Our core goal for today was simple – drive to Glasgow, check in and be ready to meet up with Charles, Cathy, Cairsty and family in the early evening. Glasgow is less than an hour of driving from Stirling so there would be time for sightseeing at one end or both, depending on what we found.
Breakfast at Broomhall Castle was the full Scottish experience. The usual selection of cereal, yoghurt, and juice was available for the taking along with coffee and we were offered toast as we arrived. The menu offered porridge as an option so I chose that and found that it came with honey as a sweetener. Majella declined porridge or cereal but we both ordered the full Scottish cooked breakfast – egg, bacon, sausage, large mushroom, grilled tomato, tattie scone, and baked beans in a small pot. Haggis and black pudding were listed as options on the menu but came without being specifically requested. Haggis is surprisingly spicy so both it and black pudding, which tends to be salty, are edible if I don’t think about their contents and accompany them with something else from the plate. Majella struggled to down part of each.
After breakfast we packed quickly and were on our way by 9:30 am. Because the weather had been uncooperative yesterday afternoon we had not looked around Stirling so we planned to do that first. Our drive toward the city took us first to the National Wallace Monument, erected to honour William Wallace who had some success against the English before being defeated and is probably best known to most of us through Mel Gibson’s portrayal in Braveheart. We balked at the price of admission to see what seemed to be a small museum (must be some Scots blood in us or the air has gotten to us) but Majella did decide that I looked fetching in a Scottish cap she found in the gift store so we bought that and moved on.
Glen Postle had mentioned working in an ‘imposing old building’ overlooking the golf course during one of his stints at Stirling University so we looked for that on our drive around the well manicured campus. We think we found it. Majella preferred a photo with the Wallace Monument peeping around the corner in the background. We were lucky to be there on a Saturday when we were able to drive onto and around campus without being impeded by security at the entrance or problems with traffic and parking. It is a beautiful campus and I was interested to see swans swimming on the large lake below where we stopped.
Our other target in the area was Stirling Castle so we drove there next. There is limited parking near the top of the hill adjacent to the castle and a shuttle service that runs from parking in the town centre. We were lucky to be early enough at just before 10:30 am that there was still parking but having paid to enter the carpark we were committed to the castle entrance. On the way in we declined the audioguide at extra cost, apparently a wise decision since Charles told me later that their recent Austrian visitors had lasted 10 minutes with the audioguide before being overwhelmed by too much detail. Majella did hear that guided tours were offered on the half hour so we headed as quickly as possible to catch the tour that had just started. It was raining by that time so we needed our umbrellas.
Our tour guide was a young woman who was both well informed and enthusiastic about her work. The tour lasted just less than an hour and took us around the outer defences, the central courtyard, and a couple of the major buildings with descriptions of the history of the building and its inhabitants over about 900 years. Its importance as a military strongpoint emerged because the easiest point to cross the River Forth and travel north was nearby so control of the castle meant control of the crossing and north-south travel. It was the royal residence for kings of Scotland but for the a century or more until the 1960s it was used as a military barracks. Since then it has been undergoing restoration of the buildings. After the tour we visited the royal palace which has been beautifully restored including by the special production of a set of tapestries for the walls in the Queen’s main chamber. Upstairs there is a display of the Stirling Heads, a collection of amazing wooden carvings, and reproductions of some, that were done as decoration for the palace.
The rain had ceased partway through our tour and we were able to enjoy the views from the castle ramparts across the sunlit countryside. We wandered through the north gate and down to the exhibition that tells the story of the production of the Stirling tapestries we had seen hanging in the palace. The seven large panels were produced by an international team of weavers in a process that took 13 years at a cost of £2 million. Majella was especially fascinated by the exhibition about the process. We also spent some time in the exhibition showing how the kitchen looked and operated in its heyday before having coffee and a bite to eat at the cafeteria. In all we spent a bit more than 2 hours at Stirling Castle and enjoyed it all.
Glasgow is less than an hour from Stirling by car but we made a deviation to Glasgow Fort, a shopping area where Majella picked up some items she needed, before driving to our lodging for the night at Manor Park Guest House. It is not as grand as where we were last night but is comfortable and luckily just 15 minutes or so from our evening appointment.
This is our last evening in Scotland and Charles and Cathy had arranged for us to meet them at the home of their daughter, Cairsty, her husband Tim, and their children, Charlie and Edith. Cairsty was born in Dalby where we met Charles and Cathy. Conversation ranged across a variety of topics including where we had travelled during our time in Scotland. They were impressed at how much we had managed to fit in but we heard about more things that we might have seen had we known about them and had more time. After dinner of creamy noodles with a variety of salads followed by Scottish trifle, Charlie and Edith entertained us with singing in Gaelic and Charlie played some traditional Gaelic tunes on his fiddle. That seemed a fitting way to end our last evening in Scotland.
Tomorrow morning we head south across the border to England.