Scotland Travel Blog.
The Tower Trail.
21st April 2021
With travel restrictions coming to an end across Scotland on April 16th we were greeted with beautiful spring weather. The timing of, ‘you can go out and explore our countryside’, with cloudless sunny skies couldn’t have been better! It was the perfect welcome that we all needed. And, to see posts on social media of friends and travel colleagues touring in the Scottish Highlands, was such a happy sight. Let’s hope we never go back to lock down. It is so important for everyone’s health to be able to get out there and enjoy nature. It was the great Scottish naturalist and writer, John Muir who said, “In every walk with nature, one receives far more than he/she seeks”.
On April 20th I had a morning meeting in the Stirlingshire area of Scotland. We are making lots of contacts with local shops and producers so that when travel returns, we will be including the best local places to visit along with the more famous tourist sights. After my meeting, at 12.00 o’clock, I almost headed back east to Edinburgh, but the sun was shining, and the Stirlingshire landscape was looking as resplendent as ever. This was the perfect opportunity for me to visit some of my favourite places round these parts. All attractions are still closed (they open on April 26th), but it was nice to wander around the outside areas of some of my favourite off the beaten track places. First, I started with a place which is very well known to both locals and tourists alike – The Battle of Bannockburn (we do like the big sites too!)
The Battle of Bannockburn was fought between Scotland and England over two days, 23rd and 24th June in the year of 1314. This was a pivotal victory for the Scots, led by King Robert the Bruce. The visitor centre offers an amazing experience in their new Battle of Bannockburn Experience, where you witness a digitally re-created version of the battle, up close. We are looking forward to taking our guests here again, but today, I will make do with a walk out to the rotunda monument and Robert The Bruce Statue.
I have always liked this monument, and it now has a specially commissioned poem inscribed on it. Scottish writer, Kathleen Jamie wrote the work, which is now displayed around the top of the monument on a timber ring on the rotunda.
The Robert The Bruce equestrian statue stands just outside the Rotunda, overlooking the surrounding ancient battlefields, and just behind him, you can see Stirling Castle, perched on its volcanic crag. This truly is a stunning and historic place to be. Bannockburn | National Trust for Scotland (nts.org.uk)
After my walk around Bannockburn, I took the short drive to Alloa to have a look at one of my favourite off the beaten path historic sights - Alloa Tower. The tower dates to the 14th Century and is where Mary Queen of Scots and her son King James the VI both spent part of their childhoods under the guardianship of the Erskine family. It became the ancestral seat of the Erskine family, the Earls of Mar and Kellie. John Erskine, 6th Earl of Mar lavishly upgraded the tower in the 18th century creating a mansion within the ancient walls. We always love the tour of this fascinating place, and when it reopens you can too. Look out for the original medieval oak roof timbers as well as other original features in this gem of a place!
I then took the noticeably short drive to a rarely visited village – Clackmannan. This is good for Clan Bruce history. The reason for this stop is to look at Clackmannan Tower and the village centre. Clackmannan Tower sits just outside the village, overlooking the Ochil Hills and the Firth of Forth, a stunning location. A castle was mentioned in a charter of 1250 and in 1330 David II celebrated his 6th birthday here. In 1359 David II, son of Robert the Bruce, granted Clackmannan to his kinsman, Sir Robert Bruce. In the 15th Century the building was raised to its present height 180 feet (55 metres). Clackmannan Tower | Public Body for Scotland's Historic Environment
My afternoon visit ended with a walk around the centre of Clackmannan. In this very charming little town centre, there are the curious remains of an old Tolbooth. Built in 1592, at a cost of £284.00, the Tolbooth housed the court room, prison, jailers house and instruments of punishment! The building was much bigger then, but the remaining tower is a reminder of old times. Next to the Tolbooth is the Mercat Cross, engraved with Bruce arms and dates to the 17th Century. Also, in this little square is, The Stone! The stone or Clack was sacred to the pre-Christian diety, Mannan and is a unique relic of Pagan times.
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