On Saturday morning I checked out of the hotel early and picked a car from near the Glasgow train station. From there it was a quick, sunny drive to Stirling. Did I say it was sunny? This weekend is the best weather we’ve had all year!
Anyway, Stirling is a pretty little town full of charming stone cottages, flowering trees, and major Scottish history.
The castle is the heart of it all. Perched on top of a crab that has been fortified since at least the Bronze Age, the castle was the seat of royal power for centuries.
The current battlements were built in the 17th Century and include massive earthworks.
But the jewels are the palace and great hall from the late Medieval/early Renaissance. They were built at a high point of Scottish power as an attempt to replicate the classical magnificence of the palaces in France. The dark one with all the statues was built by the father of Mary Queen of Scots, and is where her son James was held safe when he inherited the crown as an infant (while Mary was being imprisoned and then executed by Elizabeth I in England).
There was only a tiny garden to soften the otherwise hard castlescape.
From the walls of the castle you could see where two of the most important military events in Scottish history took place: the Battle of Bannickburn and (below) Stirling Bridge, where William Wallace, aka Braveheart, defeated the British. That tower in the distance is a 19th Century monument to him.
On the town side of the castle was the medieval Church of the Holy Rude where James VI of Scotland (later James I of England, of Bible fame) was crowned at the age of 13 months.
The wooden roof from the 13th Century reminded me of the one at Notre Dame that just burned.
I am a sucker for windows.
But my favourite things in the church were the history sheets in Scots and Shetlandic!
After a wander through Stirling town, I set a bagpipes-and-drums playlist on Spotify and headed north and west into the Highlands, or more specifically, Trossachs National Park where lochs (lakes) and bens (mountains) abound. I stopped at a couple of lochs and soaked up the natural beauty.
I found myself wishing I had brought better hiking gear and allowed time for a real day of hiking. I resigned myself to road touring until I passed a trailhead for Ben Aan, which claimed to be a “mountain in miniature” — only 2.5 miles round trip! I found the first parking spot and took off up the trail.
The hike was short and strenuous, basically straight up the mountain, but the views were sweeping and well worth it.
I loved seeing the pretty little primroses along the trail. I’ve only ever seen their domesticated cousins in flower beds, never as wildflowers.
From the mountain back to civilisation in the form of Victoria Square guest house. It’s entirely possible I paid no attention when I was booking this place because I was completely surprised — and delighted — by just how perfect it was. Definitely one of the nicest spots I’ve stayed in these travels.
The evening was long and golden as I set out for a walk around the town to appreciate the lovely springtime and find solace to eat before bed.