Stirling Castle Queen Anne Gardens

{Scotland} King or Queen of the Castle for a Day in Stirling

We have a pretty good castle on our doorstep, right here in Edinburgh (actually, we have three), but my parents were visiting from Germany and wanted to go to Stirling for the day, so the boys and I decided to join them and check out Stirling Castle. 

Stirling Castle

There’s plenty to do at Stirling Castle to keep families entertained. Download an Explorer Quiz before your visit, or pick up one of the family trails on arrival to do as you go round.

Stirling Castle

We took a tour around the Royal Palace, one of the best-preserved Renaissance buildings in the UK which has been refurbished to look as it might have done around 1540s. There are costumed interpreters on hand as you go round, to set the scene and answer any questions.

The Royal Palace is also home to the Stirling Tapestries, and brightly-painted replicas of the Stirling Heads – one of Scotland’s greatest art treasures. The metre-wide 16th-century wooden medallions are carved with images of kings, queens, nobles, Roman emperors and characters from the Bible and Classical mythology. To stop you craning your neck, the exhibition has a really neat feature – a trolley on wheels, with mirrors pointing towards the ceiling, which you can roll around to look at the different heads above!

Stirling Castle The Stirling Heads

We also visited the Great Kitchens, were a bustling scene of men, women and children preparing food, whilst dogs and cats scavenge for scraps, give children plenty to look at. And in the Great Hall – originally used for feasts and dancing – you get a chance to sit at the top table.

Stirling Castle Great Hall

The highlight for the boys, however, was the Palace Vaults, where you’ll find five interactive exhibits about different aspects and jobs of palace life. 

In the Musicians Vault, you can find out about the music of the 1500s and have a go at playing some instruments.

Stirling Castle Tailors Vault

The Tailor’s Vault talks about the different fabrics, threads and gems used in royal clothing, and the scented pomanders to ward off bad smells. The dressing up clothes were still off display, following Covid, but there were some fabrics and trimmings to touch, and a fun smelling activity.

The Painter’s Vault shows how rare pigments were shipped in from all over the world to create gorgeous paints and dyes. 

Stirling Castle Carvers Vault

In the Carvers Vault, you’ll learn all about the tools and techniques used to create the Stirling Heads and the stone carvings around the palace. Finally, the Jester’s Vault was all about the jester’s role in court and how they kept the kings and queens entertained. 

The boys also really enjoyed the Regimental Museum, situated within Stirling Castle, which tells the story of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlander Regiment. It had quite a few hands on activities, including a Lego trail, models to touch, and some puzzles and games.

To end our visit, we sat in the beautiful Queen Anne Gardens to have our picnic, enjoying spectacular views across Stirling. In total, we stayed three hours and could easily have spent some more time at the Castle, but it was a hot day and the boys were getting tired so we decided to head back to the train station. It was a great day out, and you do get to see a lot, so I think it was worth the entry fee.

Stirling Castle Queen Anne Gardens
Stirling Castle View of Stirling

How to get there

Location: Castle Wynd, Stirling FK8 1EJ

Take the train from Edinburgh Waverley or Haymarket to Stirling, then it’s a 15 minute walk to Stirling Castle. Total travel time is 60-70 minutes, depending on which train you take as some trains are quicker than others.

Good to know

Cost: £17.50/ £19.50 adults, £10.50/ £11.70 children, £1 Young Scot holders, under 7s & Historic Scotland members free. Family tickets from £34.50/£38.50 – £60/£66.50 depending on family size (the lower prices are if you book online in advance).

Money saving tips: You can get a further 25% off the standard adult, child or concession admission price if you arrive car-free by train, bus or bike. Book online with code GOOD25 and show bus/train ticket or bike on arrival. 

For 1 adult and 2 children, if we’d paid individually the full price would have been £42.90, or £38.50 for a family ticket. But by using the online pre-booking, including the 25% train discount, and using his Young Scot for my 12 year old, we brought the price own to £22.00!

Opening Hours: Open daily year round, except at Christmas. Times vary. 


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