Not everyone knows this about me but I love accents. So much so that my family can predict how much I’m going to like…well…just about anyone…based on whether or not that person has an accent. My favorite accents are Indian, British and Scottish, which means I could basically sit in a coffee shop for the next two weeks listening to people talk and this vacation would be a win. Even so, I’m glad we’re doing more than sitting at a coffee shop for two weeks.
The Highland Games
We started Sunday at the Bridge of Allan Highland Games. Bagpipers, bagpipers and more bagpipers. Also, itty-bitty highland dancers and a birds of prey exhibit.
We had to leave before the heavyweight competitions began, which was a major bummer but we still had two castles to visit, both over an hour away from our hotel. And for some reason, everything in Scotland closes before 6pm, killing our sightseeing window…but also forcing us to end our days earlier than we would in say, Disney World or New York City or Boston. So Scotland, our feet thank you.
Our next stop was Jean’s (Doug’s mom) family castle, the Castle Campbell. Did I mention that Sunday’s weather included gale force winds? Literally. A trees-down-in-the-road, bridges-closed kind of wind. But we climbed over the river and through the woods (quite literally) to grandmother’s castle anyway!
Even though the street signs strongly advised against driving up the trail, the hike proved too difficult for Jean. So Doug, determined to see his mother to her ancestral home, drove our mini-bus up the winding trail to a small car park where trees and power lines bent and whipped above our heads. And even still, the remainder of the climb included a steep uphill, downhill and uphill again. But we all made it and the view over the village of Dollar was worth every step.
Next we were on to Stirling Castle, one of the largest and most well preserved castles in Scotland. What a lovely little town one finds in Stirling!
Winding cobblestones streets lined with medieval stone buildings and tiny cafés like the Darnley Coffee House where Jacquelyn and I shared the restaurant’s last baked potato, I devoured a bowl of butternut squash soup and Christina discovered she likes brie.
We found this little gem at around 3pm, when Steve insisted we eat right away. For some reason, Doug’s parents actually like to stop what they’re doing to eat lunch, rather than subsist on tic tacs and whatever snacks we dig out of the bottom of our backpacks. Turns out breaking for a meal can really refresh a person. Who knew?
We arrived at Stirling Castle around 4:30pm just as the rain started, though the downpour held off until after we left at 5:45pm. My favorite moment at this sprawling, well-preserved castle was touching the heavy, wooden door that Mary Queen of Scots herself pushed open every time she walked into her chambers.
Soooo awesome, right? Other interesting facts: the Douglas Garden at Stirling, while appearing quaint, is so named because young King James II stabbed the Earl of Douglas and tossed the corpse out of a window into the gardens below. Also, the North Gate, pictured below, is the oldest part of the castle, dating back to the 1300’s.
I desperately want to compare the castles and give you my opinion (What?! Nichole wants to share her opinion?! Shocking, I know.) about what’s good and what’s bad and what’s awesome. But I’m going to do my best to wait, (a) Because a wee bit more castle experience might be in order and (b) I can’t keep up with these freaking blogs. I’m tired, man. So maybe at the end of our vacation you’ll get a comprehesive comparison.
Anyway, we finished Sunday’s sight-seeing with a wall walk along the castle perimeter in the rain, feeling very Scottish indeed.
Jacquelyn: Even the cracks in their roads are cooler than ours!
Then we returned to our hotel for dinner at the country club, champagne in the lounge (compliments of management) and lots of time on the stairs in the hallway doing everything short of a wifi dance to harness a signal strong enough to update social media and upload my first Scotland post.
And now here’s my second, written at a Marriott near the Aberdeen airport where the wifi’s so strong I almost uploaded the post directly from my brain.
Edinburgh Castle, the Royal Mile, Princess Gardens & Street
BTW: Lots of photo credits to my girls because apparently I lost all my Stirling photos. Weird.