One of the main reasons I felt so strongly about going abroad was that I wanted to exercise my sense of independence. As a young adult figuring out my career, interests, and the general goals I have in my life, I know it’s invaluable to spend time on my own, really figuring out who I am. While all of this sounds totally cliché (and I’m sure you’ve heard it before), studying abroad feels like one of the best ways to begin this process of knowing myself. In a (totally) new environment with new people, taking new classes, I have absolute freedom to figure out who I am.
For some reason, jumping across the Atlantic wasn’t enough for me to explore who I am and who I want to become. Before beginning my program in Scotland, I planned an overnight trip to a small town about 37 miles (60 kilometers) outside of Edinburgh and roughly 26 miles (40 kilometers). If you’re looking for a similar weekend getaway and enjoy history, incredible food, and some beautiful architecture, I can’t recommend Stirling, Scotland enough.
Stirling is a medieval town situated (similarly to Edinburgh) around an old volcano. If this town sounds familiar, it’s because William Wallace defeated the English at the Battle of Bannockburn (quite a significant battle in the history of Scotland). The city, like most I’ve found in Europe, is incredibly walkable—I was able to see everything I had planned to see, never spending more than twenty minutes at a time walking between sights.
This weekend was an extraordinary time filled with many lovely pictures and a few of the most excellent meals I’ve had in quite a long time. If you’re interested in exploring a bit of Scotland outside of the bustling cities, try checking out Stirling—I can’t recommend it enough. Read on for my highlights, itinerary, and budget for the trip!
This free museum was a delightful surprise. In a city of only 17 square kilometers, I wasn’t sure what this combination gallery/ museum would entail, but I’m so happy I visited. The art gallery (while admittedly small) had a fascinating mix of modern sculptures and more traditional (yet still contemporary) art collected by Thomas Stuart Smith in the 19thcentury. Additionally, the “Stirling Story” exhibition was a wonderful overview of the area: from pre-historic whale bones and Roman pottery to the world’s oldest soccer ball to the Scottish Wars of Independence to the history of tradesmen in the city of Stirling. The wide overview offered by this exhibition was a lovely way to learn a bit about many different areas of history in Stirling.
I don’t want to exaggerate how much I loved this restaurant, but I think it’s easily been one of my top 10 favorite meals of all time. I had the venison loin with garlic pesto, broccoli, potatoes, and cauliflower purée and finished with a white chocolate caramel cheesecake. The ambiance of this place is incredible—just from the menu, it’s obvious that this is a more upscale restaurant, but the waitstaff was incredibly helpful, relaxed, and enjoyable to be around—they contributed to the homey atmosphere I felt within this place.
Another free excursion! Holy Rude Church—the only Scottish church still standing that’s witnessed a royal coronation—was absolutely beautiful. The stained glass windows are breathtaking. I was awed by the amount of history interwoven with the stones of this church. Although it’s relatively small (compared to St. Giles’ Cathedral, which I visited earlier this week in Edinburgh), it’s well worth a visit. When I perused this Church of Scotland, there was a special exhibit detailing the history of the King James Bible and the role that this text had in reshaping the structure of churches everywhere. A fascinating exhibit if you’re interested in the history of Christianity!
If you’re not interested in reading quite as much but still want to know what to see in Stirling, read on for the rough itinerary I followed:
2:50 PM Train to Stirling
3:35 PM Arrive in Stirling
Wander around, did a bit of window shopping (Stirling Art is a lovely shop)
4:00 PM Check in to Air B&B
6:00 PM Dinner at Brea ( I can’t recommend this place enough!!)
9:30 AM Breakfast
10:30 AM The Stirling Smith Art Gallery & Museum (a surprisingly wonderful little
museum—a wide review of history and art in Stirling, truly lovely collections)
12:00 PM Writing and homework at The Burgh Coffeehouse
3:30 PM Stirling Castle
5:00 PM Waffle from Mint Café Patisserie & Sweets
5:40 PM Train back to Edinburgh
6:25 PM Arrive back in Edinburgh
Here’s the nitty gritty. Because this is the only overnight/ out-of-Edinburgh trip I plan to take during my time in Scotland, I budgeted for this trip before leaving home, so I knew exactly what I was able to spend while there. I’ve broken down all my expenses and provided both the British Pound and US Dollar price I spent for each category
What’s your experience with solo travel? Is it worth the extra planning and expenses?