On my last day in Scotland, I was on my own. Amanda, Kyle and Scott were traveling to London to spend a few days. I started my day with my usual breakfast and then decided to put my time to good use by making a day trip to Stirling.
The train left quite often from the Waverley Station, which was only a fifteen minute walk from my hotel. I checked my bag since I was moving on to a new hotel and set out.
A round trip ticket to Stirling was only 9 pounds and was easy to buy at the train station. The train was fairly empty and very comfortable. I got a seat by the window at a table and then stared in amazement out the window for the hour-long ride.
There were lots of farms, tons of sheep and in the distance I could see snow-capped mountains, though I wasn’t able to capture much on my iPhone camera.
Stirling is adorable.
The castle is easy to find and up a really, really big hill. Let’s just call it a small mountain. The climb is totally worth it, there are a lot of really interesting things along the way.
At the top of the hill, just outside the castle, is an amazing statue of Robert the Bruce.
I bought my ticket and went inside. Almost the entire castle is open for visitors to wander through, though only a few rooms have any furnishings. As I wandered about I ran into a few costumed staff people who were happy to tell stories about life in the castle.
The castle was built by James V of Scotland as a wedding present so he and his French wife Marie de Guise would have a place where they could showcase how fantastic they were. There were symbols of their power, intelligence, and style throughout the building (their words, not mine!). For example, carved heads in the King’s Inner Hall were images of the King and then people he thought were in his class, ancient romans, demigods, royal ancestors, you know the usual. The Queens rooms were set up with replica furnishings and her bed was fantastic. Although, like most royals of the day, that was only for show and she actually slept in an adjacent closet that’s not much bigger than my closet at home! I wish I was important enough to have a fancy bed to lounge in while receive my most distinguished guests! Also, her receiving room had one chair. Nobody else was important enough to sit, I guess. Thinking about redoing the seating in my condo now…
I loved the dining room. They had a long trestle table set up at the head of the room with two thrones and some benches. They faced the rest of the room where more trestle tables and benches would be set up for the lesser members of court and let’s just say if I had it to do over again, I’d have gone in a completely different direction when setting up my dining room back home!
I climbed to the top of the castle and the views took my breath away.
Not just because I’d climbed to the top of a castle after I climbed a damn mountain to get there, either! It was glorious. On one side of the castle, fog was in the valley. On the other side I could see snow capped mountains and a very tall monument.
Also in the castle is some sort of military museum. I vowed not to visit one of those since my divorce, but the lilting strains of the pipers piping drew me in! The highlights were some really cool costume displays…
and a list of rules for soldiers who wanted to marry…
Afterwards I walked from the castle to the church next door. The Church of the Holy Rude is the second oldest building in Stirling (the castle is number one) and was originally building the 1100’s. It burned down in 1405 but was rebuilt shortly after. Scottish kings had coronations there, but sadly it’s closed to tourists in the winter. Though the graveyard isn’t!
The graveyard has some very old monuments and tombstones. Near the back, and on a steep hill, there’s an overlook with an amazing view of the castle.
Getting down from there was really tricky. I wore my Chucks but even they didn’t have enough tread to keep me from slipping and sliding down the ice-covered path that led out of the cemetery. It’s a Christmas miracle I didn’t end up staying there forever… if you know what I mean.
When I got back to the center of town I saw a sign that said “Fish and Chip Award Winner from Fish and Chip Awards” on No. 2 Baker Street, a little pub on the corner. Since I hadn’t had lunch yet and was cold and hungry after my near brush with death on the cemetery path, I decided to try it!
I can see why they won. The fish and chips were amazing! Plus the pub was lively and I could see football on TV while I ate.
I caught the train back to Edinburgh. I hated to leave Stirling, but the sun sets at 3:30 this time of year and I was hoping to walk to my next hotel. I picked up my bags and left my beautiful room at the Caledonian.
I don’t remember why I thought it would be a good idea to leave the Waldorf Astoria and move to the Hilton. Maybe I thought there would be an executive lounge. Or a shuttle to the airport. Or a fancy suite because of my diamond status. There was none of that! My room wasn’t even in the same building! Instead I was across the street and on the top floor in what could only have been the servant’s quarters back in the day. They didn’t even give me my complimentary bottle of water!
I decided to try to find a pub to have some dinner. Luckily at the end of my street I found Haymarket.
They were even having a special of haggis, tatties, and neeps with a pint for 9 pounds.
I trudged back to my room to pack for the flight home. At least there was the Virgin Clubhouse on my horizon!