Braveheart Country & Stirling Castle
Duration: 4 1/2 hours
Tour Code: SQU-007
Scotland is a land of castles, mighty fortresses on rocky heights, isolated keeps, elegant homes for great families and grim strongholds set on towering sea cliffs. In the great halls, great men discussed affairs of state against backdrops of regal splendour. Noble men and tyrants, kings and queens, lords and commoners all made their entrances and exits, and now only the stones remain to speak of centuries of drama.
The eight year campaign fought by Robert the Bruce not only to drive the English from Scotland but also to have himself recognized as king inside his own country of Scotland, reached its climax with a battle at Bannockburn in June 1314. For a leader who understood the virtues of guerrilla warfare and recognized the danger of confronting the English in pitched battle, the prospect of fighting the enormous force brought to Scotland by Edward II must have been a dreadful one. The hard fought battle however turned to a rout. Edward II fled, and the spoils of Bannockburn enabled Bruce to ransom members of his family being held hostage in England.
It's an hour's drive through the scenic heart of Scotland, to the Bannockburn Heritage Center, your first stop. Here, you'll enjoy a visit to the exhibition `Kingdom of the Scots`, which depicts Scottish history from Robert the Bruce, to the Union of the Crowns of Scotland and England in 1603. There is an audio-visual presentation of the Battle of Bannockburn, a striking equestrian statue of Bruce, and a display of Scottish life and historical characters. Adding to the colorful atmosphere is a brilliant display of heraldic banners.
From here, your tour continues on to Stirling, situated on one of the many loops of the River Forth. Rising abruptly from the flat plains; this fortress-crowned rock with a grey town clinging to its steep sides, is a vivid, yet blood-stained page from Scotland's history book. Because of its strategic position, guarding the route north, this was a fortress town from the earliest times; bitterly fought over, bravely defended. The castle has appropriately been called the key to Scotland. As a result, its possession has been the focus of contention for many centuries, with battles like Bannockburn being fought in its shadow.
As your coach travels through the old town on your way to the castle, it will seem as if every inch is drenched in history and interest. There are views of hills all around and the promise of Highland scenery beyond. The present castle dates mainly from the 15th and 16th centuries when it was a principal royal residence. James III was born here in 1451, James V spent his childhood here, and the infant Mary Queen of Scots was crowned here on September 9, 1543. Work done on the castle during the 16th century largely shaped the structure as it survives today.
Your self-guided tour will show you the main features of the central turreted gatehouse with its flanking towers and curtain wall, the Great Hall, the Palace, one of the earliest Renaissance buildings in Scotland, and the Chapel Royal. Afterward, enjoy the splendid panoramic views afforded from the battlements before it's time to return to the ship.
Please note: This tour includes approximately 1 1/2 hours of walking. The tour is not considered suitable for wheelchair guests. Guests with mobility concerns are cautioned to evaluate their personal level of stamina and ability. Weather appropriate clothing and flat, comfortable walking shoes are suggested. Guests should be prepared for the possibility of rain. The order of sites visited may vary.