My 2014 excursion through Scotland came and went and left me with an unshakeable desire to return sooner rather than later, and hopefully with my family in toe. I don’t know about others with Scottish ancestry, but my family loves ours. Let’s take for example the Property Brothers, Jonathan and Drew Scott.“But they’re Canadian!” you say. Yes, of course, we all know that! (Property Bros fanbase has a huge crossover with mine*) But did you know that they are part Scottish? Before learning of their Scottish ancestry, which quite frankly should have gone without saying since their last name is literally “Scott”, I have to be honest and say my father was not a huge Property Bros fan—the shock! Then somehow it got out that they had Scottish blood and now my dad loves them. I wish I were making this up. I really, really wish. And what’s worse, I did the same thing. Some things should be kept to myself, I know. Tribalism is a slippery slope, my friend.
Now that I’ve spent too much time discussing the Property Brothers, let’s get back to 2017, when my family and I finally made it to Scotland together for a week of exploring the motherland. We had spent the previous week exploring the other motherland that is Ireland and were ready to take on part 2 of what I have just now deemed The Great Ancestral Tour.
After landing at the Edinburgh airport, we promptly rented a car and headed straight to our first destination of Stirling, where we planned on spending an afternoon walking around and grabbing dinner. “Stirling, like a huge brooch, clasps Highlands and Lowlands together,” wrote author Alexander Smith in A Summer in Skye. Think of it as the entryway into the Highlands and, most importantly, the final stop before reaching the territory of the ruffians who made up the seriously brilliant and incredibly attractive MacFarlane clan.
Stirling has a lot of history– too much to do real justice in this blog post– but here’s a quick run down. Given the massive hill it rests upon and the River Forth at its base, the location was prime real estate for defense against enemies. Originally built in the early 12th century, Stirling Castle was a royal residence into the 13th century until the Wars of Independence, when William Wallace led the Scots into rebellion. Given Stirling’s key location, the area would be hotly disputed over in order to gain the upper hand of Scotland itself. Wallace and his men saw victory at the Battle of Stirling Bridge (you can see a bridge now that was built not too long after this battle, but the original was made of wood), only to have the English retake Stirling a few years later in 1304. Naturally the Scottish took it back in 1341/2 or else I’d be sitting here describing my trip to England.
Many royals made their appearance here, such as Mary Queen of Scots and her son and future king, James, for events such as coronations and baptisms. James’ son, Henry was born here. Eventually the castle was used more as a prison or for the purposes of the military, but, as you can see, the town has been bustling for several centuries as of now.
What I remember most about Stirling—apart from the dominating castle—are the hills. I have a feeling you could give each resident a pair of short-shorts and watch as a town of leg models flash their chiseled calves and thighs of bricks, rocking those gams from the top of the hill to the bottom. If diabetes exists there, it is purely type 1. There were an awful lot of empty beer cans in the recycling bins placed on the curbs, but they probably used the alcohol as a numbing agent to get through the daily climb. I hear you, Stirling, and I understand. Think of this town as a warm-up to the hiking you’ll be doing once you get a bit more north. It works perfectly that way.
Our time in Stirling was short, and the castle was closed while we were there, but it was worth the hike up. The view from the castle is not only beautiful, but it’s also where history happened. One of my favorite things to do while traveling is to look around and imagine the centuries of people who have been where I am, the battles fought in the very place upon which I’m gazing, and thinking how not much time has really gone by in the grand scheme of things. William Wallace and Robert the Bruce weren’t just characters in one of my favorite movies of all time, they were real, and they were just there.
After a tasty dinner at The Portcullis, it was time to head to the real motherland, the home of the original MacFarlane clan, where we would avenge our ancestors and retake the territory that is rightfully ours! Or did we just walk around and take pictures and stuff? Looks like you’ll have to read to find out!
*They don’t. I made it up.
1. Fawcett, Richard (1995). Stirling Castle. B.T. Batsford/Historic Scotland.
2. Tabraham, Chris (1997). Scotland’s Castles. BT Batsford/Historic Scotland.
^Bear with me as I’m still trying to figure out how to put the references in the post itself.