After our love affair with the Scottish Highlands we made our way to Stirling. No not Sterling Drive, East Keilor where I spent the first 29 years of my life. I'm talking about the historic city of Stirling. When the Scots describe a city as "historic" what they mean is "here is a place where we spanked the English in a war a few hundred years ago". And so it was with Stirling. Twice. The first major victory occurred in 1297 when William Wallace (you may know him better as Mel Gibson) defeated the Poms at the battle of Stirling Bridge. And the second occurred in 1314 when Robert the Bruce tore the English a new one in the nearby town of Bannockburn.
Nestled at the peak of Stirling's painfully steep hill (made all the more painful with 20kg bags on our backs) is Stirling Castle - the main reason why we came to visit the city. When you enter Stirling Castle you can see why so many battles were fought to gain control of this place. The views from the Castle towers stretch for endless miles - meaning that guards could spot intruders who were still days, possibly weeks, away from entering the city.
Fitting with the rugged and rough history of the city, the present day locals of Stirling were pretty rough around the edges themselves. With less teeth than your average Collingwood supporter, more tacky tattoos than summer holiday at Rye, and a general odour that can best be described as a blend of sweaty football shirts and stale beer, the locals weren't going to win any beauty pageants anytime soon!
A surprising highlight of our stay in Stirling was our accommodation - the Stirling Youth Hostel. With a dining room that could fit about 50 people (including two school groups) it was like being back at school camp. Except the head chef was so much more awesome than your average school camp grumpy old bum. Our man John, was always up for a chat about the World Cup, sharing one of his whisky cream drinks or shortbread recipes, or just passing on a filthy joke (ask me about the prawn one in private if you're not the type to be easily offended or disgusted. If you are then I have no jokes for you). Ah the Scots are my kinda people - never in short supply of an offensive joke.
From Stirling we also managed to make a day trip out to Doune Castle - the site at which the legendary "Monthy Python and the Holy Grail" was filmed. And to make matters even better, the audio guide featured commentary from Terry Jones as well as classic clips from the film. It was quite a site to a few dozen visitors of all ages bursting into fits of laughter with audio guides pinned to their ears - not something you'd ever see at The Vatican or Versailles Palace.
Next stop: Edinburgh