From Edinburgh we took a day trip to the Stirling area. The kids were under the weather and actually enjoyed sitting in the car, relaxing and watching movies (gasp). They usually are not fans of the car. Especially the “wee” one. That’s what the locals called Carter.
Our first stop was to the Hopetoun farm shop off the M9. I wanted to see Hopetoun House; a country estate where one of my favorite tv shows filmed (Outlander). Due to this being a private estate on private roads, you have to first obtain a permit at the farm shop for your vehicle. Unfortunately, I was informed they would not be giving out any permits that day so my hopes and dreams of seeing Jamie Fraser’s home: Lallybroch, were crushed.
We continued up towards Falkirk and stopped at the Kelpies statues right off the highway. If you are travelling through Scotland this is a good place to stop as there is plenty of space to stretch your legs, a playground nearby, toilets, and a small cafe. We snapped some pictures and ate a snack at the cafe.
Our next stop was at the National Wallace Monument. This tower sits on a small mountain in honor of William Wallace, a 13th century Scotsman that led the wars of independence. If you have seen the movie Braveheart, you know who this is. Of course, the movie isn’t all too accurate and Scotland doesn’t seem to be a huge fan of Mel Gibson. Nevertheless…that movie is one of the best movies of all time- fact or fiction! The music…the scenery…the romanticism….so yes, as I stated in my previous post, movies like this are why I have been wanting to come to Scotland since middle school.
Regardless of my connecting the monument with the movie, William Wallace is considered a hero and icon in this country. It was on the top of my to do list for the area. We pulled up to the parking lot and looked up the hill to the tower. My husband looks at me and asked “how many steps is it?” Trusty google declared there to be 246 spiraling steps. We looked at the toddlers sitting in the backseat with snot running down their faces and began imagining the different scenarios that could occur on this journey up and down the tower. Then we played the game “Well what do you think?” for a good five minutes before we decided to just continue on with our journey.
About ten minutes further and we reached Stirling Castle which is on a mountain across the valley from William Wallace. The parking lot alone gave us the view we would have had from the monument so I didn’t feel so bad not climbing the tower. It was very windy and cold and had begun to drizzle. Kellan straight up refused to get out of the car, saying he was tired and began asking if we could take him back to the hotel so he could take a nap. I decided to walk around the castle alone while Ben stayed in the car with the boys and persuaded Kellan to just close his eyes and nap in the car.
Stirling is historically significant in Scotland’s wartime history. From the 14th-17th century it has had 8 sieges and and played a huge role in politics. It is also one of the largest castles in the country. I highly suggest a stop here when visiting Scotland. I wish I had more time to spend here but I didn’t want to make my poor kiddos wait too long.
Our next stop was Doune castle about 15 minutes north of Stirling. I had only added this to our itinerary after we couldn’t get the permit to see Hopetoun House. I wanted to see one of the Outlander filming sites and this popped up being nearby. I had not heard of it previously but it ended up being my favorite thing we did that day. Very glad things worked out the way it did. The rain had cleared and the sun came out a little so it started to warm up. At this point the boys decided they were ready to get out of the car so we got to all go in as a family. Our first stop was the gift shop to buy tickets. The two young women working were very friendly and explained all the filming that had been done here (I could tell they had done this before).
Outlander season 1 was filmed here in 2013 as Castle Leoch. They also explained that Game of Thrones filmed their pilot Winterfell scenes here before the show got picked up and they moved locations. Monty Python and the Holy Grail is a popular movie that was shot here. It’s apparent though that this castle has become popular lately due to the show Outlander because the gift shop is filled with show souvenirs. In fact, you can come to Scotland and do full week long Outlander tours. Yeah, the show is that great. I am now on book 3!
We really lucked out and had the castle practically to ourselves. That’s the benefit to winter travel. Sure, the sun rises at 9am and set at 3:30pm. But had we come in the summer we would have fought the crowds. I think what I enjoyed most about this castle is that is was small and very intimate feeling.
You take the tour with an audio headset but can travel through the castle in any direction you please. You just stop when you see a number, enter the number into your device and will hear the information for the room you are in. 3 stops were dedicated to the Outlander filming.
Built in the 13th century, Doune was first the home of Robert Stewart, Duke of Albany. Eventually it was obtained by his father, King Robert II and used as a hunting lodge. Later it became the home of an Earl and saw some damage during the Jacobite rising. It is now cared for by Historic Scotland, and agency that safeguards historic buildings.
After touring the castle the boys were tired again and Ben took them to the car to rest. I walked around the back of the castle and along the creek. It was really nice being the only person out there! I could have walked around for hours; very pretty and peaceful.
We headed back towards Edinburgh and decided to stop into Linlithgow to see the palace. It was getting dark, had started raining, and closing soon so we parked and this time Ben walked around and snapped pictures while I stayed behind with the boys.
Linlithgow was where Scottish monarchs lived in the 15th and 16th centuries before the monarchy left for England; King James and Mary, Queen of Scots to name a couple. Mary has always been a historical figure that fascinates me which is why I wanted to stop here. It would be a beautiful place to visit during nice weather as it is situated on a pretty lake.
*A trip to the highlands is happening as soon as my mom decided when she is coming back to visit. I can’t wait! This is the trip I have been dreaming about since middle school.*