Good morning! Any Braveheart fans out there? Well, today you are in for a treat because we are going to see the William Wallace Monument. And then take a spectacular tour of Stirling Castle. It doesn't get much more Scottish than that, I say.
We packed up our bags and bid the Hamptom House B&B a fond farewell. The woman who runs the house was so kind, and the breakfasts were just perfect. It turned out that we were the only ones staying in the house, so it was very quiet. Of course, we were only there to sleep and eat breakfast, so it wouldn't have mattered even if the place had been full.
We stayed upstairs in the house, and ate breakfast every morning in the sunroom. Of course, being as it was freezing cold, the sun room wasn't particularly warm. We kept a couple of space heaters under our table to keep us from getting too cold.
We headed back inland to west central Scotland, with Stirling as our primary destination.
First stop: the William Wallace Monument.
I had done advance research, and we specifically planned our itinerary around being at the Wallace Monument on a Wednesday because that was the day of the week they had a Wallace presentation. We didn't know exactly what the presentation was going to be, but we wanted to be there to see it.
The presentation ended up being an actor who told the whole story of how William Wallace defeated the English at the Battle of Stirling Bridge in 1297, a victory which helped transform Wallace into a national hero.
It was very well done, and even though I did have a bit of trouble understanding the actor's strong Scottish dialect, I got the general facts down. If you happen to be in the Stirling area, I highly recommend going to the monument on a day that the actor is performing.
The Monument itself was built many hundreds of years after William Wallace died with no small amount of controversy. Each floor has a presentation, with the most interesting room (I thought) the one that displays William Wallace's sword. Yes, his actual sword! It's 5' 6" tall. Evidently Wallace was quite a tall fellow (funny since Mel Gibson is the one who portrayed Wallace in the movie, and Gibson is on the shorter side).
There's also a floor dedicated to iconic Scotsmen. We were happy to see a bust of Robert the Bruce since Jason is a direct descendant of his (Bruce is Jason's 26-times Great-Grandfather).
They totally have the same nose :)
At the top is a spectacular view of the area.
From the top you can see Stirling Castle, which is where we headed next.
As you can imagine, there is a lot of information that I could share about Stirling Castle, but it would take far too long for me to write it all out. I will say this: if you only tour one castle in Scotland, this is a great one. It's very well organized, much of it has been restored, and the tour guides are super knowledgable.
Jason standing next to another Robert the Bruce monument:
A view from inside the castle looking out (and my iPhone was on a weird setting, hence the dramatic photo):
Our castle tour guide with spectacularly awesome pants:
A tree in the courtyard:
To the right of the tree is the main castle, and the yellow building behind it is the Great Hall:
Much of the castle has been or is in the process of being restored. The Great Hall was restored a decade ago, and they used exactly all the same techniques and materials that would have originally been used.
Inside the Great Hall:
And outside the Great Hall:
On top of the Great Hall? Lions and unicorns.
Unicorns are all over the castle, as well as all over Scotland.
They are, in fact, the national symbol--based on the Scottish tradition of myths, folklore and superstitions.
Some of them are pretty cool looking, and some of them are kinda weird, with their tongue hanging out. I think they are supposed to look fierce. Maybe.
I have so many pictures from Stirling Castle, but I'll just leave you with a couple more.
Here you can see they are working on restoring the tapestries. They are meticulously using the same techniques that would have been used hundreds of years ago. They are serious about authenticity.
We could have stayed longer at Stirling Castle, but eventually we were cold and hungry and so we wandered down into the town to get something to eat.
We were temporarily detained,
but made it out of the town without too much trouble.
On our way out of town, we took a quick stop at the Stirling Bridge--the same bridge that helped make Wallace famous (though it has been rebuilt since the whole crux of his victory was destroying the bridge).
Finally we headed out towards Dunkeld and Birnam, where we would be staying the night at another B&B. We did quite a lot of driving, and because I didn't want to forget the experience of driving on the left side of the road, nor the scenery that we travelled through, I took some video. Here's a two-minute clip that gives you a taste of driving in that part of Scotland.
Before too long, we arrived at our destination: Birnam in Perthshire. We chose this particular town because it had a Beatrix Potter Garden. Wasn't my sister so nice to make my literary dreams come true by finding a B&B right across the street from the garden? Yes, yes, she was.
It was getting dark by the time we got there, so we made a mental note to tour the garden in the morning before we headed to the western shoreline. The town itself was just as cute as can be, and could possibly be characterized as a sleepy little town except that when we arrived it sounded like a dance party was going on. Turns out the local Zumba class was meeting across from our B&B. Happy about our very successful day in Stirling and our safe travels to our destinations, we had our own little dance party on the street before turning in.
Tomorrow? Lots of driving and less walking around.
Of course there are still some things to see. Like the Scottish Highlands, and a landmark used in a Harry Potter movie. Oh yes. More good times are ahead.