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The Wallace Monument © Susan Wallace

June 27 – A Castle of Kings
The Wallace Monument

Just as I am not a city person, I'm also one to avoid any sort of tourist attraction, if at all possible. I don't like crowds; I need my space (man.) But the best way to see the ground where the Battle of Stirling Bridge was fought is from the top of the Wallace Monument in Stirling.

Being born a Wallace, I also feel a sort of familial obligation to visit here. Imagine being a Wallace and going to Scotland and not visiting the Wallace Monument. How could I ever possibly justify that?

We pull into the car park and head for the visitors' center, which is really no more than a gift shop and admission area. Robin and I thoroughly browse the gift shop comparing the books here to our extensive libraries back home. We exclaim over newfound items, leafing through, considering, but deciding against adding these books to our weight-gaining suitcases.

We wander back outside and stand with a few other visitors waiting for the shuttle to the top of Abbey Craig, the hill upon which the Monument stands. It's a very steep hill and we've decided to ride the shuttle to save our legs for the 296 steps we have to climb.

The Freedom statue © Robin Simpson

There's a statue to contemplate while awaiting the shuttle – a statue of Mel Gibson. Granted, it doesn't have Mel Gibson's name on it; the word "Freedom" is inscribed at the base. But it's Mel Gibson all right, looking fierce and outraged and a little surprised, as if a hedgehog may have just climbed up under his kilt. With a mixture of disappointment and affront, I heave a tremendous sigh.

The presence of this statue here at Abbey Craig smacks of something akin to irreverence in my opinion. I find out later in the week, much to my delight, that I am in good company in my sentiments.

Soon the shuttle arrives and, accompanied by more bagpipe music, the driver takes us up, up, up this hill – this hill where Wallace and Moray hid the bulk of their army, while on the other side of the serpentine Forth, de Warrenne's and Cressingham's army crossed a narrow bridge, two by two, and met their downfall.

Stepping off the shuttle at the base of the tower I gape open mouthed with my head tilted back. The monument is huge. It reminds me of the giant sequoias rising into the sky – so tall that it's impossible to see it all at close range.

There are many other intrepid travelers here speaking many different languages, but also many natives to this land, including a few bikers in leathers. I ponder this, wondering how they possibly plan on making the climb to the top of the tower in such clothing, but apparently they're not making the climb today; they're just here for the view, which is magnificent.

Dana settles for the view as well, a previous experience with vertigo on the roof at Lincoln Cathedral keeping her adventurous spirit in check. There are benches here and she takes a seat, wishing Robin and I well as we set off.

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