Jean decided to stay at the campground for a much needed rest today while we took Carol on a trip to Stirling with us. We headed off nice and early to make the most of the sunshine which so gracefully presented itself to us yet again (who said Scotland is always raining?). It was raining most of last week but has been nothing short of perfect (aside from the very strong winds) since our first morning. What more can eager travellers ask for?
On the way to Stirling we stopped at Linlithgow Palace, birth place of James V and Mary Queen of Scots. Linlithgow Palace is now not much more than a shell of it's former self, but the remains are so beautifully preserved that you are able to get a full feeling of what it may have been like all those hundreds of years ago. Like Edinburg Castle it is perched high on a hill. The main difference here is that you can drive all the way up the cobble drive to reach the entrance...ahhh. The walls of the Palace are all still in tact, along with the walls inside. Over time most of the floors have worn away so it is now almost an empty shell...all bar the areas around the towers where the main frame has allowed it's outer most floors to stay in tact. We were able to climb all the way to the top, from where we could see the spires on the roof of St Michaels Church next door and the beautiful loch that the castle overlooks. After an hour or so of walking around the inside we strolled the gardens outside, alongside the loch.
Next it was on to Stirling Castle. The castle towers over some of the most important battlefields of Scotland’s past including Stirling Bridge, the site of William Wallace’s victory over the English in 1297, and Bannockburn where Robert the Bruce defeated the same foe in the summer of 1314. Some of the highlights from the castle include:
- James IV’s Great Hall – the largest medieval banqueting hall ever built in Scotland.
- James V’s Palace – admire the lavishly decorated Renaissance façades.
- James VI’s Chapel Royal – built especially for Prince Henry’s baptism and elaborately
- Redecorated for Charles I’s coronation visit in 1633.
- The Great Kitchens – dramatically bring to life how lavish banquets were created in James IV’s day. The views from the battlements – overlooking two great battlefields, Stirling Bridge and Bannockburn.
- The regimental museum of the Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders – associated with the castle for almost a century
After we finished marvelling at this ancient beauty we enjoyed a much needed coffee/hot chocolate break by the castle before heading back to the car for a drive by The Wallace Monument. Completed in 1869 after eight years' construction, the 220 feet high Wallace Monument sits prominently on the Abbey Craig two miles north of the city of Stirling itself. It was from this prominent hilltop in 1297 that William Wallace watched the English army approach across Stirling Bridge before leading the Scots into the battle of the same name: and victory. A fitting, and striking, location for the national monument to a national hero. The film Braveheart is based on the story of William Wallace and his rag-tag army.