On Sunday, I took the train up to Stirling. The castle up there is pretty amazing, but getting there was a lot of work. The entire old town is on a steep hill. The roads up are winding and narrow and steep. I read that the old horse drawn carriages often got stuck on the narrow cobble stone streets.
After leaving the train station, I made my way over to the outer city walls. Just above the tourist information centre, just outside the city walls, there is a statue of Rob Roy McGregor – the Scottish folk hero. The guy didn’t look anything like Liam Neeson.
There were a few big tourist / student groups that I saw on my way up the hill. A big group was in the old kirk, which I found out was an important place in the Scottish Reformation. In the cemetery outside, there were headstones dating back to the 1500’s, all facing east. From there it was a short walk up to the castle; they’re both right at the top of the hill.
While I was there, I signed up for a membership in Historic Scotland. For about 40 pounds, I get unlimited admissions to sites all across Scotland including Edinburgh castle. I should get plenty of use out of that membership.
Stirling is also close to the sites of the two most important battles for Scottish independence. Stirling Bridge was William Wallace’s most decisive victory over the English. They don’t show a bridge in the movie Braveheart, but Wallace allowed half an English army to cross the bridge before isolating and devastating the English troops. Bannockburn was the most important victory of Robert the Bruce and was the decisive battle ensuring scottish independence. Bannockburn also required Robert the Bruce to adapt the terrain to his advantage.
I didn’t make it to the university, the Wallace Monument, or Bannockburn because they were all outside the city centre, which was about an hour by train from Edinburgh. The palace inside the castle was being renovated but there was still a lot to see around the grounds: the great hall, kitchens, the medieval weaving centre, the regimental museum, the gun batteries. A few of those living history actors were also around. Its a popular tourist site.
It was a long walk to the bridge after my steep climb, and the weather turned on me early in the afternoon, so I was burned out at about 3:30.