Stirling is Scotland’s sixth city, created by the Queen in 2002 for her Golden Jubilee. It is a place I’ve been to many times and for this Intercity series, I decided to write about the street or streets I associate with Stirling, namely the walk to the castle. Usually when I visit Stirling, I come by train and so it was this time, walking out of the station that wet and dismal afternoon and taking the well-trodden path. I turned up Friar’s Street, usually a place of strong sensory experiences, sometimes loud music from Europa Music, today pleasant garlicy food from one of the various eateries. Stirling has quite a few independent businesses, even on the back streets that lead up to the castle, though as many tattooists as anything else. On this occasion I refrained and walked on.
The many informative plaques that dot Stirling city centre informed this walk, particularly about the many buildings designed by John Allan, like the Tudor-esque building up Baker Street with the Stirling seal on the front, which I had never noticed before despite passing it many times over the years. It was raining a little but I wasn’t bothered, lingering a little to look around. I didn’t know that the cannons on Broad Street, facing down towards me as I walked, were installed in 1904, surplus to requirements up the road at the castle. Wonderfully, the War Office offered them to the council but neglected to mention that the council was to pay for them. Hence instead of the 12 the War Office wanted to offload, the cooncil bought four, two there and two nearby. I paused under the Mercat Cross, topped by our national animal, the unicorn, very appropriate as I visited on St. Andrew’s Day.
At the top was one of my favourite streets in the country, probably the most historically interesting, Edinburgh’s High Street excepted. I made sure I stopped by Mar’s Wark, home of the Earl of Mar, built to be near to the castle of which he was keeper in the 1570s. It felt like the Prime Minister being in Downing Street to be near Westminster. The frontage is magnificent, even if it is ruined, and I always like to look and imagine it in its day. I walked up by Argyll’s Lodging, the old military hospital, and up the stairs to be met by my first sight of Stirling Castle, my favourite of the big castles in Scotland, not least for the magnificent views, even from its Esplanade towards the Ochils, the mountains and the Wallace Monument, fields, towns and all else. It feels you can see all of Scotland from there and it is always nice to be there, even in the rain. It was only manners to finish this walk, go up to the castle, cross the drawbridge and in.
Thanks for reading. This is the second instalment of the Intercity series on Walking Talking. Glasgow came last week, another of Scotland’s seven cities follows next week.