Stirling Castle

I finally set the alarm clock right this morning and Dave and I were up and out the door at 8 a.m. We stopped for breakfast about a half a block away at The Larder, a terrific little spot. Dave had an assortment of sausages, bacon, freshly-baked bread and organic eggs. All Scottish made or grown. I had a terrific freshly baked croissant with Scottish farm-grown cheddar cheese and tomatoes, but the real treat was fresh-squeezed orange juice! That’s extremely rare anywhere, but even more so in this type of tourist location, LOVED that! They also serve tea from eTeaket, where we went on Saturday, so I had a small pot of that as well. A very nice start to the day. 

We made our way down to the train station and picked up tickets for Stirling. It’s about an hour away from Edinburgh by train. We almost got on the wrong train, but Dave asked and realized our mistake and we then DID make it onto the right train. Up until that little episode, we’ve done quite well on the train travel. Very easy and everyone is usually very helpful if we need it. 

Of course, as soon as we arrived in Stirling, it started to sprinkle. On went the hat and hood of rain jacket. It never really downpoured, it was just enough to be annoying. It was very windy and cold still. I wore my gloves and heavy LL Bean turtleneck sweater. 

There is some fascinating history behind Stirling Castle, and boy does it have some spectacular views! They would most certainly be able to see enemies closing in which is why it was so fiercely fought over for so many years. Since the 12th century the castle has been the favored home of Scottish kings and queens, a strategic stronghold, and in the 17th century, a garrisoned fortress for soldiers. 

Some important highlights that caught my eyes and ears are: 

  • In 1297 William Wallace (Braveheart) lead Scottish forces to victory at the Battle of Stirling Bridge. 
  • King Robert I (The Bruce) confronts Edward II army at Bannockburn in 1314 for a strategic victory for Stirling castle. 
  • Mary Queen of Scots was crowned queen at Stirling in 1543, when she was barely a year old. 
  • In 1566, a year after Queen Mary abdicates the crown at age 23, her son, Prince James is baptized at Stirling Castle where he becomes King James VI. 

There has been an extensive “renovation” project going on for several years. I don’t necessarily consider it a restoration, but more like a make-over. We’re always told that these old castles were actually very brightly painted in their days, so they have been painstaking research on how some of the royal rooms would have looked and reprinted them to those findings. After seeing ruins and dark, dingy, damp rooms, it was a tad startling to come into a room and see these brilliant colors. It took some getting used to, but I understand what they’re trying to do. 

They are also completely recreating a set of historic tapestries that were in the queen’s bed chamber. The originals are in the NY Metropolitan Museum of Art. Weaving is a true lost art and not many people continue to do it or learn that skill anywhere in the world. We were lucky enough to speak to one of the weavers of these massive tapestries. Soooo much time and effort. The final products are breathtaking and they’re using the same color thread that would be historically accurate to the time, so the colors are quite brilliant. Fascinating stuff. 

Dave and I did take a guided tour of the castle and as soon as that was finished, we found out a bagpipe band would be playing in one of the courtyards. Thankfully, the rain seemed to hold off a little for their performance and it was great to hear them in this kind of setting. 

We grabbed a bite to eat the. the sun came out and it actually warmed up as we went on a tour of Argyll’s Lodging which is a 16th townhouse owned by the 9th Earl of Argyll. We had s short tour of how the upper and lower classes would have lived. 

Then we walked back down the hill into the town of Stirling, but first stopped at the Church of Holy Rude, to view what is the second oldest building in Stirling after the castle. Founded in 1129 during the reign of David I (1124 – 1153) as the parish church of Stirling. It is said to be the only church in the United Kingdom other than Westminster Abbey to have held a coronation and still be a living church today. I found the most impressive part of the church was its original oak-timbered roof that was completed about 1414. It’s beautiful. 

Dave and I took a short stroll through the church’s kirkyard (graveyard) up to an upper area where ladies used to sit and watch jousting. VERY windy and cold and the rain was spitting at us again. 

We walked to the train station and caught the 4:30 train back to Edinburgh. Stopped at apartment to freshen up, the went for dinner a block away at Whiski’s Bar & Restaurant. Just your traditional Scottish pub food is served. Dave had fish n’ chips and I had Mac & cheese with our Belhaven, of course.

I’m now sitting at the window seat in the apartment drinking some tea writing this blog, uploading photos and people watching on the Royal Mile below. Dave and I are not night owls….and we’re also not in good shape! LOL We’re both tired and sore, I really miss my air jet tub at home, but loving every minute of Scotland.

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