Monday, August 31, 2015

Stirling Castle

Our first day on tour was spent touring two castles and a palace.  My favorite was Stirling Castle.  It was our first stop and it was beautiful.  Stirling Castle, located in Stirling, is one of the largest and most important castles, both historically and architecturally, in Scotland. The castle sits atop Castle Hill, which forms part of the Stirling Sill geological formation. It is surrounded on three sides by steep cliffs, giving it a strong defensive position. Its strategic location, guarding what was, until the 1890s, the farthest downstream crossing of the River Forth, has made it an important fortification from the earliest times. Most of the principal buildings of the castle date from the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. A few structures of the fourteenth century remain, while the outer defences fronting the town date from the early eighteenth century. Several Scottish Kings and Queens have been crowned at Stirling, including Mary, Queen of Scots, in 1542. There have been at least eight sieges of Stirling Castle, including several during the Wars of Scottish Independence, with the last being in 1746, when Bonnie Prince Charlie unsuccessfully tried to take the castle. Stirling Castle is a Scheduled Ancient Monument, and is now a tourist attraction managed by Historic Scotland. 

The national animal of Scotland is the unicorn.  The unicorn has been a Scottish heraldic symbol since the 12th century, when it was used on an early form of the Scottish coat of arms by William I.  In Celtic mythology, the Unicorn of Scotland symbolized innocence and purity, healing powers, joy and even life itself, and was also seen as a symbol of masculinity and power.  The unicorn emblem is all throughout the interior decor of the castle.

There were guides in period dress in each room to tell us a bit about the history of the castle and what life would have been like living there.

The magnificent Unicorn tapestries hanging in the Queen’s Inner Hall of the Palace were commissioned especially for Stirling Castle. They have been woven by hand, using techniques dating back to the 1400s. The tapestries are closely based on a set of seven held by the Metropolitan Museum of New York at its Cloisters Museum. The original tapestries were produced in the early 1500s in the Low Countries. Together the seven tapestries tell the story of a unicorn hunted and killed by a group of huntsmen and dogs. This can be read as both as an allegory of love, and as a Christian parable.

This tapestry has threads of gold woven into the fence!

Sunday, August 30, 2015

The Royal Mile

Our first day in Scotland!!!!! Edinburgh is so charming.  I could not get over all the architecture, it was so different from what we were seeing over in Bavaria.  It was a cool, overcast day, just the perfect backdrop for exploring the city.

We had great views of the famous Edinburgh castle as we walked up to the Royal Mile.

Awe, The Royal Mile, I feel in love with this magical street as soon as we stepped foot on it.  It is full of fun shops filled to the brim with all sorts of plaid clothing, blankets, shoes, toys, everything!  There were street performers, and bagpipe players, jewelry stalls, and adorable Scottish accents everywhere!  We wandered through all the stores, watched the performers, bought fun souvenirs and just enjoyed the fun atmosphere, it was such a fun day!

A box full of adorable Black Deaths

We made sure to make the trip to see the memorial statue of Greyfriar's Bobby.

"Greyfriars Bobby was a Skye Terrier who became known in 19th-century Edinburgh for spending 14 years guarding the grave of his owner until he died himself on 14 January 1872. The story continues to be well known in Scotland, through several books and films, and a prominent commemorative statue and a nearby grave."

We stopped at a little bakery to get some treats for lunch.  They were beautiful and delicious!  It was fun to sit outside and enjoy the wonderful weather and take a little rest from walking.

These were a few of the treasures I bought today.  Silver celtic rings, and a fun scarf.

Tonight we met up with our tour.  Our group consisted of 23 other guests and a fun boisterous tour guide, Clinton Scott III, from Louisiana he had a fun southern accent and plenty of jokes.  We had a private bagpipe concert then headed into the dining room for a traditional Scottish dinner!

It was a wonderful welcome and introduction to our two week tour of Great Britain!