Time for another day trip, only this one on a mini-bus. (More intimate and comfortable I think, although the guide doubles as a driver. Even so, the guide/driver was very knowledgeable and enthusiastic.)
The entrance to Stirling castle. The tour that I went on did not provide free entrance to the castle (it was an inexpensive tour), but the magical Great British Heritage Pass did. (Let's see, I paid about 55 pounds for a 30 day pass, and so far it's saved me about 20 pounds. We'll see if it was worth it. Note that passes for shorter periods of time are cheaper.)
Views of the countryside from the ramparts.
You can just make out the Wallace monument in the distance.
(Here's a closeup shot taken at a later point in the tour.)
The usual random shots.
The inner courtyard.
Inside the chapel. The ceiling is unusual, and fairly recent.
I don't think that Jennifer Tifft would forgive me if I failed to photograph these costumes. They are recreations, but the details are quite interesting.
The kitchens have recently been excavated (they were filled in with dirt in order to strengthen the structure, and turned into a museum.
Near the castle is the Argyle Apartments.
One thing to note was that Stirling castle was undergoing extensive restoration while I was there, including a complete overhaul of the Great Hall. They had apparently just finished installing a replica of the original hammerbeam roof, substantially larger than the one in Edinburgh. The new roof was made with Scottish Oak (obtained by special agreement from the Forestry Commission), and contains no nails or screws - it's held together with mortice and tenon joints, locked in with wooden pegs.
Also, what I learned of the history of the castle doesn't jive at all with Rick's description. William Wallace achieved one of his first major victories by successfully attacking the castle (although he did it by luring the English troops out of the castle and across a narrow ford.)
A shot of Scotland's only Lake (as opposed to Loch), the result of an error by a Dutch cartographer which stuck. (Boy, those Scottish people sure are stubborn!)
The brown fibrous stuff on the ground is bracken, which is actually a type of fern. It's dead at the moment - the tour guide is of the opinion that it looks better that way. The purpley shrubby stuff is heather. Just so you know.
Various scenes of the Loch (a real Loch this time, I wish I could remember the name of it.)
Doune castle was one of the ones used in Monty Python and the Holy Grail.
"It's only a model!"
"Run away you silly English Kaniggits."
After that, we visited a cathedral who's name, once again, I can't remember.
A 10th-century celtic cross.
This impressive structure is almost 100 years old, yet it looks quite modern.
Just to give you an idea of the scale of things: Notice the train. This is one big bridge.
Also, the pubs have very odd hours. Many of them stop serving food at around 6:00 pm., which is kind of inconvenient for me since I usually have dinner at around 8. (In addition, I often have something to eat just before I go to bed at night, otherwise I wake up in the middle of the night hungry.)
That night I decided I was going to hear some traditional Scottish music. One person recommeded that I go to a pub on the Royal Mile, called The Tron. This pub had one ground-floor level and two underground levels.
The musicians didn't appear to be part of a band or anything, they were just random people with instruments who showed up and congregated around one of the tables.
I entered into a very long and involved conversation with a gentleman who's stated ambition in life was to become an alcoholic liar. "I'm tired of being believed." he said. He had a long trenchcoat with lots of item tucked in it. He seemed like the sort who was down on his luck, and always on the lookout for "opprtunities." He had a piece of colored cloth wrapped around his knuckles. "You either hurt your hand or you are about to punch someone," I commented. "No," he replied, "I just need to hold cloth right now. I'm thinking of getting back into the fabric business." In other words, a character. I bought him a drink, and suggested that in addition to being an alcoolic liar, he should also take up the craft of ranting. "There's nothing like a good rant, you know. Of course, it has to be done properly...in order for it to be considered a proper rant, it has to wander..."
You can kind of tell that it was a strange evening.