I really love great movie moments. Even the endlessly quotable cheesy ones have a special place in my everyday lingo and I use them indiscriminately and often. So as I arrived in Stirling, Scotland for the weekend it was all I could do to tone back the Mel Gibson impressions from Braveheart…after all, I do have to temper my penchant for movie quotes with a need for originality…and I have no doubts that the residents of Stirling have heard it all before.
But that doesn’t stop the fun. Stirling, Scotland is home to the William Wallace Monument in honor of his historic battles that took place throughout history right in this region. The large river that runs through Stirling was historically a key part of Wallace’s strategy for defeating the British even though his men were greatly out numbered; the wide, rolling, and moderately flat countryside surely gave the Scots a bit of an advantage in the battles.
This city is old. The buildings are just precisely and exactly what you would expect from a city that has seen countless battles, destruction, and overthrows and their mottled gray and cobbled exteriors line almost all of the streets in town.
Now, I am going to confess upfront that I think that Stirling lacks just a bit on charm. I mean, the castle is very neat and I definitely got into all of the multimedia displays at the William Wallace Monument. But now that I have done several other Scottish towns, Stirling actually isn’t a favorite in retrospect.
With that said, that just means that I really didn’t need to stay the three days I was forced to book (August is a CRAZY busy time in the Scotland). I could have done with a day trip as so many tourists actually do from Edinburgh.
Buses head out of town to the William Wallace Monument for several pounds…in true backpacker style I opted for the free transportation that my feet provided and hoofed it up to the monument and made it in just 25 minutes from the city-center…not a bad walk at all although it completely parallels the trafficky roads (I would have preferred a stroll through the pastures and surrounding land, but, still nothing to complain about since it was side-walked most of the way!)
The ragged -peaked monument is huge and dominates the skyline outside of town; it’s perched on the top of a hill with complete and total views of the surrounding land – the video shows the views from the top of the tower. This hill is rumored to have likely been the very spot where Wallace commanded his famous attack and defeat of the British in the late 1200’s because he could see for mile and miles around the hill.
The view from the top is gorgeous and it’s worth paying the less than eight quid it costs to access all of the small exhibits on the way up and a free (and relatively boring) audio tour in addition to as much time as you want to just sit and look out across the green plains toward Stirling Castle.
Stirling Castle has a long history in Scotland and it’s interesting that although there has long been a castle in this location, it was actually mostly disassembled at times so that it could not be held by the enemy forces.
There is a lot of restoration going on at the castle and I learned a lot about those efforts by randomly wandering into the English speaking tours long enough to satisfy a bit of curiosity. One of the coolest features was the hammer beam roof. This roof was reconstructed and doesn’t use a single nail, screw, glue, or other substance. Wooden pegs and expert craftsmanship hold the ceiling together. Pretty neat!
Stirling, Scotland Video Tour
I tried to break up my three days in Stirling to occupy as much time as possible but the town is really best seen in just a day, two max, so I spent a lot of my time catching up on some much needed work after I finished exploring the castle and the monument and wandering the streets where men in kilts played the bagpipes for tourists moseying their way back from the castle grounds.