Stirling this time.
Firstly let's cover some other themes of this holiday. Weather, lying in bed at 7 am this morning listening to the light rain in the van roof, promoted thoughts of "here we go again". But actually it turned out to be a sunny day much of the time. Mind you, the strong, biting wind hasn't really abated, and being on high exposed castle battlements doesn't help!
The other theme/moan is bus pricing and lack of being able to sort it out. Easy we think, today we'll get a couple of returns from the campsite into Stirling bus station and sort out tomorrow's trip once we get there. Theory good, practice not quite so. Arrive at bus station, walk up to information desk, explain that tomorrow we want a bus from the campsite into town and then another into Doune, oh and we want return tickets. The lady at the information desk (yes, the BUS STATION INFORMATION DESK) said she couldn't help, try speaking to the driver in the morning. OK, wander out and find a bus inspector guy and put the same riddle to him. Oh you could probably get a 3-5 zone day card at £10.50 but it might be cheaper just to get two separate individual returns campsite-bus station, bus station-Doune. He didn't know, we'd have to ask in the bus! I didn't like to point out the flaw that we could only enquire on the second bus after we'd already bought the return on the first bus, this making a day card an unlikely option. One last try, the tourist information office. Oh no, says they, we wouldn't know anything about that, you'll have to ask at the bus station. Oh they didn't help, well I'm sure the driver can help when you get the bus tomorrow!
A few days ago I emailed email@example.com and asked if there was any sensible way we could determine pricing, zone information, and day cards. No reply yet; they are obviously out looking for a bus driver to tell them!
Anyway, fuelled with righteous angst we made the long climb out of town towards the castle. And long climb it was too. Stirling Castle is interesting as much of it is new renovation, the idea being rather than some mothballed drab old ruin why not present the visitor with a view of what it might have been like. So newly frescoed walls, a facsimile ceiling of the famous Stirling wooden heads, a coffee shop in the grand banqueting hall. All very interesting, as was the exhibition of the original carved wooden heads that James V decorated his ante room ceiling with. A very well done display with lots of notes about the symbolism in the choice of some of the heads (Hercules, Roman Emperors, and a couple of cherubs) and the clothing fashion styles of the time as depicted through the garments - most "heads" included neck and breast areas as well
The piece de resistance however was the replica 7 panel Hunt Of The Unicorn tapestry adorning the Queen's chamber walls. The original is in a museum in New York so Scottish Heritage undertook a complete set of replicas. This took 15 years to complete and a dozen or so weavers worked in it. What's more, the modern version has the warp set at half the density of its mediaeval original (David, think 720p as opposed to 1080p). The original warp density would have added an estimated further 10 years to the project!!
Now think back to the 16th century. The originals must have taken around about the same time to weave, 25 years for one set of tapestries. James V owned many sets, these must have been as costly and an as ostentatious indicator of power and wealth as any gold finery.
Bravo, Historic Scotland, your reconstruction is stunning and a magnificent example of 21st century handicraft. Gentle reader I heartily recommend taking some time to find out about the Hunt Of The Unicorn tapestries and their recreation, in the interweb.
A quick mooch around Stirling and back to the bus station. Where we found an interactive journey planner. And joy, we could use it to plan tomorrow's route and it told us the cost of individual fares. Had we succeeded in our own Unicorn hunt?! Let's try and see where a 3-5 zone ticket will take us. Nope, no ability to show zones and plan cheapest option. No Unicorn then, but a start, a single horned cow perhaps? Narwhal in a skateboard? Definitely not a unicorn.
Bus home, it's a circular route with this morning's inbound bus being a different number to tonight's outbound one (#17 in the series "How to confuse a tourist"). This one turned off the main road and up a winding, twisty, little road directly past the famous Wallace Memorial (would be on our to visit list has we more time). You can't miss it, it's a great big tall building atop a hill
Talking of Wallace, whilst at the castle we wandered around the gift shop. I noticed brown and grey tartan goods - this was a special tartan created by Islay Weavers for the Braveheart film. Brown and grey because Wallace and his followers would probably have only used natural, native dyes. Watch the film and you'll spot Mel modeling this tartan and some interesting blue make-up. His catwalk mince isn't up to much though.