Straddling the River Forth
a few miles upstream from the estuary at Kincardine, STIRLING
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, though
it lacks the cosmopolitan edge of its near neighbours Edinburgh and Glasgow.
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 - as atmospheric and explorable as Edinburgh's
- and the lofty Wallace Monument , a mammoth Victorian monolith
high on Abbey Craig to the northeast which has become a place
of pilgrimage for admirers both of William Wallace and of Mel
Gibson's Oscar-winning film epic Braveheart , based on Wallace.
Stirling evolved from the
top down, starting with its castle and gradually spreading south
and east onto the low-lying flood plain. At the centre of the
original Old Town , Broad Street was the main thoroughfare, with
St John Street running more or less parallel, and St Mary's Wynd
forming part of the original route to Stirling Bridge below.
In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, as the threat of
attack decreased, the centre of commercial life crept down towards
the River Forth, with the modern town growing on the edge of
the plain over which the castle has traditionally stood guard.
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