Day One - Stirling Castle
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|Southern Scotland & northern England|
Expanded Itinerary - On the map, look for Glasgow & nearby Stirling, where we stayed for two nights. Then we headed to Scotland's west coast, taking a ferry to the Isle of Bute, for one night. The following day, we returned to the mainland & drove south, staying one night at Tarbolton, close to Ayr.
Then we drove south to England via Dumfries, & off the map, for a week's stay at Keswick, in the Lake District.
When we return to Scotland, we'll be on the right side of the map, passing through Jedburgh & on to Melrose, where we stay at nearby St. Boswell's for two nights, not shown on the map. Historic Linlithgow, our final stop for three nights, located about 15 miles west of Edinburgh, is also not shown on the map.
Our trip began on a cold & clear Monday morning, around 8 am, as we crossed the tarmac to the main airport building. As airports go, GLA is tiny, with no elevated terminals, often sleepy, like when we arrived. We'd been up since around 3:30 am, local time. so we had a relaxed coffee stop.
We acquired our rental vehicle, and minutes later were on the freeway, heading north to Stirling, about 20 miles away. On the way we stopped at our B&B, a few miles south of Stirling, to drop off luggage. Then we drove into this historic City, to see the Castle.
|gateway to the Highlands (a web photo)|
Stirling Bridge, which crosses the River Forth just below the Castle, has historically been the main passageway between the Scottish Highlands & Lowlands, giving the Castle a strategic role to play. An impressive geological promontory makes this the strongest castle in Scotland.
Important Scottish-English history occurred in this area, for instance, when English King Edward I's leading earls were soundly defeated by a ragtag group of Scottish warriors at Stirling Bridge, in 1297, a victory which propelled William Wallace (1270-1305) to short-lived fame. (Edward I was known as "the Hammer of the Scots".)
In June, 1314, Scottish King Robert Bruce was victorious over the forces of Edward II, at nearby Bannockburn. Edward I & II had won other battles or skirmishes against Scottish forces, but after Bannockburn, and, Edward II's additional defeat in the 1320s, the Brits turned their attention to fighting to defend their hereditary territories in France, soon thereafter igniting the Hundred Years War.
As regards Scottish interests, a military standoff with England was the outcome, ushering in 300 years of relative peace, and, during that time, the Scottish Stuarts thrived. Between 1300 & 1603, Stirling Castle was the Stuart's court & power base. Successive Stuart Kings named James built the fine Renaissance style buildings that we visitors see today.
With the Union of the Crowns in 1603, King James VI of Scotland moved to London and became King James I of England (the Bible guy). These things came to pass following the death of long-reigning Queen Elizabeth I of England in March, of that year.
note - you can enlarge any part of a picture by left-clicking in and then out again.
|another impressive promontory||Wm. Wallace Monument from Stirling Castle||Wallace Monument at the Castle||the Guardian of Scotland, once upon a time, see note 1|
|the gate house w/Queen's garden to the left||we had an early lunch at the Unicorn Cafe||cafe patio view|
|the Palace, built by James V||nearby Kirk Yard||tour groups forming near the Great Hall||our Docent was entertaining|
|the Great Hall, built by James III||impressive 1500's ceiling||Chapel Royal, built in 1594 by James VI|
|in search of....||Castle north wall||the walkway has an 8 ft. drop at left||...the Lady's Hole see note 2|
|present day view looking north||Royalty's staff dwellings||
< Unicorns in the ceiling & in tapestries >
|the Queen's Garden, see note 3||heirloom or antique rose|
|general view beyond the wall||a showy Sedum||interesting door >|
note 1 - Legend has it that the Wm. Wallace statue was erected on the spot where he observed a definite military advantage developing below, along the banks of River Forth, when English forces crossed narrow Stirling Bridge and walked into a huge bog, a tactical disaster, the English being apparently unfamiliar with the terrain, their very undoing. Here he made the fateful decision to commit all of his troops to battle, and was successful. (There's more Wm. Wallace info below)
note 2 - Mary Stuart, Queen of Scots (1542-1587), was born at Linlithgow Palace. Her French Mom, Mary of Guise, felt safer living at Stirling Castle and moved there when Mary was less than a year old. When she was 3 & 1/2, Mary asked if a hole could be made in the north Castle wall, so she could look out, which was done. The Scottish Highlands start just north of Stirling, and, the north wall has the best view.
The Lady's Hole - Before the tour, I asked our Docent if she could show four of us the hole associated with the childhood of Mary, Queen of Scots.
After the tour, the Docent obliged, taking six of us (two more who overheard) on a short walk to the north wall. She gave us a clear verbal warning about a falling hazard, consisting of an unprotected eight-foot drop into a garden, on the interior side of the North Wall walkway. Each of us had to acknowledge back, that we heard & understood.
note 3 - note the healthy looking Palm tree, to the right, near a person. Palm trees in Scotland ?
From the Castle we walked downhill through the old Kirkyard to Holy Rude Church, a 1500s structure. The interior was atmospheric, and we walked around, mostly looking up. This Kirk is in splendid condition, an architectural gem.
We left after 20 minutes to go next door to the historic Portcullis Hotel & Tavern, for a brew, or other beverage. It was a pretty good first day out, which we toasted to, although it wasn't over yet.
|Celtic Cross.||Holy Rude kirkyard|
|Holy Rude interiors...||another incredible roof|
|WWI memorial||Martin Luther, see below||King James VI of Scotland & James I of England|
|the reading revolution !||old Pub w/rooms||getting a brew|
|these went well with a Guinness !||B&B for 2 nights at Plean, 5 mi. south of Stirling||the 'back walk' at Stirling, see note 1|
Holy Rude Church had a small display concerning the 1611 publication of the King James Bible. James I of England, the Protestant son of Mary, Queen of Scots (a Catholic) was responsible. Printing copies of the Bible in native languages like Italian, German, French, and English, helped Protestant Christianity spread far & wide.
In Germany, Martin Luther had proposed this radical departure from Catholic Papacy-controlled Bible access, so that anyone could read & understand Biblical lessons for themselves, in their own homes. Johannes Gutenburgh had, in the previous century, made printing possible, for the masses. Thus was a widespread incentive to learn to read born.
note 1 - the 'back walk' is said to be a walker's expressway from the Castle to the heart of town, with no other turnoffs. Supposedly, in summer the trees are dense & a walker would be isolated from the sights, but not the sounds, of the surrounding City. (I had seen it in advance on online maps, and found it interesting.)
William Wallace Monument - We ran out of time & did not go there. It is a solemn place, having visited there with my sister Doris & her husband Paul, in fall 2013. Here are photos & commentary from that trip: William Wallace Monument 2013.
We had an early dinner at The Birds & Bees restaurant, not far from the Wallace Monument, the same place where D & P and I enjoyed dinner, 6 years ago, at about the same time of year.
The haggis appetizer that Rich ordered and let me try was really good. I think his entree was roasted chicken, on a bed of haggis, on a bed of mash.
Once back at the B&B, after dark, we played cards in the downstairs breakfast room & chatted a bit with the B&B owners, who were friendly and low key, mostly watching TV in their huge living room, with a fire going.
We the tourists crashed early. The B&B was out in the country, with no other houses around, perfectly quiet at night.
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