Saturday, July 27, 2013

A Stirling day

BC at Ye Olde Family Homestead
Willie Wallace monument behind him
My grandmother told me that her Stewart surname is evidence of royal blood among the Scots. If that is true (and I have heard my share of Scottish yarns), then we had a homecoming yesterday at Stirling castle.

Just a thirty-five minute train ride from Glasgow, Stirling is a picturesque town with a long history. It sits along the River Forth, and has always been a strategic location between the lower and Highland areas of Scotland. On top of the town's largest hill, there is an enormous castle which is a must-see stop for all the tour buses. The site dates from medieval times.

Two princesses survey the digs
We made our way up the hill, through the winding ancient streets, pausing for a few "How much further" moments. Seeing a sign for admission information, we are notified that the castle is another five or ten minute walk up the hill. Yes, it is, and it is magnificent. Ancient rulers could survey their domains for miles. We can look down upon important battlefields for the Scots -- and there are many.

Perhaps the most telling display is a reconstruction of a couple of human skulls which were found upon the grounds of the castle. One of them belongs to a man who was built like a rugby player, about 5'6" and muscular. His cranium had evidence of a hatchet wound, but he seemed to recover from it. The lady near him was not so fortunate; she had two wounds in her skull, and may have been a bit of a warrior herself. Clearly they lived in brutal times. A lot of blood was spilled in Stirling.

From the ramparts, we look out upon the nearby hill where William "Braveheart" Wallace led a mob against the Brits. We stand beneath the monument of Robert the Bruce, looking so fierce that no pigeons dare to land on his head.

Mary, Queen of Scots, was here. I tell my daughters that we are related to her somehow. They are impressed, and then I report that Queen Mary did not turn out so well. They nod knowingly. Not our first uneven relative, I suppose.

As we descend the castle hill, we stop to enjoy the town for a while. A djembe sounds in the Friday afternoon bustle, and a guitar-percussion duo sets up to sing a few tunes. Jamie disappears to buy some yarn in a charity shop and I find a coffee spot. When a kilt-clad piper appears to call tourists to a local establishment, I announce it's time to catch our train.

We returned to Glasgow with the Friday commuters, made ourselves some dinner, and settled in to a family tournament of Uno.

I won a couple of rounds. It's good to be king.

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