STIRLING is gearing up for thousands of visitors as it prepares to host a weekend of piping, parades, the Red Arrows and the 700th anniversary of one of Scotland’s most famous historic battles.
The countdown has begun to Armed Forces Day, a celebration of Britain’s servicemen and women taking place in the city tomorrow.
Crowds will be entertained by aerobatics from the world-famous Red Arrows, a parachute display and demonstrations by Typhoon and Tornado jets.
The annual celebration is being held in Scotland for a second time, on the same weekend Stirling marks the 700th anniversary of the Battle of Bannockburn.
The two-day Bannockburn Live event will feature a re-enactment of the legendary clash which saw Robert the Bruce defeat the English army led by Edward II in 1314.
More than 300 “warriors” will perform in scenes choreographed by the team behind the battle sequences in hit films Gladiator and Robin Hood, and visitors will have the chance to trace their ancestral roots and experience life as it was lived in the 14th century.
The festivities begin this evening with Pipefest, when pipe bands, Scottish clans and highland dancers will join a parade from the gates of Stirling Castle through the city.
On Saturday evening the streets will host Stirling’s Big Night Out, with open-air performances, street art, entertainers and music.
VisitScotland chairman Mike Cantlay said: “The teams for Pipefest, Armed Forces Day and Bannockburn Live are working hard to ensure Stirling’s Big Weekend is one to remember.
“Never before has this stunning city hosted as many tourists from all over the world and it really is Stirling’s time to shine, showcasing the attractions, landscapes and history of this amazing area.”
Provost Mike Robbins said: “Stirling Council and VisitScotland have worked hard together to make sure that everyone coming to Stirling this weekend has a wonderful time.
“Between Armed Forces Day and Bannockburn Live, there really is a spectacular programme of events on offer this weekend and we hope that most visitors are able to make it to both events, to make the most of what is sure to be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”
Armed Forces Day was established in 2009 to celebrate the contribution of Britain’s servicemen and women and their families across the Army, Navy and RAF. It was previously held in Edinburgh in 2011.
This year’s event will see tanks and military vehicles on display and demonstrations by Sea King, Apache and Puma helicopters. Plane enthusiasts will get the chance to see the Lancaster, Spitfire and Hurricane in flight.
The estimated cost of hosting the event is about £524,000 but organisers suggest it will earn about £1 million for the local economy as well as boosting Stirling’s profile as a tourist destination.
ScotRail has said it will provide more than 6,000 extra seats to help customers travel to and from the city this weekend.
The train operator will run longer trains for customers travelling between Stirling and Glasgow, Edinburgh, Alloa, Dunblane, Inverness and Perth on both Saturday and Sunday.
The National Trust for Scotland and Historic Scotland have meanwhile been working for months to transform the Bannockburn site ahead of the 700th anniversary celebrations.
Historic monuments have been restored and a new visitor centre has welcomed thousands of visitors since opening earlier this year.
Visitors to Bannockburn Live will get the chance to see armour and swords being made in a blacksmiths and watch as men are treated in hospital as they come off the battlefield.
Tourism minister Fergus Ewing said the event had attracted people from across the globe with an affinity to Scotland.