Sunday, December 16, 2012


 The Falkirk Wheel (with a rainbow in the background)

This past week was busy, busy again with group meetings, class, tutorials, and fun, fun, fun! On Thursday, I volunteered at a children's Halloween party in a daycare center in Toryglen with C.A.C.T.U.S. The kids sure did have fun and I learned some new games. I shot arrows successfully without hurting myself on Friday. Saturday was another Student Tours Scotland trip, this time to Stirling, and I was so excited to share the day with my flatmate from Canada.

As we approached our first stop, my flatmate and I saw this large structure from a distance. We wondered what it could be. A bridge? (to nowhere?) Hmmm... I knew our first stop was to the Falkirk Wheel, but I was expecting something like the London Eye. As we got closer, and the bus slowed down, I realized this must be the wheel, but, what is it? What does it do? 

Looks like it could be a bridge, right?

Well, it turns out, the Falkirk Wheel connects the Forth and Clyde Canal with the Union Canal and is a rotating boat lift. I'm not convinced of its practicality. I think it's main purpose is as a tourist attraction; for a fee, you too can ride the wheel! The canals really just carry leisure boats anyway.

Leisure boats.

Our tour guide took us on a walk back past the wheel to see the Antonine Wall, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site. The Antonine Wall was constructed by the Romans way back in 142 AD. It spans about 39 miles horizontally across Scotland. Not much of the wall remains today because it was constructed from wood. The wall was built with a deep ditch in front of it to increase its defensive purpose. This ditch is what is mainly visible today.

The part of the wall we were at was a really beautiful area, with lots of trees and grass, though lots of mud, but you get that everywhere in Scotland, and some very happy dogs running all around.

Part of "the wall" and part of the tour group.

A visual of what once was.

It is hard to imagine this beautiful, rolling landscape to have once held a major defensive wall.

Yuck. These holes were once three feet deep and each one contained a wooden stake. This was an added measure of defense to the wall. 

Looking up from the bottom of the hill where the treacherous holes were. 

Back to the beautiful landscape.

The view was spectacular.

We were told not to go this way...something about having gotten very stuck in the mud...

I bought fudge at the gift shop on the way out. The flavor was called "Clootie Dough." I thought that sounded like "cookie dough" so I had imagined something much, much different than what I got. The fudge tasted the way Christmas smells. That was not a good thing. I ended up throwing it away...

Onto Stirling, which quickly became one of my favorite cities in Scotland. This is one of a thousand pictures I took of the Wallace Monument from the grounds of Stirling Castle. It was quite cloudy when we were there, so my pictures of the monument didn't come out as clear as I had hoped.

This is another view of the monument, way out there in the background.

A statue on the castle grounds.

You are now entering the castle. The latch for these doors was enormous!

Looking out into Stirling.

It certainly looks the part, doesn't it?

We only had a little over an hour to explore the castle grounds and inside. That wasn't nearly enough time, but the price of the castle was included in the price of our day tour ticket, which I think was only 15 pounds ($24), and the ticket price for the castle was almost the same price, so I really can't complain.

No time for the Castle Exhibition - must run around and take photos!

I liked the contrast of the gentle rose garden against the cold, stark castle walls and overcast sky.

Former gardens, a shadow of the past.

'Twas a dreary day... but I still enjoyed myself!

I know, I already posted a picture of this. I just really like turrets (I think that's what they are called).

Garden inspiration. For when I have my own castle?

I will not be displaying one of these in my garden, however. For obvious reasons.

I loved that there were gold crowns and jewelry on the figures that were on the roof. The look of it was surprising, but didn't translate too well in the photograph.

I can just imagine this with actual spikes on it; it doesn't make for a warm welcome.

Walking along the perimeter of the castle. There were such great views of Stirling from here.

I don't spy any enemies, but I see where they could have been laid to rest...

Canons are so intimidating. 

The defender's view.


There was a great, big hall inside this building.

A wee bit of history.

Once time was up and we finished our speed walking around the castle, Gary, our guide, walked us into Stirling and we had some time to ourselves to explore, which for me meant getting a hot chocolate with whipped cream and marshmallows from Costa coffee and walking about with my flatmate. She is an architecture major, so it was great to see what she found interesting.

She loved the chimneys. I have to admit, I do too. I love the old British look; it has such charm and the hills in the background make the picture complete.

I also can't get enough of the small car culture here. I wish it would catch on in the U.S. Bigger isn't always better...

You can see the castle up on top of the hill from this view. It overlooks the town much like Edinburgh Castle does. We walked back down into the city centre to take a look around. There was a market on the street and we sampled some delicious fudge. I regretted my Clootie Dough fudge purchase the second I tried the Sticky Toffee Pudding fudge. Mmmmm. We met back up with Gary and he took us on a mini tour of the city.

I can't remember what this building was - a hotel? A high school? That's what I get for going on trips having fun, doing homework, and going to class instead of entering blog posts on a regular basis.

Gary in his silly hat (it makes him very easy to spot, which is a good thing), emphatically telling us a story about the unfortunate fate of Mary Queen of Scots. I think I got to be Mary's mother in this story. He picks people to represent the characters, which makes the story more fun and engaging, and helps us to remember it as well!

If memory "serves" me correctly, this was a prison. (I know, I know, how punny!)

Yes, the child in me thinks it is very funny to say "humps" instead of "bumps." Notice the picture is blurry because I didn't want to stop walking to take it because I didn't want anyone to notice me taking the picture...

We ended our tour in Old Town Cemetery, which is in close proximity to the castle. It was a magnificent graveyard, as morbid as that may seem. Because it was getting dark, my photos didn't come out entirely clear. That was disappointing, but I made out with a few good shots.

I can't remember the significance of this monument, just that someone is said to be buried, sitting on a chair, in the center of it.

Gary told us a story atop this rock. Some people were standing so close to the edge, I couldn't pay attention to the story because I thought they were going to step backwards and fall off. Thankfully, no one did. I don't know how Gary doesn't have a heart attack at some point on every trip. When the story was over, I quickly scurried down to walk around, and got this nice shot of the people in the group who were still taking pictures from the hill.

I walked around the cemetery, looking at the gravestones and monuments. 

I looked up to see this couple, with the hill all to themselves.

How romantic!

Our last stop brought us to Bannockburn Battlefield, where a very important battle in Scotland's history was fought, but also, now the location of where two international students got to chase each other around with plastic swords, thanks to their fun-loving tour guide. If it wasn't so dark, I would have taken pictures of that. It sure was something. But then a puppy ran up to us and we got all excited and stopped watching the plastic sword duel.

I hope you enjoyed this entry! I sure enjoyed visiting Stirling. 

Up next: Oban & Argyll!

Don't forget, I love reading your comments!

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