Trip Start Apr 26, 2006
Trip End May 10, 2006

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Flag of United Kingdom  ,
Monday, May 1, 2006

When we woke up this morning to find that it was rainy, cold, and windy. We had a nice breakfast at the B & B-I had scrambled eggs with smoked salmon. Not what I'd choose every morning, but it wasn't bad.

We started out at the Stirling Castle, which is similar to Edinburgh Castle on a sheer cliff. This castle is beautiful and well set-up for exploring. There is evidence that this site has been used since prehistoric times, but the current buildings only date back 1381 because Robert the Bruce had ordered the old castle destroyed so that the English couldn't continue to use it as a stronghold. James V built a lavish palace there as a wedding present for his wife Mary de Guise and it continued to be used, added to, & improved by the rest of the Stewart line. There is ongoing excavation of the site, and the palace is being closed for a number of months starting next week so that it can be restored-I guess we lucked out on our timing.

At the castle they are also in the midst of a major project to recreate a series of major tapestries from the Middle Ages. They are hand-weaving replicas of the Hunt for the Unicorn tapestries. These are huge (maybe 20' x 12') and take years to complete even with multiple people working on them daily. They've gotten 2 done so far and we watched them working on a third which is scheduled to be done in the summer of 07.

We walked from the castle to the 15th century Church of the Holy Rude, the 2nd oldest building in Stirling after the castle. This is where the 13 month-old James VI/I (Mary Queen of Scots' son) was crowned king of Scotland after his mother was coerced into abdicating. The coronation sermon was preached by John Knox, a religious rival of his Catholic mother. This church has some nice stained glass windows.

From there we headed to the Wallace Monument (for William Wallace, who you probably best know from the Braveheart movie). Wallace's army won a decisive battle at Stirling and numerous other battles for Scottish independence were fought nearby. This monument is a tall, crowned tower on the top of a hill. We walked up the steep hill to the monument and then walked the 246 steps on a small, stone, spiral staircase to the top of it. It was quite the hike. At various levels in the monument there were displays including Wallace's sword which is nearly as tall as I am. Apparently, Wallace was around 6'6". The view from the top of the monument was hampered some by the weather (and it was COLD), but it was still pretty.

We left Stirling and drove to Linlithgow Palace (15th century), which is where James V & Mary Queen of Scots (his daugher) were born. This was a huge palace-5 stories. It is in ruins, but enough of it is intact to be able to explore and see what it was. We were able to climb up to the top of an intact tower and look down on the entire palace which was impressive. The palace included some very detailed masonry, some of which has survived relatively intact. As a side note, someone backed into our car in the parking lot. A good Samaritan left a note for us with the license plate of the offender who, by report, didn't even bother to stop & look at the damage (minor, but we'll have to pass the info along to the rental company).

After Linlithgow, we headed towards Peebles. First we visited the local castle, Neidpath Castle. Not as exciting as some of the others, but decent & largely intact. It is along the Tweed River, which was a beautiful setting.

We're spending the night in Peebles, which is one of my favorite quaint Scottish towns. The rain mostly stopped by afternoon, but it was still windy and cold. We walked around a bit until we needed to thaw. Our hotel room was very cold so we asked about having the heat turned on only to be told that they'd turned it off for the day because people complained it was too warm. It didn't break 50 degrees today! Anyways, they brought us space heaters to get us warmer until the main heat kicks in sometime during the night.

Town name of the day: Penicuik

Pedometer report: 6 miles! Keep in mind that a chunk of the distance was going up hills/stairs. We got our workout & I rewarded myself with shortbread cookies.
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