Stirling has been at the centre of some of the most dramatic and important chapters in Scottish history. From its castle esplanade you can look out across the old town to the edge of the Ochil Hills with the peaks of The Trossachs in the distance. Increasingly visitors are waking up to the local food and drink scene that has grown up against the backdrop of famous landmarks.

As we consider some of the best destinations across the country to explore this year, let’s take a look at some of the hospitality stars in this, the heart of Scotland.

1. Brea
5 Baker Street, FK8 1BJ

The idea here is to capitalise on their proximity to Stirling Castle and become a showcase for modern Caledonian cooking, for visitors and for locals. You can order a fine Cullen skink, a Scottish cheese board with red onion marmalade and thyme infused honey or pan seared duck breast with Stornoway black pudding mash, creamy savoy cabbage and a cherry puree.

The National:

In the compact, comfortable dining room they also offer a vegan menu and a children’s menu. Brea was a finalist in The Herald Scottish Family Business Awards for excellence in customer service.

2. HBW Coffee
54/56 Barnton St, FK8 1NA

Stirling’s speciality coffee shop with a vegetarian and vegan menu. Start your weekend with a breakfast burrito of spicy BBQ beans with scrambled tofu, spinach, burrito sauce and smoky maple seitan chunks.

The National:

Their brioche buns are made in house, try one with vegetarian haggis, smashed avocado and kimchi. Don’t leave without a vegan donut. They are open 10am until 3pm Wednesday to Sunday.

3. The Book Nook
24 Upper Craigs, FK8 2DG

Leanne Brown and Jasmine Stenhouse met at Stirling University and graduated in 2016 with a degree in English. They came up with the idea of opening a bookshop and coffee shop over a long lunch where they lamented their lack of inspiring career prospects: “it was conceived as a total pipe dream”.

The National:

After a few drinks and excited discussions that day, they went off to buy a book on how to run your own business. Following two years of relentless planning, The Book Nook opened its doors in September 2020 on Upper Craigs in Stirling city centre.

“The Book Nook is intended to be a casual and cosy space for people across all stages of life to immerse themselves in the comfort of fictional stories with a good cuppa,” they say.

You can browse a selection of handpicked new and second-hand books, with a particular focus on fiction. The cafe have fresh bagels from 9am until 5pm. Fillings include brie and cranberry or smoked salmon, cucumber, rocket and cream cheese. It’s a cosy and fun space for a chat with friends.

4. Hermann’s
58 Broad Street, FK8 1EF

Hermann Aschaber, originally from Tirol in western Austria, uses Scottish produce to capture Austrian favourites like schnitzel and strudel. They have been open for 26 years – find them in the old town, close to the castle.

The National:

Ask for a seat beside the fire. The Valentine’s menu this year features west coast scallops and Stornoway black pudding, fillet of halibut and a white chocolate mousse with marinated raspberries for dessert. Their jager schnitzel is escalope of veal, pan fried with creamy mushroom and tomato sauce, dauphinoise potatoes and fresh vegetables.

5. River House
The Castle Business Park, FK9 4TW

A stylish setting, overlooking its own wee lake with views across the Stirling cityscape.

The National:

Order the highland wagyu beef burger with gruyere cheese, smoked applewood bacon, caramelised onion chutney, Cajun fries and onion ring or the lobster and king prawn spaghetti. You will find cocktails in their bar lounge and impeccably presented afternoon teas.

6. Queen’s House
624 Henderson St, Bridge of Allan, FK9 4HP

A new wine and cocktail bar with a food menu that puts a Scottish accent on Middle Eastern mezze dishes. Share lamb kofta, chargrilled halloumi, couscous tabbouleh and flatbreads.

The National:

Brunch dishes include blueberry pancakes, breakfast skillets and open sourdough sandwiches, to be enjoyed with their signature Bloody Mary.