Church of the Holy Rude & Cemeteries

There has been a church here at the Top of the Town since the 1130s. The Kirkyard which still surrounds the Church of the Holy Rude served as Stirling’s main burial ground until the 1850s.

The name ‘Holy Rude’ means Holy Cross, just like Holyrood Palace in Edinburgh. In 1567, King James VI, the son of Mary Queen of Scots, was crowned here. It has a very important medieval oak roof and is one of three still operational parish churches in Britain to have hosted a royal coronation. You can book tickets to visit the church here.

Holy Rude Kirkyard contains a variety of styles and types of grave marker, including some very early gravestones from the 17th and 18th centuries. Carvings of skulls, winged sandglasses, and winged faces reminded the graveside visitor how fleeting life is. The phrase ‘Memento Mori’ is also a common feature of these older stones, which means ‘remember you must die’.


Valley Cemetery

By the 1850s Stirling’s population had boomed, and the Kirkyard of the Holy Rude was horribly overcrowded. A new graveyard had to be found for Stirling’s citizens, so the Valley Cemetery was opened in 1857 at the foot of Stirling Castle, however, it soon outgrew this new location and was extended into the neighbouring Mar’s Wark Garden.

The Valley Cemetery was designed to be an attractive place to take a walk. There were paths for visitors, as well as statues, and the people buried here were wealthy enough to afford larger high-quality gravestones. An ornamental drinking fountain even supplied water to visitors, surrounded by three statues of important figures from the Presbyterian Church.


Ballengeich Cemetery

Ballengeich Cemetery was created after Mar’s Wark Garden reached capacity. This cemetery’s design was plainer and more practical in comparison to the Valley Cemetery, as it has no additional statues or ornamental landscaping. As in Holy Rude Kirkyard, a large open area was also used to bury the poor in unmarked graves.


Snowdon Cemetery

In 1915, Stirling Council purchased Snowdon House and its grounds and demolished the house to make way for Snowdon Cemetery. Only the boundary walls and part of the gate-house and gate piers remain. Before it was demolished rumours had long circulated in Stirling that Snowdon House was haunted. Secret passages were also said to have linked the House to the Castle but as it was built in the 1820s these rumours were probably false. Snowdon Cemetery opened in 1924 and is the most modern of Stirling’s historic graveyards.


You can find out more about the cemeteries of Stirling on the Old Town Cemetery website.


Explore Historic Stirling