Known as the Gateway to the Highlands, Stirling is a popular destination for visitors who want to see Scotland at its wildest and greenest. The city was once the Scottish capital, and the adage “he who holds Stirling, holds Scotland” reflects its strategic importance throughout history. Modern visitors to Stirling will need to apply for the UK ETA before travelling. This guide explains how to apply, as well as what to see and do on arrival.
The Bridge Across the Forth
Stirling has been occupied since the Bronze Age, but it grew in importance in the post-Roman period. Its location made it the lowest reliable crossing point of the River Forth, which led it to grow as an important centre of trade in turn. As the centuries passed, Stirling’s location would cause it to be an essential piece in wars for Scotland.
Stirling at War
While many battles have been fought in and around Stirling, the most famous is the Battle of Stirling Bridge. It took place on 11 September 1297 as part of the First War of Scottish Independence. Prior to the battle, the English and Scottish forces were camped on either side of the River Forth. The English slowly crossed over the bridge, which was only wide enough for two mounted men. On the north side, they were met by William Wallace’s Scottish forces. The result was a decisive Scottish victory, with the English who crossed the bridge slaughtered while their reinforcements were cut off on the far side of the river.
Later, Stirling was also the site of the Battle of Sauchieburn, when young Prince James rebelled against his father, James III. The elder James died on the battlefield, and his son was crowned James IV. As part of the War of the Three Kingdoms, the Battle of Stirling took place later in 1648. The city would once again prove critical during the 18th-century Jacobite risings in the Highlands.
Important Landmarks in Stirling
One of Scotland’s largest castles, Stirling Castle, largely dates back to the 15th and 16th centuries. Although, some older structures still survive today. It served as one of Scotland’s royal palaces prior to the Act of Union with England, and many kings and queens were crowned here. The most famous of these was Mary, Queen of Scots, in 1542. The castle’s important location has led to it being besieged many times over the centuries. It played a key role in the Wars of Scottish Independence when it changed hands between the English and Scottish on several occasions. A statue inside on the esplanade of Robert the Bruce remembers the great Scottish king who laid siege to the castle, driving the English forces out.
The National Wallace Monument
This 67-metre tower, set high on the hill of Abbey Craig, is dedicated to William Wallace, the famous Scottish patriot and war hero. It was built in the 19th century, and its interior tells the story of Wallace and his lifelong fight for freedom. Visitors to the Wallace Monument can start their trip by following the Wallace Way footpath that leads through the woods. Here, wooden carvings explore the history of Stirling. Within the tower, there is a 246-step spiral staircase, along with a museum dedicated to Wallace. From the top, visitors can enjoy panoramic views of the surrounding countryside.
Church of the Holy Rude
The Church of the Holy Rude is the second-oldest building in Stirling, after the castle. Founded in 1129, the current church dates back to the 15th century. James VI was crowned King of Scots in the church in 1567. This was the last purely Scottish coronation in history, as he would also become King of England in 1603 when the two crowns were united. In the graveyard, an unusual stone depicts a body-snatching, marking a notorious incident which took place here in 1822.
Founded by King David I around the year 1140, Cambuskenneth Abbey is now largely ruined, although its striking bell tower remains intact. It was here, in 1308, that local nobles swore allegiance to King Robert the Bruce, who would later hold a parliament in the abbey. Many of Robert’s successors would also hold parliamentary sessions here, and the abbey’s great hall became known as “Parliament Hall”. James III and his wife, Margaret of Denmark, are buried here.
The New UK ETA for Stirling
The new ETA, or Electronic Travel Authorisation programme, is coming into effect in 2024. This will replace the UK’s current system of visa waivers for travellers. Based on existing systems in other countries, the programme will be similar to the US ESTA or Canadian ETA. It is designed to help digitalise the border, allowing the British government greater oversight over international comings and goings.
At present, the British visa waiver system allows citizens of 92 countries to enter the UK without a visa. This system is to be abolished, and these travellers must apply for an ETA when the new programme begins. It is important to note that the ETA is not a visa, and the application process is significantly simpler than a visa application.
Once a traveller has been approved for a UK ETA for Stirling, they can spend up to six months in the country. The ETA allows them to travel freely around the UK, and they can enrol on a course of study if they wish. However, they cannot work in the country, nor can they extend their stay for longer than six months. Travellers who wish to stay for a longer period or work in the UK will need to apply for a separate visa.
Applying for the UK ETA for Stirling
The application process for the UK ETA for Stirling is only available online, as this is a fully digital programme. Visitors should start their application with plenty of time to spare. Carriers are expected to make an approved ETA a condition of carriage, so passengers who do not have an ETA when they arrive at their airport, port or station may be denied boarding.
The list of requirements that have been published will give travellers an idea of what to expect from the ETA application process. They will need to hold a valid biometric passport and provide various pieces of personal information. This information includes items such as date of birth, contact details, employment status and so on.
Applicants will also need to disclose certain information about their past. For example, they will need to state if they have a criminal record, if they have committed any immigration offences or whether they are or have ever been a member of a proscribed organisation. They must also provide some information about their planned trip to the UK, which might include the address at which they will be staying and a short itinerary outlining their plans.
Part of the ETA application process involves paying a fee. This is non-refundable, and applicants must pay it in full before their application can be marked complete and processed. Once processing begins, it can take up to 72 hours for an application to be approved or denied. It is important for travellers to keep this in mind when planning their trip so as to allow enough time for their application to be fully processed.
Travelling With the UK ETA for Stirling
Once a traveller has a UK ETA for Stirling, they can travel freely around the United Kingdom. As well as Scotland, they can visit England, Wales and Northern Ireland without needing any extra paperwork or permission, as these are the four constituent countries of the UK. However, a visitor who wants to travel to the Republic of Ireland or any other independent country will need to check entry requirements before doing so.
Your Trip To Stirling With the UK ETA
For many visitors, Stirling is a top stop on the way to the Highlands, allowing them to explore the world-famous green mountains and lochs that have captivated the imaginations of viewers for centuries. For others, it is a destination in and of itself, with history, architecture and plenty of charm. Whether you want to explore the city of Stirling or use it as a starting point for a trip across Scotland, be sure to apply for your ETA with plenty of time. With your UK ETA for Stirling approved, you’ll be ready to begin your adventure.