Monday, 11 October 2010

My First Trip - Our first full day

27 July

We woke up bright and early, considering we spent the last two days practically awake the entire time! I got up first (I found out early on, I'm a morning person, Cathy's a night person, so we don't mess with each other at those times) and got showered. I got dressed and made-up while Cathy had the bathroom and when she got back we went downstairs for our first full Scottish breakfast!

Judy greeted us with a smile, saying that we looked much more relaxed than we did the night before. We slept like logs and the morning welcomed us with soft light and mild weather. Remember, we left 6,000 degree weather - well, okay, only about 100 degrees, but isn't it all the same over 95?

We sat down to breakfast and before long we found out what exactly a "full Scottish breakfast" really was. Sheesh! Waddalotta food!! Whew! There wasn't any way I was going to eat all of this stuff! First course, porridge. We didn't know what that was but heck; we were trying new stuff left and right, so we were game. Come to find out, its quite like oatmeal. We ate that stuff all the time!

Then came the eggs, bacon (which is more like a slab of ham!), mushrooms, toast, tomatoes, and juice or tea (I opted for both). I fell head over heels in love with the tea in Scotland! The combination of the purest water in the world and the wonderful tea (made for hot tea, not iced tea like most of it is in the States) made for a very enjoyable (and quite inexpensive) beverage. The last course was a basket of danishes, which we never had room for! We rolled ourselves back upstairs and got our stuff for the day and headed out.

We were headed for Stirling, hitting Bannockburn first.

Before we left, we purchased a Great British Heritage Pass, which covered over 5,000 sites in all of Great Britain and Ireland. It saved us almost $50 in admissions while on our first trip. However, once we got to Scotland, we found out for about £12, we could've bought one specifically for Historic Scotland properties (which covered most of what we visited anyway) and we'd have saved even more. Live and learn.

We found the Bannockburn Museum (owned and run by the National Trust for Scotland) with no problem, the signs were very helpful, and we quickly found a parking place. We toured the museum first then went out to the battlefield. There are a lot of battlefield sites in Scotland. Most of the ones that are kept up are of great importance to the country's heritage: Flodden, Bannockburn, and Culloden are a few. This one is the battlefield where on 24 June 1314, Robert the Bruce fought along with many men of Scotland to win their freedom from England. He eventually became King of Scotland. There is a wonderfully crafted statue of King Robert on his horse, both dressed for battle; larger than life on the battlefield with a distant view of Stirling Castle in the background.

The weather was trying to rain but it just couldn't ruin our day.

We went into town to exchange currency. We didn't know much about ATM's in the UK before we left so we got cash converted as we went along. Oh how much one learns!! The rate changed every day so we only exchanged what we needed to. When we returned to the car, which was badly parallel parked, a policeman approached. "Are you new to the area?" Yes. "Don't park on a double yellow lines there, you'll get a fine." Then he let us go on our way. We had pulled in behind a truck that had just pulled out of that space, too!

We made it to Stirling Castle. The parking was £2 (and still is 12 years later!). This was the first castle we saw! We're not counting Edinburgh Castle since we were exhausted and toting those albatrosses around killed any sense of tourist attitude we had. It was stunning! It was foreboding, menacing, and looked like you didn't want to mess with it! Cobblestone paths, stone walls, a feeling of pure history! Awesome!

Stirling Castle has been around for centuries and has been the home of Kings, a barracks for troops during the war, and obviously a tourist attraction. It holds so much history for Scotland. They're in the process of updating and restoring the castle to bring it back to its former glory. I can't wait to see what they end up doing with it!

The next stop was the Wallace Monument. The monument raised to the hero of Scotland, William Wallace. We purchased our tickets and headed up the steep, steep, steep, etc hill to get to the bottom of the monument. We found out later that we could've gotten a shuttle bus to the top for 50p! It was one of the most ominous awesome sights we had the honour to enjoy. The million or so steps that takes you to the top (in a very small area, people passing on the way down had to literally squeeze by) had several stop-off points to catch your breath - er - I mean to see some of the exhibits. One of these, contained William Wallace's sword - a Claymore. On to the top, this had to be one of the most exquisite views! I could see for miles around and I almost felt like I was in a cloud! Wonderful sights from the top, the sight of Stirling Bridge, Stirling Castle, Falkirk... Cathy didn't make the climb because she didn't like small spaces. So I took tons of photos for her to see when we got back.

We tried and tried to find Falkirk battlefield (the tourist office said it was only a playground now and gave me half-hearted directions) but it alluded us as we drove all over Falkirk. We finally gave up and went back to the B&B.

The weather was cool, sometimes even chilly. It rained a bit but mostly had been a very nice day. We enjoyed the cool while people all around us were wearing sweaters and jackets, we were perfectly comfortable. It was a great change of pace from the heat of Arkansas!

On our second day there, I could say that was the best trip I'd ever taken and I had the time of my life!

In my original posts, I kept a financial run-down of our costs. Obviously, over the last 12 years, they have changed. I'll repost them in 1998 terms and whenever I can, I'll add 2010 prices.

   West End Brewery Pub (Stirling) no longer there
        Huge 1/4 roasted chicken, salad, chips, and water - £2.25 (Probably about 3 times that these days)
    Dundonald Arms Hotel (Culross) no longer there; the building has actually been demolished!
        Shepherd's Pie, salad, soup, bread, water - £7.30
Bannockburn Battlefield & Museum:
    £2.50 entry (£5.50 now)
Stirling Castle:
    £4.50 entry (£9.00 now)
Wallace Monument:
    £3.00 entry (£7.50 now) ... my have times changed!!

Definitely worth every penny we spent that day. The gift shops were awesome and the people are more than we expected. Friendly doesn't quite cover how wonderful these people were to us and we were visitors!!

Next: On the way to Inverness

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