Travel Europe by Car: the Falkirk Wheel and Stirling, Scotland

by KVoigts / Jun 26, 2013 /

Scotland is an incredibly gorgeous country, with so much history to soak in.  Let's take a day trip to Stirling, and see what happens along the way.

We rented a car, and drove the route. It is much easier to drive than take a train in Scotland, since there are so many small towns to see, lovely winding roads, and treasures around each bend.

Our plane landed in Glasgow, we picked up our car, and away we went!

Our first stop was the Falkirk Wheel. Created in 2002, British Waterways opened the only rotating boatlift in the world.  The Falkirk Wheel connects two major waterways, the Forth and Clyde Canal and the Union Canal (between Glasgow and Edinburgh).  It was based on Archimedes Principle. When you go to the free Visitor Center, you can learn so much about the Archimedes Principle - a full education on mechanics and engineering! It is incredibly interesting.  You can take boat trips for around 8 pounds - they are offered daily. This is also the site of the Kelpies - a gorgeous, enormous sculpture of two horse heads. 

Falkirk Wheel

Falkirk Wheel

Falkirk Wheel

Falkirk Wheel

Falkirk Wheel

Falkirk Wheel

Falkirk Wheel - canal

Falkirk Wheel

Next, we headed to Stirling.  There are four main things to see in Stirling - and a plethora of smaller ones! Here are the highlights:

The National Wallace Monument

History comes alive in Scotland, in so many places.  One of these is the monument to  Scottish freedom fighter William Wallace.  Here, he won a major battle in 1297.  You can take a free shuttle up to the top.  I would not advise hiking up - there is no rail, and is steep and sort of scary.

Wallace Monument

Wallace Monument

Stirling Castle

The magnificent Stirling Castle was a major prize in the Scottish war for Independence.  The Battle of Bannockburn (1314) was fought within sight of these walls, and Robert the Bruce claimed victory for Scotland and freedom here.  Take a look inside the Castle - there are huge looms set up, where volunteers are re-weaving many of the famous tapestries that tell the stories (Hunt, Unicorn, Tree of Life).  It is simply magnificent.  There is a small admission fee. 

Inside, free guided tours are available, as well as a Children's Trail.

Stirling Castle

Stirling Castle

Clive Ramsay Deli

I've written here about the extraordinary food available here. There is a grocery store, and a restaurant with outdoor seating.  The vegetables and fruit are arranged beautifully, spilling artfully onto the sidewalk.  The yogurt is wonderful!  You can also find all kinds of Scottish items - oat cakes, shortbread, tablet.

If you want to stock up on supplies for a picnic, this is the place to be.  If you'd like to sit down and have a delicious deli meal, eat in!

Bridge of Allan Brewery

Right next door, across the alley from the Clive Ramsay Deli is the Bridge of Allan Brewery.  When we found it, the Brewery was about to close, but the owner, Douglas Ross, pulled pints and sat down with us - and made us feel so wonderfully welcome.  He was so knowledgeable about different countries, and also was good at telling us how to get around Scotland - things to see and do - and all the while sampling different beers with us.  We were so tired and overwhelmed with jet lag and days of travel - he made everything personal, and happy.  He was one of the best ambassadors we've ever met - and the beer was delicious!

Where to Stay

Lastly, here's an accommodation tip - we stayed at the University of Stirling, spending a few nights in the dorm there (click here for rates and availability).  It was good for us - quiet and inexpensive.  Make reservations far in advance - they fill up, because it is so cheap, and restful.

 

All photos courtesy and copyright K. Voigts
Note: this article was originally published in 2013 and updated in 2018