Day 14- Small Town Scotland

On the morning of the 18th, we were up and on our way to the town of Stirling, less than an hours drive from Edinburgh. Those of you who remember your Scottish history (via Braveheart, natch) will remember that it was the Battle of Stirling Bridge where my ancestral kinsman, Andrew de Moray, teamed up with his friend William Wallace to defeat the English forces in 1297.

To begin our tour in Stirling, we braved some small winding streets that were under construction to climb a steep hill where upon sits Stirling Castle. The castle was far more stark than some of the others we visited, but there were also fewer visitors which is always a plus in my book. Many of the buildings that are currently standing come from the 15th and 16th centuries, though there are some earlier areas. This castle is where many Scottish monarchs were crowned, including Mary, Queen of Scots in the mid-1500s.  Of course there was an audioguide, but this one was fairly wordy and I found myself fast forwarding through certain parts as I made my way through the chambers and halls.

approaching Stirling Castle

approaching Stirling Castle

where the gardens used to be

where the gardens used to be

Ready to eat?

Ready to eat?

Many of the rooms in the central castle were restored to what they may have looked like in their heydays.

Many of the rooms in the central castle were restored to what they may have looked like in their heydays.

Part of the kitchens, I loved walking around in here.

Part of the kitchens, I loved walking around in here.

After spending the grey morning wandering the castle turrets and kitchens (my favorite part), we ventured out to the William Wallace Monument, a 19th century tower that stands in honor of Scotland’s favorite son. When you get to the monument park area, you take a small minibus up to the monument itself where you then climb 246 steps up a very narrow spiral staircase to the top of the monument. If you are smart, you stop on each of 3 landings that offer small mini-museum exhibitions on Wallace and his life. They even have artifacts, including William Wallace’s sword on display. Fun fact: William Wallace’s sword stands a whopping 5’4″, nearly as tall as moi! It really was huge. Once you make it to the top of the monument, you are greeted with 360 degree views of the stunning Scottish country side.

This is your view of the monument at the Visitors Center.

This is your view of the monument at the Visitors Center.

The monument overlooks the battlefield of Stirling Bridge, where Wallace saw his greatest victory.

The monument overlooks the battlefield of Stirling Bridge, where Wallace saw his greatest victory.

In stead of taking the minibus back down to the visitors' center, we walked through the woods on a hiking trail. It was steep but lovely.

In stead of taking the minibus back down to the visitors’ center, we walked through the woods on a hiking trail. It was steep but lovely.

Leaving the Wallace Monument, we headed just out of town to visit a small Scottish village called Dunblane. Dunblane’s cathedral is a parish church whose oldest parts date from the 11th century. Just some of the claims to fame for Dunblane Cathedral include its being the final resting place for King James IV’s mistress Margaret and her sisters (all of whom were believed to be poisoned) and having choir stalls that date from the 1400s. It was a brief visit, but this is the stuff I love to see- those off-the-beaten-track places where it’s you and two other tourists just appreciating the hundreds of years of history that this place has seen.

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The 15th century choir stalls

The 15th century choir stalls

The Scottish Thistle.

The Scottish Thistle.

The lower bell tower dates from the 11th century.

The lower bell tower dates from the 11th century.

From there it was on to Doune Castle. Doune Castle is known largely for its prominent use in several movies and TV shows, including Monty Python’s Holy Grail. In fact, the audioguide here is narrated by one of the Monty Python cast members who sidebars into scenes from the movie while telling you about the history in various parts of the castle. The main forecourt of the castle was closed off while we were there because of recent filming of the television series, Outlander. The castle seems to get a lot of modern use for a building that is in ruins! Much of what stands of the current castle dates from about the 14th century, although there had been a castle on the site for over a hundred years earlier.

approaching the castle

approaching the castle

looking up at the tower from the courtyard

looking up at the tower from the courtyard

part of the kitchen where servants could pass food

part of the kitchen where servants could pass food

I strongly desire a home with a wall-to-wall fireplace.

I strongly desire a home with a wall-to-wall fireplace.

The Great Hall, complete with central hearth fire basket.

The Great Hall, complete with central hearth fire basket.

Bedroom. Looks cozy doesn't it?

Bedroom. Looks cozy doesn’t it?

Privy.

Privy.

The river that flows by the castle

The river that flows by the castle

A view from the ramparts, nothing but Scottish countryside and sparking blue skies.

A view from the ramparts, nothing but Scottish countryside and sparking blue skies.

Having completed our sightseeing for the day, we headed back into Stirling to check in to our bed and breakfast for the evening and to grab dinner. In Stirling, we stayed at Ravenswood Guesthouse, owned by the delightfully Scottish Stuart, who is crazy like the Husband and runs marathons and competes in triathlons and the like. The accommodations were fantastic and the house is warm and inviting and the rooms spacious. Breakfast the following morning was also one of my favorites as Stuart makes this thing called Fancy Porridge which is basically oatmeal with honey and nuts and dried fruits… and it may have just been the best breakfast I had on our trip. For dinner, we headed down the street to an Italian diner. Food was good, ice cream desserts were better! I didn’t even know mint sauce was a thing, but apparently it is and it’s really good when served over chocolate ice cream. For future reference! Day 14 was quite a full day of touring some pieces of Scottish history, so we had no trouble falling asleep that night once we were settled in back at the guesthouse.

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