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56km (35 miles) NW of Edinburgh; 45km (28 miles) NE of Glasgow

Stirling is dominated by its impressive castle, perched on a 76m (250-ft.) basalt rock that was formed by the rivers Forth and Clyde and the relatively small parcel of land between them. The ancient town of Stirling, on the main east-west route across Scotland, grew up around the castle. It lies in the heart of an area so turbulent in Scottish history it was called the "cockpit of Scotland." (Here "cockpit" refers to the pit where male chickens would be forced to engage in cockfights.) One memorable battle fought here was the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314, when Robert I (the Bruce) defeated the army of Edward II of England and gained Scotland its independence. Another was the Battle of Stirling Bridge in 1297.

Ever since the release of Mel Gibson's Braveheart, world attention has focused on the Scottish national hero William Wallace, a freedom fighter who became known as the "hammer and scourge" of the English. Braveheart, however, was filmed mostly in Ireland, and the Battle of Stirling Bridge in the movie was played out on a plane, with not a bridge in sight.

Stirling is the central crossroads of Scotland, giving easy access by rail and road to all its major towns and cities.