Day 6 / by jean-francois dubeau

Castles and battlefield. 

Today we leave the small town where Fishers Hotel, our home for the previous night, is located. We're technically on our way to Edinburgh, but on the road we're going to stop at a few spots to take in some history.

We're joined today by a very Scotish guide. The honest to god, kilt-wearing Alastair. Alastair is a tour guide machine. On the bus with us from the moment we left the hotel he talked about Scottish history and geography, non-stop during our travels for the day. An extremely competent and eloquent man. If you've read yesterday's post, you'll know that this is very much the kind of approach to history that simply does not hook me. In fact, most of this post was written while I ignored our guide. I don't mean to appear like the man didn't do a good job, he clearly knows his stuff cold, but I vastly prefer a more interactive and narrative approach to history.

Our first stop was Doune Castle. Or as you may remember it 'Winterfell' or that 'Most of the Castles from Monty Python Search for the Holy Grail'. We didn't get much time there, roughly half an hour, which was barely enough for Teras to goof around with coconuts and walk the castle grounds. I didn't mind as I had visited Scotish castles before and could concentrate on taking photos, but it was rushed for others in the group.

 "A graaaaail?"

"A graaaaail?"

Next up we drove to the Wallace Monument. Now, I liked Braveheart well enough, but as much as I love Scotland, her heroes are not my heroes and spending an hour at some monument wasn't exactly exciting to me, but Scotland is full of surprise. Instead of a statue or memorial that one would associate with a 'monument' there stood a tower on top of a hill, five hundred feet up. The climb was exhilarating, especially after so much sitting on a bus. The view from the top was breathtaking, overlooking everything around except for the distant hills. I took my photos as our group caught up to me and we all enjoyed the sights together. One thing I learned on my climb however is that I'm in fairly good health compared to most tourists. This meant I could easily catch up with the group on the way down. This gave me a solid five minutes alone to enjoy the silence and wind as well as the majesty of standing in such a beautiful piece of architecture. I was eventually joined by Brent, one of our Australian, but before then, the moment was quite zen.

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Alastair started to shine after the monument as he gave us a lively description of William Wallace's first and most important victory. This was followed by lunch and then off to Stirling Castle.

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Stirling Castle was fascinating and reminiscent of other castles but convincingly restored and alive. Alastair served as our guide for most of the duration of the visit, while actors playing period characters explaining details about life in the Castle. Alastair was as entertaining on this tour as he wasn't on the bus. It's not the manes fault. He knows his shit like a pro, I just don't like historic lectures. But drop me in the middle of a setting with a knowledgeable narrator and I'm loving it.

The Castle visit also offered more breathtaking views of the surrounding, including the Wallace Monument, but also the river, hills and fields. The day was the best scottish weather had to offer. Sunny with billowing clouds rushing through the sky as winds blew our hair in a tussel.

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After Stirling we took a very short us ride to the presumed site of the Battle of Bannockburn. The actual tour was blissfully short yet informative. It was getting late in the day and we were all getting a little tired and still had one activity to participate in; the Battle Game.

The Battle Game is amazing. It shouldn't be, but it is. I expected some kitschy re-enactment with bad choose your own adventure style video. Instead we got an insanely high tech projection screen tactical war game. The room we were in was a thing out of a sci-fi movie. We got to re-enact the Battle of Bannockburn then had it played back with what really happened. Quite a surprising treat.

After this, it was off to Edinburgh.

JF