Home > Vacation > Scotland – Day 1: Stirling

Scotland – Day 1: Stirling

October 14, 2011 Leave a comment Go to comments


Check into your hotel. The rest of the day is free to relax in Scotland’s largest city. At 6 pm, meet your Tour Director and traveling companions for a welcome dinner at your hotel.


The original plan was to take the train to see Stirling Castle. Before or after we would take the bus from Stirling to Doune Castle. Considering the weather forecast kept predicting rain, our need to sleep in after the flight, our usual speed of movement (or lack thereof), and the need to be back before 6, it was unlikely we would get to do both. As much as I wanted to see Doune (where Monty Python was filmed), Stirling was likely to be more fruitful, so off we went.

The Queen Street Station was just a few blocks from the hotel, thankfully. We used a nifty little kiosk to print out a ticket. It was about £15 round-trip ($24 USD) per person and a 30-45 minute trip. Very important to hold on to your tickets, because you need them to leave the stations upon arrival, not just for departure.

As Wiki says, Stirling is the one largest and most important castles in Scotland. The town is quite small.

Typical street in Stirling

But this is what I wanted to see; small towns, buildings built against each other, brick or cobblestone roads. Very exciting for me after we left the station. When we arrived at the castle car park, there were several classic cars together. Not sure what was going on, but made for some good photos. I only posted one photo so I wouldn’t have to remove the license plates from the photos.

First view of Stirling Castle

I’ll admit, the first view I had of Stirling Castle was a bit of a letdown. I was expecting something much larger. I think part of this is because a), they are smaller than what you expect after watching films, and b), you have to be further away to see everything. Wiki’s photo looks more impressive, because of the walls and cliffs. I think most of the major castles, at least the ones we saw, are mostly about walls, rather than buildings. Scottish castles seems to be more… functional?, less extravagant than say, something like Neuschwanstien. So while there are some very nice palaces (used for living, not defense), don’t expect to see something out of a Disney movie. Anyway, on to the photos. For history, see the above links.

The entry was more impressive.

One my favorite shots of the day, is a view of the Outer Defenses overlooking the town:

Another one I like is of the Northern Bailey, where a more recent guardhouse was built. You can see better how the castle wall goes on and really does have quite a reach.

Nether Bailey

Most, if not all, of the palace rooms and Great Hall have been extensively renovated. Check out the gallery for a few photos. One last photo from Stirling. There was a neat view on a postcard of the Robert the Bruce in the foreground and the Wallace Monument in the background. I attempted to replicate this from near the castle entrance. I posted two versions. One with the statue in focus, one with the monument in focus. While I prefer the latter, it looks odd, because the foreground is not in focus. Here is the other one:

Robert the Bruce and the Wallace Monument


The day done, we took the train back to Glasgow. We happened to take the non-stop train, so the journey back was faster. We wandered around and eventually made it back to the hotel in time for dinner. Last photo, is of the Duke of Wellington statue in front of the Gallery of Modern Art… with a traffic cone on its head. Apparently a long-standing tradition. Very cool, but apparently damaging to the statue, so not to be condoned.

Duke of Wellington

Dinner was at the hotel. We met the tour guide, John Howarth, whom I can’t thank enough. Dinner was a 3-course selection with 3-4 items to choose from for each course. Always a vegetarian options which was thoughtful. Apparently this is not always normal. Another couple said they did a tour with a different company in Italy, and there was no choice of food. Eat it or starve, I suppose. Format is casual, no dress-up required, contrary to what the guide book said. Sit anywhere you want, with whoever you want. It’s worth noting here, that the guide book didn’t always match our tour. I think this is in large part due to it being cautious, and while specific for our tour, still too generic. The other part is due to our more relaxed, less formal tour guide. Hereafter known as John.

Stuffed and exhausted, we hit the sack. Had to get up at 6am, because the luggage has to be outside the room at 7am.

Full Gallery – Day 1

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