City Discovery: Stirling, Scotland – The Gateway to the Highlands

Stirling is one of Scotland’s most historic cities, which many major battles for Scottish independence took place in and around. Once the capital of Scotland, the city is surrounded by a large fortress and medieval old town now mixed in with a contemporary, university town. It is often called “The Gateway to the Highlands.”

Much of the film Monty Python and the Holy Grail was filmed around Stirling, as well as the pilot for Game of Thrones. Stirling is also home to William Wallace, the main inspiration behind the award winning movie Braveheart. 

Golfing in Stirling


Intercultural experiences highlight exposure with the local culture, promoting a multilateral exchange of ideas, language and opinions.

As a part of the Bridging Cultures Program, ISA students in Stirling will be treated to welcome dinner at a traditional Scottish restaurant where they will try haggis.  The dish is considered traditionally Scottish, even the national dish, and is typically served with “neeps and tatties.” At the dinner, a local explains the history of haggis and the importance of the dish in Scottish culture and history.

Stirling is a perfect place for sports lovers. Home to its own football, rugby, and cricket teams, ISA students in Stirling will have an amazing opportunity to attend some these popular sporting activities during their time abroad. Also, joining a sports team is a great way to meet and connect with local students.  The University of Stirling is ranked 1st for sports facilities in the UK and is considered to be Scotland’s University for Sporting Excellence by the Scottish government. The university has a great intramural sports program which includes activities such as badminton, football, golf, hockey, volleyball, and so much more!



ISA excursions and cultural activities highlight historical parts of the local culture to help students better understand their new environment.

Students spend a day at the Stirling Castle, which was the center of art, culture, and celebrity in 16th Century Scotland.  Rich tapestries, beautiful hand crafted furniture, and stunning color make this castle stand out as one of the best in Europe. Home to Scotland’s kings and queens, many celebrations and coronations were once held at the Stirling Castle. Knights, nobles, and important foreign dignitaries would travel from great distances to see the castle’s beautiful sculptures and grand gardens.  Today, Stirling Castle is the perfect place to get a glimpse into Scotland’s fascinating past. Many characters dress in costume at the castle, giving visitors a glimpse into 16th century life in Scotland. ISA students can try out dressing up in these traditional garments and even learn how to play medieval instruments.

During ISA’s University of Stirling summer program, students will get the incredible opportunity to watch a Scottish Highland dance show accompanied by traditional bagpipe music.  Considered to be a sport by the Sport Council of Scotland, Highland dancing was developed in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries and was performed at public events such as the famous Highland Games.  Particular to the surrounding areas of Stirling, Highland dancing is a type of solo step dancing that thousands of Scots practice and watch.



Sociopolitical discovery highlights social and political activities or experiences.

Students take an excursion to the capital city of Edinburgh, where they’ll tour the Scottish parliament and learn about current political procedures. In the past, ISA students have even been lucky enough to spot important Scottish political leaders during this tour. Students are able to see the debating chambers, where they can experience policy making in the country up close. In addition, students will learn more about the recent Scottish Referendum and get a more in depth prospective from the capital city.

As part of the ISA summer program at the University of Stirling, students have the opportunity to take classes that discuss contemporary issues and current world political events directly affecting Europe and the UK. Students can enroll in the International Relations class and learn about the major themes of conflict and peace. Students will be able to apply what they learned on an excursion to Belfast for a political tour and observe its transition to a post conflict settlement. Students can also enroll in the Royals and Rascals: Contemporary Studies in British Journalism course. This course looks at the relationship between the media and public figures and explores the ethical principles in journalism and freedom of the press. As part of the course, students get to visit a Scottish newsroom



Professional experiences provide exposure to professional development opportunities during an ISA program.

Students have a resume building workshop with the ISA staff where they get hints and advice on how to use their study abroad experience to appeal to potential employers.  To further enhance their study abroad experience while in Scotland, students can join a variety of clubs on the University of Stirling campus such as the Biology Society, Business Club, and Economics Society. The university also offers a presentation every semester for international students interested in returning to the University of Stirling for their master’s degree.

A great way for ISA students to earn professional experience  is to enroll in the University of Stirling’s summer internship program. The International Summer School (ISS) offers a unique opportunity to work and study abroad in Scotland. Students complete 2 modules during the first session and the internship during the second session of the program. The internship requires students to complete 140 hours of work and 10 hours of classroom time. Internships are assigned in many types of fields and past organizations have included: Basketball Scotland, Scottish Athletics, Stirling District Citizens Advice Bureau, Scottish Youth Hostel Association, and The Write People for Design.



Environmental experiences expose students to different environmental aspects of the host country.

ISA students go on an excursion to the famous Loch Ness every semester, where they will spend the day exploring the Scottish Highlands and searching for “Nessie.” This excursion gives a comprehensive look inside Scottish culture and allows students to enjoy the natural landscapes of Scotland. Students studying abroad with ISA will not only learn more about Scottish history on this excursion, but will also discover the different varied geological features of the country.

Lush and green, Stirling is a very walkable city. Students will be able to see beautiful views as they stroll to campus and across town. Stirling is the first Scottish city to produce a Green Map for visitors. Want a panoramic view of Stirling? Take a walk down Back Walk after class. It is regarded as one of Europe’s finest urban walkways.

Learn More About Stirling, Scotland


Get More Information

The 2015 City Discovery Series aims to showcase one of ISA’s program locations each week. Facts about each location and several Discovery Compass activity examples are given, however they are not a comprehensive list. These activities highlight the areas of Intercultural, Historical, Sociopolitical, Professional and Environmental discovery. The Discovery Compass aims to help students have the best possible study abroad experience by helping them to gain a better understanding of the local environment, customs and people through a variety of experiences.

Author: International Studies Abroad (ISA)

Since 1987, International Studies Abroad (ISA) has provided college students in the United States and Canada the opportunity to explore the world. ISA offers a wide variety of study abroad programs at accredited schools and universities in 73 program locations throughout the world.

Leave a Reply