Monday marked the end of their first week of British Isle tours, and the ship moved on to Scotland with a port of call stop at Greenock, 45 minutes from Glasgow. Ray and Traci booked a shore excursion with Timberbush tours. The first stop ... Read More
Monday marked the end of their first week of British Isle tours, and the ship moved on to Scotland with a port of call stop at Greenock, 45 minutes from Glasgow. Ray and Traci booked a shore excursion with Timberbush tours. The first stop on the tour was Stirling Castle, about 90 minutes away from the port.
The castle has been strategically located on top of a steep hill and overlooked the River Forth crossing. Originally built around 1100, it was mostly destroyed around 1300 and then rebuilt – it was an active British Army training facility until 1965 at which time it was restored and now serves as a popular tourist attraction, concert venue, and even television set. At first, Ray was a bit lukewarm on visiting another castle, but after taking the 60 minute free tour given by castle staff, he was disappointed they only had 90 minutes total to see the site. The architecture was quite interesting with limewashed stonework on the outside giving it a golden appearance due to iron content of the sealant. Inside, regal furnishings gave the feel of its past life.
One key difference between Stirling Castle and others is the extensive restoration required due to centuries of use as an active military facility – much of the tapestry and furniture are reproductions so not tarnished by age and available for visitors to use.
Due to limited time, Ray and Traci didn’t get a chance to play king and queen by sitting on the dining hall thrones.
Another nice touch is the costumed staff who look and talk “in period” giving a first hand description of life during the castle’s heyday. One staff member talked about the importance of golf, although the clubs looked quite challenging for players of that era.
Reluctantly, the travelers returned to the bus without getting to explore more of the exhibits at the castle.
Lunch in the quaint village of Aberfoyle was next, Ray and Traci found an excellent (and unbelievably inexpensive) restaurant called Liz MacGregors. Traci enjoyed a lentil soup and roll, while Ray had a very tasty grilled ham and cheese sandwich – called a toasty made with very thin bread. They also explored some of the shops and found a grocery store with unexpectedly cheap prices of American goods at least when British pounds are converted to US dollars. The last stop was at Loch Lomond, a large lake in the Trossachs National Park. Like many tours, the bus stopped at this shopping mall located along the lake. While the view was nice, Ray wishes they spent 5 minutes at the lake (mall) and an hour more at Stirling Castle. The tour guides James and David did a good job, and shouldn’t be blamed for the misallocation of time. Ray did some research after the excursion and could not find a tour that just went to Stirling Castle – something he would recommend for future travelers. Before the Crown Princess left, a Scottish bagpipe band serenaded the departing ship with traditional music from the shore. Read Less