On the Loch
Isn't it wonderful when a place lives up to the legend? Scotland is romantic, wild and has beauty that has a mythical, fairytale quality. I have been trying to explain, even to myself, to capture it with words. Its a heady mix of deep history, landscape - the interplay of both the built and the natural. Add to that, the people who were so friendly and genuine that it just kept me captivated at every turn.
We headed off from Edinburgh in our hire car ( admittedly a different one than we had booked - again, when will I learn to pack light?? - our luggage didn't fit in the large sedan so we had to spend extra on a four wheel drive). Our first stop for the day was Stirling Castle. We arrived in Stirling just nearing lunch time. We wound our way up the hill to the castle only to find a queue of cars waiting to get a place in the car park. We decided to turn around, drive back down to the base and walk our way up (hills and climbing is a recurring theme on this trip!). This castle, built atop a crag which is part of the Stirling Sill, a geological formation. From its commanding position the views are incredible. It dates back to the early 12th century although most of what is there today was built between 1490-1600.
Having built most of my impressions of Scottish castles on fodder like Braveheart and Outlander, where they are depicted in their ageing state of bare grey stone it fascinated me to find that Stirling Castle had once looked more like a fairy tale medieval concoction of turrets with pretty flags and multi coloured statuary. Its sophisticated, European flavour was totally unexpected.
The guides in this palace were so knowledgeable and brought the castle's past to life. In the gallery was a series of Polish oak medallions with carved heads that in the 16th Century had adorned the ceiling in the reign of James V. They depicted kings, queens, nobles and figures of antiquity and mythology. In the 18th Century the weight of them was causing the ceiling to collapse so they were taken down. Many were sold or taken by military members who were stationed there. Detailed sketches had been done on a small remaining selection by the deputy governor's wife, Jane Graham she had them published in 1817. My favourite was a mystery lady who had medieval harp notes around her ( they are zeros and ones in the image). They made a recording of this music and it plays in the gallery. It was very romantic, and the tale was made extra special as it was told to us by a man in a kilt.
We had spotted the Wallace Memorial, which is on another high crag, from the castle grounds and drove there. More heights, way more stairs in an incredible Victorian Gothic style tower with an amazing history of not just Wallace but other heroic figures of Scottish history. Being afraid of heights I could not bring myself to climb to the very top but my the rest of my family recommend it to you!
We then headed to what would be our accommodation for the next three nights at Loch Lomond. It was yet another great Airbnb, staying at new accommodation built adjoining a historic manor house overlooking the loch. This is a beautiful area and we spent the time driving around, visiting beautiful villages ( I recommend Luss) taking a lake cruise on Loch Lomond and eating at the cabinet of curiosity that is The Drovers Inn at the northern point of the Loch, full of history, taxidermy and just a tad creepy!!!
Next time….the Highlands