The first part of our Scotland & Isle Of Man trip had begun: we had just spent a night in Nairn, a small town near Inverness, and we now had a full day ahead to get down to Heysham in northern England to catch an absurdly-timed ferry at 2am to the Isle Of Man.
We started the day having no idea how we were going to fill it. My initial thought was Blackpool, less than an hour from the ferry port, as I’ve never been there and want to experience the famous Pleasure Beach at least once (and probably only once, I’d imagine). Then I started thinking closer to home, and we considered visiting some of the sites around Inverness, like Culloden battlefield or Fort George.
Eventually, we decided to make some headway on our 6 hour journey before stopping anywhere, and I thought perhaps we should utilise our Historic Scotland passes and stop at Stirling Castle, seeing as at a hefty £15 entrance fee, it’s one of the most expensive attractions our passes cover. It was a good halfway point and it was somewhere I had passed by so many times as I flew up the motorway from Glasgow, usually on a Megabus.
Because Ash is still learning to drive, he couldn’t quite make it all the way to Stirling as we hit the motorway, so we swapped just up the road in the small town of Dunblane.
I’ve only heard of Dunblane for two reasons, the main one being highly unfavourable. Dunblane was home of the biggest mass shooting in British history, in which most of the victims were 5-year-old primary school pupils. One of the near-victims of the tragedy was Andy Murray, one of my favourite tennis players and the other reason I’ve heard of it.
In the knowledge that Dunblane has tried to put its past behind it, I immediately warmed to the town when we passed over a roundabout with cute, old-fashioned directional signs to various places. Then we got into the centre of town and it was SO CUTE.
And then we turned the corner and OH my God.
Will you look at that?!
We immediately decided to take a short break here and hopped into the car park opposite the cathedral. Luckily there was a single space left, and Ash lined himself up to park in public for the first time outside of Orkney. A woman was sitting in the car next to the space, door wide open across the space and clearly no intention to close it. After a swift honk, she closed the door and we realised that her husband had parked LIKE AN ASSHOLE way over the line, leaving no room to actually fit a car into the space. By this point, other cars were behind us waiting, Ash panicked, and I yelled some passive aggressive comment about people parking like absolute morons as we drove off.
We ended up parking on the road outside a shop, and were immediately blocked in by a lorry that stopped in the middle of the road, to the point that I couldn’t open my door. It was going well.
Eventually, though, we made it to the cathedral, which was 132% worth it.
Weirdest moment of the day: passing by the Historic Scotland desk inside the cathedral and hearing someone asking for advice on how to get to the Brough Of Birsay, in Orkney, and receiving it without hesitation.
After grabbing a quick lunch from the shop, we were on our way again, at least for ten or twenty minutes before we stopped again in Stirling.
Stirling Castle was busy – we had to queue to get into the car park on a one-in / one-out system, but because we arrived fairly late in the day, we got in within a couple of minutes.
The thing that struck me the most about the castle, having passed it so many times and always finding beauty in the way it stands tall over the landscape, was just how beautiful the landscape was from it. I could feel the intake of breath every time I found another viewpoint, no matter which way it was facing.
But other than that, there’s a lot to see inside the castle and its grounds. One of the highlights was the Highlander’s Museum, which surprisingly had the most Scottish history I’ve seen in a museum.
And the castle gardens.
Which Gulliver also loved!
I also really liked the chapel, purely because it felt so out of place amongst the Scottish elegance. It has a clear Mediterranean influence to it.
And of course, no castle visit is complete without standing in awe at the royal palace rooms. Stirling Castle is completely overborne by its incredible tapestries that adorn many of the walls in the palace.
Oh, and Ash didn’t bother going into the vaults because it’s a children’s area. Naturally, I went into the vaults because it’s a children’s area, and this is what happened.
They didn’t fit me.
I’m really glad we made the stop here. If you have a free day while you’re in Glasgow or even Edinburgh, I definitely recommend making it over to Stirling. Apart from the castle, the city itself is totally beautiful and set on those narrow, cobblestone streets that everyone loves. I’d love to spend more time in the city centre the next time I visit – because there will definitely be a next time!
Stirling Castle is £15 to visit, but we entered free thanks to our Historic Scotland membership! You can look into explorer passes to save loads on attraction visits around Scotland, too. It’s definitely been worth us joining!