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Monday, July 24, 2017

Having a sterling time in Stirling

O'er the ramparts of Stirling Castle

For our last full day in Scotland, we took the train from Edinburgh for the 52-minute ride to Stirling, home to one of Britain's most atmospheric fortresses. From the station, it was a twenty-minute walk to the castle, with the views along the way illustrating why the location was so important - Hold Stirling and you hold Scotland" went an old maxim. The National Wallace Monument can be seen in the distance:

First things first upon arrival - lunch. Scottish salmon washed down with Scottish beer:

We began our tour with the Castle Exhibition, giving background information on the Stuart kings and queens, as well as overviews of momentous events such as the Battle of Bannockburn (in which Robert the Bruce of Scotland defeated Edward II of England):

My daughter mans the ramparts, ready to ward off the invading English:

Below the west wall of the castle are earthworks which we were once 16th-century formal gardens known as the King's Knot (on the left) and the Queen's Knot (on the right):

The Great Kitchens give visitors an idea of the work that went into satisfying the gluttonous demands of the Scottish royals:

The castle overlooks the site of the Battle of Stirling Bridge. While at the castle I overheard an American woman talking about Braveheart and had to resist the urge to point out to her and her companions how extremely historically inaccurate that film was:

The Great Hall, built by James IV:

Stirling Castle's highlight is without a doubt the Royal Palace, recently restored to resemble how it appeared when it was built by French masons in the mid-16th century on the orders of James V. My wife checks out the Royal Arms of Scotland above the fireplace in the King's Inner Hall:

The Stirling Heads. The original carved oak roundels can be seen in the Stirling Heads Gallery:

This ceiling painting of three birds shot by a single arrow was the mark of Queen Mary of Guise's family, in the Queen's Bedchamber:

In the Queen's Inner Hall:

Stirling Castle's famed tapestries have been painstaking woven over many years, based on originals held in New York's Metropolitan Museum. The costumed guide gave an informative explanation of the Christian metaphors behind the depiction of a unicorn hunt:

The palace exterior is also worth noting:

The Museum of the Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders covers the history of the famous regiment:

A very touching letter from one of the millions of young victims of the senseless carnage that was the First World War:

An exhibition in the rear of the castle detailing the recreating of the Stirling Tapestries:

A final look at the scenery beneath the castle walls:

Amber enjoys a luxurious post-castle treat:

The admission ticket to Stirling Castle also allows entry into Argyll's Lodging, an impressive 17th-century townhouse and the former home of William Alexander, Earl of Stirling:

Walking through Stirling's Old Town on the way from Stirling Castle to the railway station and the train ride back to Edinburgh:

In Edinburgh for our final evening, we did some browsing for souvenirs. When it came time for dinner, I wanted to try haggis at a tourist restaurant, but Shu-E had had enough of British cuisine and made a stand (inspired perhaps by what she had seen at the castle?). So our last meal in Scotland (save for breakfast the next morning) was at a Chinese restaurant, eating Chinese food and surrounded by Mandarin-speaking diners. As the saying goes, the Chinese will eat long as it's Chinese. My wife later made a rare apology. I can understand her feelings, but I do wish she could've shown a bit more open-mindedness and tolerance of other cultures (and their cuisines). But after all those years in Taiwan, I wasn't surprised:

Amber plays with bubbles near the Scottish National Gallery:

The Scott Monument, which was getting ready to close for the day by the time we got back from Stirling:

Wednesday evening view from our room at the Broughton Hotel:

And so the next morning we checked out of the Broughton following breakfast, and then departed from Edinburgh. The weather as we drove through the Borders region was atrocious at times - rain, wind and thick fog as we made our way toward England on narrow country roads. Still, there were some beautiful sights along the way that were worth stopping the car to get out and have a look, particularly the atmospheric ruins of Jedburgh Abbey:

Our brief Scottish sojourn ended as left the Borders and drove into England. The four days and nights we spent in Edinburgh were busy ones, but far too short to give the city the time it deserves, let alone the country with which it serves as the capital. I'd like to return to Scotland one day and visit Glasgow, the Highlands, the Borders, the Isle of Skye and Orkney, among others. After all, I still haven't tried haggis.

Lang may yer lum reek!


  1. I think all would be right with the world if I could just sleep in a four post bed like the one in the Queens inner hall every night!

    1. Ah, but the cost of maintaining the house to go with it would be so high you would have to open it up to the lower classes to come in and gawk...