I'll be visiting the last 2 weeks in September. This will be my 5th trip, so I have seen bits of quite a lot. Most trips I have spent 2-3 days max in a particular place and have done a couple of circles up north in and around the highlands.
This trip has a purpose not limited to just travel/exploring, I am considering an application to study abroad in Edinburgh starting next year. So I would like to base myself somewhere central to explore more of the areas surrounding Edinburgh and Glasgow and get a good feel for what it would be like to live in some nice places within commuting distance while also doing some leisurely exploring. I say the surrounds as I don't know that I am keen to live city central nor pay the associated prices, I would like to live in/near a village, have a garden, room for my pets, etc. Considering buying a property if it all goes forward and my price range would definitely have me out of the city in that case.
I will have a car throughout my stay and prefer stay in any particular spot 5-7 days and explore from there to places like Oban, Wigtown, Pitlochry, etc. Staying central Edinburgh or Glasgow seems less ideal also due to finding parking, cost to park, have spent plenty of time in both. Would Stirling be a good base with more free parking accessible or is it similar to the bigger cities in that respect?