Day Trip to Stirling
Part of: Solo UK and France by Train
On my last full day in Glasgow, I made an afternoon trip by train to Stirling, mainly to see Stirling Castle and the National Wallace Monument. It was an easy trip of 25 minutes each way.
I didn't have a map of Stirling, and the town was larger than I expected. Signs to the castle were also not quite as prevalent as you might think. So I took a picture of the big city map displayed in the train station and referred to it frequently on my camera screen! I ended up walking A LOT, and of course castles are almost always on top of hills... and this one is no different. It's quite a hike from the train station, and I extended it further by hunting down the Old Bridge first (which is in the opposite direction, across some uninspiring roundabouts).
Unfortunately this is not the bridge of the famous Battle of Stirling Bridge, in which William Wallace defeated the English - that one was a bit upstream. This one was built around 1500, but it did play a role in the Jacobean Rebellion.
From the bridge there were nice views of the National Wallace Monument, which was built in the 1860s in honor of William Wallace and his victory at the Battle of Stirling Bridge. It contains a museum on Wallace and the Scottish independence movement, and you can climb to the top for views.
At the top of the hill in Stirling, you walk through the Old Town before you reach the castle, and it has lots of sights of interest - I only had time to see a few. One is the Church of the Holy Rude - a great name, right? "Rood" means "cross", but I've never seen it spelled as "Rude" before. It was built in the 15th century and was the parish church of young Mary Queen of Scots, and the site of the coronation of her infant son James VI in 1567. Unfortunately I wasn't able to make it inside before it closed.
Between the church and castle stretches the impressive Old Town Cemetery. It has several different sections and the graves range from the 1500s to modern times.
At the highest point of the cemetery is the Ladies' Rock, from which the women of the court watched their knights in tournaments in the valley below. I found it a wonderful little spot - soft and grassy, with a bench and a nice shade tree, and excellent views of the church, cemetery, and castle.
Then I finally arrived at the castle, where a glorious rainbow greeted me! It was lovely, and it stretched from the statue of Robert the Bruce to the Wallace Monument in the distance.
The castle was very interesting, and very scenic. I really enjoyed walking all around the outside, up on the walls and in the garden. The views of the surrounding valley are spectacular, and the light was pretty great most of the time. It was crazy windy and poured down rain at one point, but the sun was out enough to get my photos, so I was happy.
This geometric formation below the castle is called the "King's Knot" and I think it is really cool! It was created as a garden in the 1630s, but there is evidence of an even older circular earthwork underneath. That older part may be a Roman fort, but it has also been associated since the Middle Ages with King Arthur's Round Table!
The interiors weren't very exciting to me, because none of them are original. The castle was used by the military for a long time and they've just recently renovated the interiors to try to approximate how it looked when the royals lived here. I did enjoy the guides' period costumes, though.
And that does it for Scotland! The next morning I left for Liverpool, where I spent three nights, followed by York, where I'm about to sleep my last of three nights before continuing south to Peterborough. I had a fun and productive time in both, including a big day trip by train today, and a wonderful dinner with an old friend from Edinburgh tonight.