - and some vertiginous battlements - actually, I have not been there for some time - I hope it has not been 'developed' - an interesting contrast to Stirling Castle.
Update: Made it back to Doune Castle for a quick visit. Glad to say still much the same, except you cannot currently get out onto the battlements. See my travelogue for some more pictures.
Inside the walls is mainly a grass square (with an old well) and makes an atmospheric spot for a picnic.
Entrance: £3 adult; £1child; £2.30 reduced.
The weblink is specifically for Doune Castle but it is worthwhile to check out the whole site at www.historic-scotland.gov.uk. As well as info on individual sites, there is also info on the Historic Scotland pass which could save a bit of money if you intend to visit a lot of their sites, which include Stirling Castle and Edinburgh Castle
If you want to see some bleak empty scenery, but don't have time to get to the Highlands, then visit Sherrifmuir. North of Stirling, West of the A9, its the kind of place that can be bleak cold and windswept even in the middle of summer. Oh, and there is a pub in the middle (Sherrifmuir Inn).
Sheriffmuir was the site of an crucial battle in the Jacobite rebellion of 1715. Despite superior Jacobite numbers, the battle was inconclusive: the Jacobite forces withdrawing, rather than press on for victory. This demoralised the Jacobite cause and more or less ended the rebellion. There is a monument to the battle above Dunblane. There is an account of the battle on the Clan Cameron website.
And an account in verse from Scotland's second most famous poet William McGonagall.
To reach it (by car) turn right just past the University (from Stirling) or by the golf club (Dunblane) - there are also two roads in from the A9 north of Dunblane. If you are feeling energetic, a 3-4 hour walk round, starting from the University. And just behind the University, but quite elevated, there is a place to park which can give you easy access to Dumyat (the first summit of the Ochils).
One of the smaller Lochs in the trossachs national park, Loch of Achray is none the less very scenic.
There are some nice walks in the forests above the loch, which are well signed and not to difficult.
About 8ms North of Aberfoyle off the A821
Althogh Incmahome is best known for the priory, it is still a nice place to wander amidst the peace and tranquility of the island.
There are nise walks and wildlife to be seen.
Reached by boat from Port of Monteith
£3.50 - includes the abbey