Thursday, December 12th 2019 (my first full, proper day in Scotland) dawned drizzle free, and I was awake before my alarm! Bags swiftly packed, I shoveled them in the rental and had a yummy vegan breakfast – my first of many in bonny Scotland. Then I was off for a whirlwind tour of castles, towns, and filming locations!
First stop was the wee village of Culross – used for Cranesmuir and the encampment before Prestonpans, for those Outlander aficionados! (Cranesmuir was the village just outside of Castle Leoch, where Geillis Duncan lived, a boy was nailed by his ear to a post for stealing, and Claire was accused of witchcraft!! #drama And the Jacobites also sheltered here before the fateful battle of Prestonpans). Parking was free near the water, and I had a lovely meander around the stoney streets. I saw the garden behind the palace that was used for Claire’s herb garden, saw the streets featured in Season 2, and I stumbled across an abbey and some ruins that were just fair begging to be explored!
Having lingered in Culross a wee bit longer than anticipated, I was off! Stirling Castle was my next destination, and as soon as I arrived, I bought bought my Explore Scotland Pass (29GBP for students, I got the 14 day pass – soooo worthwhile!) and turned out there was a guided tour just starting, so I jumped in with that, and was very glad I did. It was fascinating hearing the history (dating back to the 1500s) associated with the place, and to see the marks of battle and how history has fallen and been reinvented.
Stirling Castle is also where the original Unicorn Hunt tapestries are, so that was particularly neat to see!
After Stirling, I jaunted across the way to the Wallace Monument (which you can see from Stirling, on a clear day), and as I drove there I saw my very first Heilan Coos!!! It happened so fast I dinnae pull over for pictures, but a squeal issued from me quite unexpectedly!!
The Wallace Monument was taller than I expected – I almost got lazy and didn’t go up, but then I’m like, how many more times will I be back in this place, ready and able to venture up? It’s only 246 steps…NBD until you realize it’s uneven stone steps in a tightly spiraled stone staircase and you’ve always been slightly claustrophobic and scared of heights…
However – totally worth it! They have some excellent displays regarding William Wallace’s life and the history of the time. Seeing his ACTUAL sword was wild. It’s taller than I am and just thinking what it must take to wield, and all that it has been through…Woof. I left saddened and heavy in heart, learning about the horrible acts that were carried out – senseless battles and slaughtered, all for power. It’s awful.
The day was quickly getting away from me, and there was more I wanted to see! Doune Castle was my next destination. You might recognize it as Castle Leoch from Outlander (Cullom MacKenzie’s stronghold) or as multiple castles/sets from Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Entry was free w/ my Explorer Pass, and an audio guide was also included, narrated by Monty Python member Terry Jones (and several tracks by Sam Heughan/Jamie Fraser!). The commentary had me literally laughing out loud, which got people staring – but I dinnae care as I love exploring castles and hearing behind the scenes tidbits and fun, insider stories. It was rather heavily under construction when I visited, plus nearly closing time, so I didn’t end up taking many pictures. But here are a few.
While I’d been hoping to see Bracklinn Falls and a few other sites, the sun was already setting and it was over an hour drive to Falkland, where I was staying for the night. I’d chosen to splash out an stay at The Covenanter Hotel because of its prominent feature in Outlander – it’s where Claire and Frank stayed for their second honeymoon in Scotland (Mrs’s Baird’s Bed and Breakfast), and where the “ghost” of Jamie looked up at Claire from the Bruce Fountain.
I learned it was a mistake not to get vegan food on my way in to the tiny village. Offerings were basically nil, but it was rainy and I was quite tired and couldn’t bring myself to drive 20-30min outside of town to the shop. I had my first unpleasant experience with a person in Scotland at the Bruce Inn – the guy working there came off as entitled, bored, extremely judgey, and quite rude. He was also obviously sick and I was glad he wasn’t the one making my food…And the veggie burger did not arrive as described on the menu, which was frustrating, too!
I stayed in The Bruce room at The Covenanter (not the actual Outlander room – it was nearly twice as expensive!), and I’m not sad because I was less than impressed with the room I did stay in – I’d’ve been pissed paying that much more for an equally crappy room!! The place is rundown, no hooks or place to put your bag besides the floor or trying to balance it on a chair, mold in the bathroom, missing lightbulbs, shower didn’t drain well, tv in the room is not connected to any signal, and the woman working that night was completely unfriendly and not in the least concerned or willing to do anything about when I inquired about the lights and the tv…There’s a bar underneath the rooms, which on the one hand is neat, but on the other incredibly loud, as it seemed to be the only pub open in town (or the most popular) and the walls and floors were paper-thin. All in all, I can’t recommend the place.
Swing through, it’s a cute wee village, see the film sites, but don’t stay longer than the couple of minutes it takes to browse around.