Historic Scotland Are Doing A Stirling Job

In one of my random posts last year, I mentioned that Laura and I had won a Historic Scotland competition. We each got a year’s membership for free, and also a VIP tour of Stirling Castle. So on Saturday, we went to have the tour.

It was a cold day and quite misty, but could have been worse… at least it wasn’t windy or raining. The mist meant that the normally impressive views from the castle were cut quite short, but the Wallace Monument looming out of the gloom looked quite atmospheric.

We arrived to a very warm welcome from the Historic Scotland staff, and Laura was presented with a goody bag. Given the choice of a “VIP” tour that started at 10am or a normal tour at a more civilised time, we’d opted for a lie-in and a non-VIP tour. Apparently the only difference was we would have had the guide to ourselves on the VIP one… but as our guide, Brian, had more than enough personality to go round everyone in the group, that wasn’t a problem.

This is the last time I'm letting Laura book the hotel room. Ah well, at least it was en suite (in a manner of speaking)

As well as the tour we also wandered around the castle a lot on our own… and took way too many photos. I managed to take a total of 723 over the course of the whole weekend which is excessive even by my recent standards. I’ve now taken well over 5,000 since buying my DSLR at the end of August. (From time to time I like to calculate how many rolls of film I would have had to buy to take that many pictures and how much it would have cost to buy them all and get them all processed. Of course if I was still using film I probably wouldn’t have taken 723 photos in one weekend… but it still makes me feel a little better about blowing all that money on this camera).

Unfortunately by the time we went to the cafe to spend our £50 food voucher, they were all out of hot food. By this time we were starving so it was time to head to our hotel, where we found a nice restaurant next door and proceeded to eat far too much.

No wonder there was no food in the cafe. The kitchen staff were all standing around like statues not doing anything!

We spent a quiet evening around the hotel. Sunday was cold but much clearer, and since we had our Historic Scotland memberships now, we decided to visit some other sites in the area. First was Doune Castle.

The last time I was here, it was swarming with Monty Python fans dressed up in costume and competing for who could do the best recreation of a Python sketch. Today we only met one Monty Python fanatic, but the audio tours did feature a certain Mr Terry Jones.

Laura managed to take two “ghost photos” with weird transparent swirly things in them that didn’t show up either in real life or on any of my photos. It was a shame in a way because a few years ago I probably would have been really excited by this… but then I stopped believing in ghosts and now all I can think is “meh, probably dust or something”. God damn it ghosts, where were you back when I believed in you?

If this was Laura's photo of the hall, you'd be able to see the swirly ghost thing. But it's mine, so you can't.

The woman in the gift shop recommended Castle Campbell to us. We hadn’t heard of it before but it was roughly on the way home so we decided to stop off there and have a look.

It’s in Dollar Glen which I’d also never been to. There was a bit of a walk up and down a slippery path to get there but it was worth it for the views.

Then it was back to Edinburgh just in time to go see War Horse before the final Sherlock was on (I have one thing to say about the Sherlock episode: What. The. Hell.). All in all a very good weekend.

Goody bag contents


I’m still alive, honest…

… though I’ll admit it doesn’t feel much like it when my alarm goes off some mornings 😉

I’ve just been pretty busy and it looks like that’ll continue for another week or two. Knowing life it will probably continue til Christmas. At which point I can sleep through my two weeks off work to recover.

At least it’s mostly the good kind of busy with lots of stuff I enjoy. Last weekend Laura and I took full advantage of Historic Scotland’s special offer where you can get in free to lots of their sites if you print off a voucher from the net. So we had a very cheap (but very cold and windy!) day out down in the Borders, visiting three abbeys (Jedburgh, Dryburgh and Melrose) and the Smailholm Tower.

Then on Sunday we did Edinburgh castle too. It normally costs about fifteen quid to get in so it was well worth taking advantage of the offer.

Turns out we were the first people to visit five sites over the weekend (or at least the first to post the “secret” phrase on Historic Scotland’s Facebook wall), so we won their competition! (well, Laura did, she organised it all so I should give her credit). Looks like we might be having even more cheap weekend trips in the new year as the prize includes annual membership for both of us, as well as a VIP tour of Stirling Castle.

After the castle I met up with Oona and Mari and we had a wander round the Christmas markets until it got too cold for wandering.

I’m off to Braemar later today to do my first “proper” hillwalking in a while. Hopefully we won’t get snowed in and I’ll be back soon to write about the hills, or about the phone app I’m working on, or about my meditation course, or something. TTFN all.