Stirling Eurowalks - overview.

Please note that work on this guide is still in progress and that venues along the route are subject to Scottish Government COVID-19 regulations and walks are undertaken at your own risk. 

Flag flying from Stirling Bridge with the Wallace monument in the background.

The former capital of Scotland, Stirling is often called the "gateway to the highlands" and is steeped in history. It is dominated by its castle guarding the lowest crossing point of the river Forth from high up on its volcanic outcrop. The castle, like many of the historical sights around the town has multiple links to the rest of the European continent, and it is these longstanding European connections that this walk will highlight.

In addition to the events and European links highlighted on the walk, it is interesting to know that the Luftwaffe dropped one bomb on Stirling during the 2nd world war. This landed at Forthbank destroying the pitch at King's Park FC stadium. This was reconstructed after the war about a mile away and is where the new local team, Stirling Albion, play. It is, of course, out of the destructive conflict of war between European nations, that what would become the European Union of today was born. 

We hope you might enjoy exploring Stirling and discovering the links with other European countries over the ages as much as we have enjoyed discovering them. The aim is that you might walk the walks-this first one being a 2km round-trip at " the top of the town", but also that together we might add to the number and content of the walks. These form part of a collection of such Eurowalks developed by the volunteer-run grassroots pro-EU groups across Scotland under the umbrella of The European Movement in Scotland.

Walk 1- part 1: Stirling castle and Map of route


Stirling castle from the car park!

This 2.3 km circular walk  (some uphill) starts and finishes at Stirling castle. The castle dominates Stirling and can be seen (and of course see) for many miles away in all directions. It is one of the most important castles in Scotland and has had multiple links to the European continent throughout its history. There is a fee to enter as it is managed by Historic Scotland who have even written a blog post outlining all the European links of the castle.

Almost all the present buildings in the castle were constructed between 1490 and 1600, when Stirling was developed as a principal royal centre by the Stewart kings James IV, James V and James VI. The architecture of these new buildings shows an eclectic mix of English, French and German influences, reflecting the international ambitions of the Stewart dynasty.

You can't mention Stirling castle without mentioning Mary Queen of Scots who embodies the Auld Alliance between Scotland and France. Her mother Mary of Guise came to Scotland in1538 to be married. She then lost both of her sons by James V and, of course, the king himself. Only the little queen survived but she was sent to live in France. At the age of 5, she was betrothed to the Dauphin of France and spent the remainder of her childhood at the French court, the marriage taking place in 1558 when she reached the age of 16. Her husband acceded to the throne of France as Francis II the following year and Mary became queen consort of France until her husband’s early death in 1560. 

Giovanni Damiano de Falcucci was an Italian at the court of James the IV who famously tried (and failed !) to fly to France in a winged contraption made of hen feathers from the castle with some question over whether he stole the idea from Leonardo da Vinci!

We could talk about and explore the castle and its European links all day (see link to historic Scotland Blog on this above), but this walk now takes you down the hill a little to find more European links.

Stirling EuroWalk 1 part 2- Top of the town- Mar's Wark/ Argyle's lodge and more


Tollbooth viewed between the stepped gables that are now embedded in Scots vernacular architecture, but originally came from the Low Countries. These are now in Scottish buildings because of trading connections

Walking down from the castle you come to Argyle's lodgings: built in two phases, 1630s and 1670s.  The first phase is modelled on the French townhouses called 'hôtels' which are set back from the street at the end of large courtyard behind a wall.  The gateway, dating to the 1670s, was directly modelled on an example published in Alessandro Francini's Livre d'Architecture, published in Paris in 1631, but translated into English in 1669.  Francini and his brother, Tommaso, were Florentine hydraulic engineers and garden designers - their patron was Marie de' Medici, mother of King Louis XIII of France (of Cardinal Richelieu and 3 Musketeers fame).

The next stop on our walk is Mar’s Wark the townhouse of John Erskine, Earl of Mar, a moderate Protestant during the tumultuous years of the Scottish Reformation. Among the many interesting statuettes/gargoyles/heraldic panels on the façade is a relief perhaps of 'Jeannie Dark' - Joan of Arc - being burned at the stake.  The building dates to 1570 and some suggest that the statuette is there because Joan died for her beliefs, but the Earl may have included the image because his ancestor fought with the Scots contingent alongside the French in the Hundred Years War. Can you spot her?

From here you also see across the road Hermann's restaurant - the result of a Stirling girl meeting an Austrian catering student-Hermann-
when on work placement there ( ah-the freedom of movement we lost with Brexit). It was initially run as a Scottish-Austrian restaurant at the Tollbooth down the street (prior to the redevelopment of this) when it moved to its current location.

Stirling Eurowalk 1 part 3- Cowane's hospital and down to the city walls


Cowane's hospital.

Carrying on down the hill from Mar's lodge ( without crossing over) you will come to the church of the Holy Rude and, next to that, Cowane's hospital.

Cowane was a merchant and money-lender who bequeathed the funds for the building of an alms house intended to house 12 members of the Merchant Guildry of Stirling who were unable to support themselves.  His family made their fortunes over generations trading with the Dutch which might explain the Dutch influenced architecture. The nice statue of Cowane himself is Dutch-inspired as are the bowling-green and gardens.  Moreover, the various biblical inscriptions are architectural symbols of Dutch connections.  

Leaving Cowane's hospital turn right down St John street following this for a few minutes. Should you feel the need for refreshments at this point, you might want to cross the road and go past the Tollbooth onto Bow street at the bottom of which is the Darnley café- named after the murdered 2nd husband of Mary Queen of Scots. Whilst we can find no direct European links for him, his son with Mary- James (future King James VI of Scotland and I of England)  was baptised Charles James on 17 December 1566 in a Catholic ceremony held at Stirling Castle. His godparents were Charles IX of France, Elizabeth I of England and Emmanuel Philibert, Duke of Savoy.  The café also makes a great pit-stop!

Whether or not you stop for refreshments, continue back down St John street which becomes Spittal street as you pass the Stirling highland hotel and on down past the Colessio until you reach Corn exchange road where you turn right following this down to just before the big junction. Turn right again following signs to the "back walk" past the carving of the Wolf. A wolf features on Stirling’s Coat of Arms. It is said that in the 9th century a Viking raiding party disturbed a sleeping wolf which woke up and howled, alerting the townspeople and saving Stirling from attack - relations with our European friends were not always quite so easy!

Walking up the back walk you will pass along the Upper Back Wall.  Built hastily in 1547 in response to English raiding, this is the legacy of the 'Rough Wooing', or the Anglo-Scots War of 1543-51, which began because Henry VIII of England sought to force James V and his French queen, Marie de Guise, to let his heir, Edward, marry Mary - later Mary Queen, of Scots.  He did this in part to prevent the (very young) Mary from marrying the French dauphin, or royal heir.  If he succeeded, he would rupture the 'Auld Alliance' between Scotland and France.  So the wall - one of the most complete burgh walls in Scotland -  was one of the reverberations from wider European politics. During the 'Rough Wooing, Marie de Guise found safety in Stirling and it was in the castle in 1549 that she sealed a promise of French guns.  The next year, the war ended and Marie and her young daughter Mary left Scotland for France, where the princess would marry the dauphin. 

Stirling Eurowalk 1 part 4- The Smith art gallery and museum and back up to the castle

The Smith art gallery and museum

The Stirling Smith Art Gallery and Museum – formerly The Smith Institute, was established at the bequest of the artist Thomas Stuart Smith on land supplied by the Burgh of Stirling.

Smith was a 19th-century artist originally from Dunblane: he was sent to school in France, taught art in England, inherited his family's estate outside Dunblane and founded the institute, which opened in 1874.  He died in Avignon, France

It houses the famous letters of congratulations on the Wallace Monument from the European liberals and republicans - Garibaldi, Mazzini, Kossuth and other veterans of the 1848 Revolutions - a truly European-wide revolutionary wave.

There are both permanent and changing exhibitions and a visit inside comes highly recommended. There is a café too if a further pit-stop is required, as well as lovely grounds.

Whilst it may not reach the annals of history in quite the same way, this group has a particular affinity and gratitude to The Smith for allowing us in 2018 to host our inaugural rally as Stirling4Europe!

Once you have enjoyed your time there, we suggest you re-join the back walk at the back of the building walking uphill and back to the castle at the top. 

We really hope you enjoyed this little Eurowalk and please let us know if you have anything to add/ queries or concerns: part of The European Movement in Scotland

Stirling Eurowalks - overview.

Please note that work on this guide is still in progress and that venues along the route are subject to Scottish Government COVID-19 regulat...