Yesterday my cousin Karen joined me again on a day of castle-hopping, this time in the Trossachs.We headed west of Kinghorn for Inchmahome Priory in the Lake of Menteith, one of the sites I was most keen to see. In September 1547 5-year-old Queen Mary and the Maries spent several weeks here before leaving Scotland for France. The Scots had been defeated by the English at the Battle of Pinkie Cleugh and Edward VI’s forces, led by the Duke of Somserset were burning and looting up the Forth and were six miles away from Stirling Castle. For safety, little Queen Mary and the Maries were taken into hiding at Inchmahome Priory, an Augustinian priory founded in the 12th Century.
Did I say it was raining? It was a cold and dreary damp Scottish day, better spent indoors–but as I like to say, I am not here for the weather! We carried on, in some good company as it turns out. There was a wedding in Inchmahome Priory and we caught the bride just getting into the ferry, with her Wellies peeking out from under the wedding dress!
Inchmahome is beautiful and quiet, the entire island is covered in fragrant Scottish bluebells. The ruins of the chapter house, where meetings were held and the bakehouse are in best shape, but we could still get a feeling for the lovely chapel that would once have been there.
After a quick lunch at the Buttercup Cafe in Doune (very much worth a visit) we headed through to see Doune Castle, another hunting lodge Queen Mary used with a beautiful 14th Century courtyard. It had an interesting banqueting hall and chambers–and Monty Python fans will appreciate that “Life of Brian” was filmed here and the tour audio is conducted by Terry Jones.
We capped the dreichy day at Stirling Castle, by which time it was really, really raining and we were cold. Stirling Castle sits high on a crag, surrounded on three sides by steep cliffs, giving it a strong defensive position. It is a strategic location and has been an important stronghold since the 11th Century, guarding what was, until the 1890s, the farthest downstream crossing of the River Forth. You can see the enemy coming for miles around. I wish the day had been clearer, the photos don’t do it justice. But this is Scotland and you get what you get when it comes to the weather and carry on!
Mary Stuart was crowned Queen of Scotland in chapel at Stirling–she was nine months old and cried the whole time. She spent a good part of her early life here, with the Four Maries and her half-siblings.
Stirling Castle has some beautifully recreated room from the time Queen Mary’s father – James V and mother, Mary of Guise. The reconstructions go right up to recreating Unicorn tapestries (similar to those in the Cloisters in New York) to hang in the rooms. The Castle has a lot of interactive exhibits, including one where you can try on 16th century clothing.
As you get in the corridor between Glasgow and Edinburgh there is so much to see, time is really the enemy. I’m scunnered today. That’s a good Scottish word that means, more or less, done in. I’ve never done this much sight-seeing, or power castle-hopping!