like a huge brooch,
and Lowlands together."
-- Alexander Smith
It was fitting that our first great adventure would be the castle and town of Stirling. It was just a hop, skip, and a jump over the hills from our house and I couldn't wait to visit this beloved place again.
Doing Scotland with a vehicle was a new experience for us and it meant finding legal places to park everywhere we went! Freshly back in Scotland, even this random row of parked cars and the buildings behind them looked quaint and darling.
And there were plenty of the chimneys that always make me smile:
The castle is at the top of the hill so it is a long, steep hike up to the top. Laura was lucky.
We passed a few gardens with a bloom or two struggling for existence at the end of a "hot" summer.
And then we made it to the top and the amazing and magical castle that is Stirling. (Here you see part of the Royal Apartments that James V built -- father of Mary Queen of Scots.):
There has been much restoration work done since we have toured Stirling Castle and it was so fun to walk around the royal apartments and see all the fabulous wall and ceiling work that has been done.
My imagination always runs wild in places like this and I'm always trying to picture what real life was like inside such rooms.
The most exciting thing for Michael and me was seeing 7 of the 8 Stirling tapestries completed and hanging on the walls!!! We were at Stirling last when they had just begun the first one (below). Now they are almost all completed! (The originals are now at the Metropolitan in NYC.)
I never knew how bright and outstanding tapestries were because we usually see them in the faded shadows of what they once were. No wonder tapestries were such a sign of wealth and power.
Here are some little royals enjoying the seats of honor in the Great Hall.
And lunch was our first experience of just being able to go in and purchase a meal for the family at the cafe there on sight. What a treat! Everyone ordered something delicious and not having to think about bringing a meal with us made it very relaxing for me.
The architecture of the castle is just beautiful!
And of course we had to visit the underground kitchens and imagine life in this busy and (maybe nasty) place!
I wanted to walk back to the tapestry workshop and see the work in progress on the final tapestry. What an amazing place to work and look at all the different colors of wool! What beautiful art!
And then we visited the Chapel Royal, built by James VI and one of the very first places of worship in Scotland specifically built for the presbyterian form of worship.
The castle is a conglomeration of various dates and builders, most of the buildings dating from the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries.
Of course the boys were fascinated with the canons!
Stirling Castle was also the very first castle that Michael and I visited when we came to Scotland the first time on a study tour. We weren't dating then, but someone did happen to catch a picture of the two of us together at the castle and so it was the first documentation of our future relationship. So here's another one for the record.
Statue of Robert the Bruce with the William Wallace monument way in the background.
Once we'd had our fill of castle for the day we made our way back down the winding streets and passed a Bagpipe maker, which I had to document for my friend Jess who is learning to play the bagpipes!
What I really need is for one of my Scottish-born boys to decide they want to learn.....
And we walked by Darnley's House...
And back into the town. While there we had to visit the local charity shops and especially the Oxfam book charity shop where I started my collection of books to bring home.
All in all it was a fantastic way to start our trip out and the kids thoroughly enjoyed it. No doubt the castle will always remain a special place for each one of us now.