Those of you who have read the Outlander series will no doubt recognize the name Glenfinnan as the place where Bonnie Prince Charlie landed on the Scottish mainland in his failed attempt to take back the throne, in what is now known as the Jacobite Rising of 1745/1746.
We’ve had much discussion in our house as to whether he was a true Scot or a foppish Italian prince, and whether history would be greatly changed if he’d been content with Scotland and not marched on England (yes, pretty much). Either way, Glenfinnan was one of those detours I decided we needed to take if we had the time, and we did! It was really only 30 minutes off our path in each direction, so it was voted that we’d go.
Glenfinnan Monument sits at the head of Loch Shiel and was erected in 1815. Depending on what you read, it was built either as a tribute to Bonnie Prince Charlie or as a tribute to the clansmen who died trying to reinstate Charles to the throne. The 60-foot high monument features a big statue of Charlie at the top, so it appears to me to be a tribute to him. Either way, it’s a beautiful tribute and a beautiful place.
There is only room for 4-5 people at the top of the windy monument, so we waited our turn to climb the narrow, winding steps up, and then back down again. There’s a lovely little museum there that tells the story of the rising and also a nice gift shop where I rounded out my Diane Gabaldon collection with a copy of “A Trail of Fire”–four Outlander stories in one book, and not available in the U.S. I’d been hoping to find it on our trip and, thanks to my daughter’s eagle eye, I got it!
If I had to pick just one place on our entire trip that I found the most breathtaking, I don’t know how I’d narrow it down. But if instead I made a Top Ten list (which I still might do), Glenfinnan would definitely be on it. Not only is it another one of those mountain-meets-water-meets-sky places of beauty, but when you turn to face the other direction, you’re met with the viaduct bridge familiar to anybody who has watched a Harry Potter movie:
Beauty simply surrounded us here, in a complete 360-degree spin.
After our morning in Glenfinnan, we drove back through Ft. William (but didn’t stop). I just have to post one of these photos in one of the pieces on Scotland. While Doug did a phenomenal job driving on the left side of the road on small, winding mountain roads, my view looked like this: a combination of beauty and fear. You see that hairpin turn to the left ahead, right? and the mountain face to my left? and the little truck headed at us, though it’s really in the other lane?
After Glenfinnan, we headed for our next base in Callander. I had picked something a little different for our stay in Callander–a bed & breakfast that also had a small bar downstairs, featuring a band on Wednesday nights. Quite coincidentally, and happily, we’d be staying on a Wednesday night.
Sold! More on that later–for now we checked in, dropped our bags in two slightly slanted rooms upstairs, and headed out to grab some lunch. Because we were all hungry (and slightly cranky), I made a snap judgment and we ate one of the few bad meals of our trips, but had a fun time doing it. Then, on to Stirling.
Doug and I had been to Stirling previously and recommend visiting the small city to anybody who asks us places to visit in Scotland. To us, it’s like Edinburgh in microcosm. Unfortunately, as with our previous visit, we didn’t have the time to explore it sufficiently.
Stirling was once the capital of Scotland, and it sits strategically between the Lowlands and the Highlands. Similarly to Edinburgh, the castle fortress sits on a naturally defensible hill.
For those of you who have seen the (historically inaccurate) movie “Braveheart”, William Wallace fought for independence on Stirling Bridge. This was actually a pretty nondescript bridge as compared to the movie. We drive by it quickly a couple of times before I thought to take out the camera and try to get a shot from the road:
Robert the Bruce also fought for independence for Scotland at the Battle of Bannockburn nearby. There is a new interactive center there that looked like great fun and I came *so close* to purchasing tickets for the virtual battle, but in the end decided we’d just push on through to our next destination. We were late to Stirling for the day and thought we might return the following day, but didn’t. The positive thing about being later was that the tourists had thinned out and you can see that the streets and castle look a lot emptier than, say, in Edinburgh.
There are a bunch of fun things to do in the Palace Vaults, including an interactive music room for the kids that Becky and Doug had fun in. Next, we checked on the castle’s defenses…
We were just about the last people out of the castle for the day, so they’d already closed the big doors. We wouldn’t have minded being trapped, although I suspect a few ghosts haunt the grounds and buildings…
It had been another long day, and time to head back to Callander and our B&B at the Old Rectory. We ate dinner in the B&B’s restaurant and then settled the kids into their room, where they happily took a break from all the scenery and history and zombie’d out on their iPads while we headed back downstairs to catch the band.
It turned out to be another great pick – they were safe in their room and we were one floor down, enjoying drinks and music. We met some intrepid long-distance bikers from Belgium. The women were a fun mix of crazy while their men were a little more straight-laced. The foursome was biking through the Scottish Highlands, which is no mean feat, and sampling all of the whiskies they could while doing it. The bar had a “Whisky Library” (though not every whisky bottle on display was actually in stock, as Doug soon discovered), which impressed me when I originally booked the place.
The band was fun, although the space was very small and they played mostly American ’60s/’70s stuff. Here we were, Americans, wanting to hear Scottish music! So Doug asked them to play our pseudo-wedding song, Paul McCartney’s Mull of Kintyre, and they weren’t sure they knew it so a regular at the bar helped them out. It’s a great memory–one of so very many. ❤
The next morning we indulged in a full Scottish breakfast, though I asked our hostess to forgo the black pudding on my plate. I also asked her to just halve the order so I had one of everything and not two, but the very thought boggled her mind so I gracefully gave in and allowed her to feed me the Noah’s Ark of Scottish breakfasts…
Callander, though I didn’t take many photos of the town, would probably be my choice of towns to move to if we ever put our money where our mouth was and moved to Scotland. It’s near to a lot of places, without being too big or too small a town. It’s right at the foot of the Highlands, and centrally located. Plus, I’ve checked out the realty and there are some great places!
Next: Doune Castle