June 27 – A Castle of Kings
Stirling Castle photo gallery
Down the road, around the corner, and up another hill and we've arrived at Stirling Castle. I wasn't very interested in seeing Stirling Castle at first, and only included it on my list of things to see because of its proximity to the Wallace Monument. However, in our weekly online chats, my interest was piqued by an ongoing discussion Robin and Dana engaged in each time Stirling Castle was mentioned. They'd both been the year before, and seen the restoration work that has been done here.
A castle of kings dating back to the 5th century, the first recorded mention of Stirling was during the reign of Alexander I (1107-1124) who died here. Built atop a volcanic mound and surrounded by the Gargunnock and Touch Hills to the south, the River Forth and the Ochils to the north, and boggy marshes to the west, the castle acted as the key to control of Scotland during periods of political upheaval throughout the centuries.
The buildings which crown the summit all date from the late 15th to early 16th century, during the reigns of James IV, James V and James VI. Remarkably intact, several of these buildings have been and are currently being restored to reflect their original qualities and former splendor. Dana loves what has been accomplished thus far, especially in the Great Hall, and Robin hates it and I was to be the deciding vote. (Lucky me.)
As we pull into the car park, the thought strikes me that I should have suggested that we see the castle on the last day of our trip. Robin and Dana are both passionate in their opinions regarding this restoration work, and I will be traveling with them for another seven days. I realize that it is a dilemma that may require some diplomacy, yet vow to give my honest opinion.
The rain we were promised still hasn't materialized. Blue sky is peeking through the clouds and atop the mound a refreshing breeze stirs the air. It has turned out to be another gorgeous day. The golden harled walls of the Great Hall gleam grandly in the bright sunlight and I'm reminded of Sleeping Beauty's castle at Disney World as I stare up at the colorful moldings. I reserve judgment until I've seen more. In fact, I make a firm inner decision to dismiss my duty as juror during this visit and just enjoy seeing what there is to see. There will be time to consider my verdict later.
As we walk up the path to the castle, a tour group is assembling in front of a statue of Robert the Bruce. "West Virginia over here," a woman calls out. "Pennsylvania over here." "Not yet, not yet," I say with uncharacteristic boldness, smiling and quickly raising my camera in an attempt to get a clear shot. None of the tour group members are listening to their leader, but she hears me and kindly steps aside while I take a photograph. I thank her and rush to catch up with Dana and Robin who are disappearing through the gates of the esplanade.
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