Welcome to my place ... Stirling, Scotland

There’s a pride in the rich history of this place and a deep appreciation for the arts

Tara McLoughlin was born in Sligo. She grew up in Co Clare and has lived in Scotland for 15 years. Initially she moved to Edinburgh, then Glasgow and she has been working in Stirling for the past year. She began her career in events, then moved into media. She is currently the Senior Cultural Programmer for Stirling Council.

What do you like about living in Stirling?

The things that first struck me about Stirling are the things that I still appreciate daily and that’s the sense of pride in the rich history of this place (a history you can see and feel all around in the incredible architecture), partnered with a deep appreciation for the arts by those who call this place home. Stirling offers all the luxuries and benefits of a major city, while maintaining a welcoming sense of community.

Where is the first place you bring people to when they visit Stirling?

Stirling sits at the foot of the incredible Stirling Castle and the sight of its grandeur draws you up the hill. There's lots to see at the "Top of the Town" once you make your way up, such as the Church of the Holy Rude – a medieval parish church, founded in 1129, or Mar's Wark townhouse, an impressive example of Renaissance architecture built in the 1560s or 1570s. In a former tavern dating back to the 16th century sits Darnley Coffee House, pop in for some incredible home baking and fresh soup at very reasonable prices.

If you visit Stirling in September, you'll see the Bloody Scotland crime writing festival launch with its annual Torchlight Procession, from the castle esplanade to Stirling's Albert Halls, which last year was led by author David Baldacci.

The top three things to do in Stirling that don't cost money, are ...

Visit the Stirling Smith museum. Located in the city centre this Victorian museum and art gallery houses more than 40,000 objects that celebrate the people, heritage and culture of Stirling. Among its artefacts is the world’s oldest football.

Go to Cambuskenneth Abbey, Abbey Craig and Wallace Monument Walk. Taking you through the Riverside area, across the river Forth to the village of Cambuskenneth, on to Causewayhead and the Wallace Monument, it is best to allow a few hours .

Stirling Photography Festival – if you visit in August you’ll find an array of incredible exhibitions in various locations such as speciality coffee shop Unorthodox Roasters or Macrobert Arts Centre, who offer a year round cinema and theatre offering.

Where do you recommend for a great meal that gives a flavour of Stirling?

My ideal evening out in Stirling, begins with something tasty from Loving Food (which began life serving from a vintage Citroen H van, before opening on King Street serving dishes using seasonal produce from local producers and suppliers), before strolling along to Tolbooth to catch some live music, comedy or theatre. Tolbooth is now a centre for live performance, with a bar, gallery and recording studio, but was once a courthouse and jail. A secret staircase to the old courtroom found during renovations has been persevered and be seen in the foyer.

Where is the best place to get a sense of Stirling’s role in history?

A couple of miles away in Bannockburn you’ll find the award-winning Battle of Bannockburn experience. Here you can witness Stirlingshire’s history in an incredibly immersive way, with 3D scenes bringing the battle to life and allowing you to stand shoulder to shoulder with Robert the Bruce on the site of his greatest victory.

What should visitors save room in their suitcase for after a visit to Stirling?

Gin. You can get a bottle straight from Stirling Gin’s distillery in the historic Old Smiddy building, which sits in the shadow of Stirling Castle, and was first built in 1888. If gin’s not your thing, you’ll find unique one-off pieces and crafts in Made In Stirling a unique store offering items created by the wealth of diverse artists, designers and makers that live, work or are originally from the area.

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