Today’s adventures once again took us by train, but this time to Stirling. The town of Stirling is situated between the Ochil Hills and the Campsie Fells in central Scotland, not far from Glasgow. A town, filled with ancient history, was actually developed around its mighty fortress Stirling Castle – historically speaking – one of Scotland’s most important fortresses. I absolutely find it amazing the rich history Scotland has and the great lengths they took for years to gain their independence. Like Edinburgh Castle, Stirling Castle sits high on a rocky cliff, and from books I’ve read, has dominated the Scottish history for centuries. The present building dates from the 15th and 16th centuries and was last defended against the Jacobites in the mid 1700s. The path to the crown was also an interesting one when its king (Alexander III) died in 1286. His heir to the throne (his 3-year-old grand daughter) also died and the throne stayed vacant from 10 years. It was the following 20 years, in which the castle self-guides walk you through its epic history. It’s absolutely amazing to think for almost twenty years Stirling Castle was in a constant battle of rulership between England’s Kind Edward I and William Wallace and Robert the Bruce. In the Castle you get the opportunity to visit the king and queen’s inner and outer quarters, their bedrooms, the palace gardens, the chapel Royal and the great hall. From 1881 to 1964 the castle was used as a military depot for recruits into the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders. Within the castle walls they also have a great Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders Museum that shares the history and artifacts of this great military.
Even though the day was rather gloomy and windy, the rich history of Stirling Castle couldn’t slow us down. Looking out the main entrance of the Castle you can see the Wallace Monument in the distance. Unfortunately, the distance was too far for our feet to carry us so we admired the view before heading back down to Old Town for lunch. There we stopped for a bite at Herman’s before heading over to the Smith Art Museum.
The Smith Art Museum is another great free gallery that one can visit just down the hill from the Stirling Highland Hotel (which is a converted old high school). At the Smith are three exhibit hall rooms. The most recent exhibit is on Norman McLaren, an award-winning animated filmmaker, who was born and raised in Stirling. The second exhibit hall reflects on 700 years after the Bannockburn Battle where Robert the Bruce beat England for the independence of Scotland.
As we were walking through the exhibit hall we ran across in information board sharing other towns and neighborhoods around the world that were named after Bannockburn. One of those towns was Bannockburn, Illinois, on the boarder of West Deerfield and Vernon township (not far from where I grew up). The most interesting part of this blurb was that the village is home to the Allen Friedman House – the last house architect Frank Lloyd Wright designed that was built during his lifetime. The last exhibit hall shares the history of Stirling, which was once a main center for tartan weaving. On display we saw the oldest football in the world, which was actually found in the ceiling rafters of the Queen’s Chambers in Stirling Castle. According to the guides at Stirling Castle, the ceiling was enclosed in 1540, so that means the ball had to have been kicked into the rafters some time before that. For what ever reason I found that so interesting!
Stirling is a great little town to wander around with interesting shops and good food. Because we had a little time to waste before we caught our train back to Dundee we stopped in the Curly Coo Bar for a wee dram of whisky. The only whisky bar in Stirling, you are bound to find a whisky you like seeing as the collection has over 120 different malt whiskys on hand. The owner was very friendly and very enjoyable to chat with. She had only recently moved into her current location (back in December 2013) and since we were the only ones in the bar so early she shared some stories with us and her knowledge of whisky. The husband tried a wee dram of 30-year-old Glen Ord Highlands, which made him giddy to think he was trying a swig of whisky that was older than he.
After the dram was finished we hopped a train back to Dundee to meet up with our friends and enjoy a wine tasting event at the local wine shop in Dundee called Aitkens. The shop owner is Scottish and does a great job of selecting wines from around the world. All of the wines he carries in his shop he has visited the wineries, which was fascinating to learn because his selection was quite large. For €10 we were able to taste 14 different French wines. Needless to say we walked home from the event.