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Sterling Castle

We are arriving in Edinburgh this coming Sunday and after four days there are driving to St. Andrews for five. I took my wife and her mother to Edinburgh and London 12 years ago, by still high on our list is the Edinburgh Castle which we saw, and the Palace of Holyroodhouse which we did not. While we're in St. Andrews, my wife wants to take one of those days and drive to Balmoral Castle, about 90 miles and a three-hour drive north of SA. I was reading the Sterling Castle today and wondered if it might not be a possible trade-off for Balmoral since we can make Sterling a little side trip when driving to SA. Does anyone have any experiences or thoughts about Sterling and/or the roads to there from Edinburgh and from Sterling to SA? I've been to Scotland three other times and do OK driving over there, albeit stressful. Thank you.


Posted by
1875 posts

I was at Stirling Castle a couple years ago. It is an impressive building, but more like a fortress. Only a couple rooms have any furnishings if what you are looking for is how it might have been like to live there. I haven't been to Balmoral, but since it is still lived in I would personally find it more interesting. However, it depends on what kind of experience you are seeking. The two castles are very different.

Posted by
1469 posts

I vote for Stirling Castle as you can actually tour the furnished interior and several nearby sites that are located on the same hill. The Kelpies Horse Heads are close by and the Wallace Monument. I would check to see if Balmoral is open the date you want as they do close to the public at times.

Posted by
6812 posts

The roads to Stirling from Edinburgh are fine and it takes less than an hour. It’s an easy drive. Balmoral and Stirling castles are not really comparable, especially since Balmoral has the Queen connection. One is a castle while the other is a house. My guess is if your wife wants Balmoral for the Queen connection she won’t want to trade one for the other. The road to Saint Andrews from Stirling is in good repair. It too was an easy drive. When I drove it a couple years ago we took the 2-lane A91.

When I drove to Stirling we stopped to see the Falkirk Wheel, the Kelpies, and the Forth Bridge, opened in 1890.

Posted by
8639 posts

Stirling Castle really comes alive when you sign up for the free tour. The guides provide such good information and background. I also visited the Falkirk Wheel and did the short canal boat ride that takes you up and down the wheel as well as a short canal ride.

In Saint Andrews don’t miss the Himalayas (Ladies putting association) course. It is loads of fun, very scenic, very inexpensive, and does not require a huge amount of golf skill.

Posted by
1222 posts

Visiting the interior of Balmoral Castle is difficult as opening times are very limited and my understanding is that pretty much all of the tours that take you inside are now sold out for 2024. Details here . Personally I would prioritise Stirling Castle over Balmoral as a 'proper' historical fortress, with excellent information provided for tourists that will really give you a flavour of the history of Scotland.

It would be an easy place to include on the way to St Andrews.

Posted by
276 posts

I cannot speak for Stirling because I've never visited it but FWIW I think Balmoral is a waste of anyone's time unless it happens to be a Bucket List place for them to visit.

Although a good deal of new planting is taking place in the grounds and gardens it will be several years before this matures. Improvements are being made to the cafeteria and toilets but when I visited a few months back I was not convinced these would be completed this season. Yes there are exhibitions in the stables area and the ballroom but they don't tell you much. The walks in the grounds are nice enough but Scotland is full of good walks and buildings with pretty gardens. It is not possible to see Balmoral from the A93 because it is surrounded by trees and all you can hope for is a drive-by glimpse of the tower. You have to enter the grounds to view the castle up close and of course this involves a fee.

You could instead drive to Royal Deeside and visit the newly refurbished Braemar Castle a community project manned by volunteers. The castle has a history which is much more interesting than anything Balmoral has to offer. All monies raised by the enterprise will fund the next stage of redevelopment and improve the site for visitors.

Posted by
25 posts

Hope it’s lot too late, Stirling is cute, hilly! And the best (if I only did one, I’d do Stirling) castle.

Posted by
2063 posts

Presumably the desire to see Balmoral is the Royal Connection? If so wife may not be too pleased with Stirling Castle as a replacement. In many ways it is much the same as Edinburgh Castle - a fortress on top of a hil...

Could you perhaps suggest Falkland Palace instead? More pictures here. It is an easy stop on the way to St Andrews and the village is a pleasant place to wander round. If you are an outlander fan, some of the scenes were shot her. The Palace also has links to Mary Queen of Scots....

Posted by
5 posts

We just visited Stirling Castle a few days ago and really enjoyed it. We had a private tour guide who made it come alive as they say. (William at Stirling Walking Tours) The history of Scotland is fascinating and key parts of it occurred at Stirling Castle. Plus there are some really interesting parts of it. It's much more interesting than Edinburgh Castle.

Posted by
904 posts

The view from Stirling Castle is great too. It's very pretty looking out across that really unusually flat valley bottom to the Wallace Monument.