We wrecked the rental car in Stirling during our Scotland adventure and ended up with a delightful evening sharing scotch with family and new friends.
Misadventures in Stirling
I realize that lead line is a bit of a shocker. Have no fear. No one was hurt and the damage was minor. The morning started off so wonderfully. We left Glencoe behind and made our way toward Stirling. The hills were bathed in sunshine and the Rannoch moor looked quite fetching. Little did we know as we made our way to our first stop at Doune Castle, that impending doom awaited (queue suspenseful music).
Doune Castle and the Holy Grail
Doune Castle is a 8 miles northwest of Stirling at the confluence of Ardoch Burn and the River Teith. The castle dates back to the 13th century and was rebuilt in the 14th century (c. 1340-1420). It is an impressive sturdy fortress with the gatehouse walls towering up to 95 feet. Fittingly, the castle get its name from the Gaelic word for “fort”.
The castle alone is worth the visit given its level of preservation and history. What really makes a visit to Doune Castle worth the trip is the walking audio guide narration by Monty Python’s Terry Jones. We laughed out loud a number of times as Mr. Jones provided castle history mixed with moments from Monty Python & The Holy Grail. We made a point to watch The Holy Grail when we got back home.
Besides Monty Python, Doune castle has been host to another of films and series including Brenda’s favorite Outlander, the movie Ivanhoe, and the Game of Thrones series. There was an option to have Sam Heughan (Outlander’s Jamie Fraser) provide the audio tour, but definitely go with Terry Jones for the comedic gold standard.
The Wallace Monument
During our 2012 visit to Scotland, we completely missed out on Stirling. This time around we decided to check out the Wallace Monument before heading to Stirling Castle. You really can’t miss the Wallace Monument as it dominates the skyline.
The monument commemorates the Scottish hero; William Wallace. It was constructed in 1869 and stands a majestic 220 feet. You have to climb up a substantial hill from the parking lot to get to the foot of it. Once inside, it is another 249 steps up a spiral staircase to the top. The views from the top are impressive, but don’t miss the Hall of Heroes. Here you can see William Wallace’s sword and busts of other famous Scots such as Robert The Bruce, Robert Burns, and Sir Walter Scott.
Crisis at the Wallace Monument
Our visit to the Wallace monument was fun and we loaded up into our rental SUV to head out to Stirling castle. It was a sunny day, everything was looking good. I started to back out of the parking place, noting the tree behind us. The tree was a bit off the curb and seemed to be clear for backing up. As we get closer there is a shocking crash from behind us. Looking back in startled amazement, a low branch pointing up toward the car from the tree had found its way through the back window! The window on the SUV is darkly tinted and the branch was hidden just until the moment when it came into the car.
Good lord! I was a mess. I felt distraught at missing that branch and putting a big dent into our plans for the day. Questions swarmed in my head. How will we get to Edinburgh the next day? Will the extra insurance we bought cover this? How the hell did I miss that damn tree limb?
Brenda came up with the brilliant idea of taking the train from Stirling to Edinburgh. All we had to do was figure out how to get from the Wallace Monument to our rooms at the Munro Guest House. We got on the phone with Enterprise to report the accident and get a ride.
Enterprise to the Rescue
After sometime on the phone with Enterprise, we finally got to the Stirling branch office. They were extremely helpful. “No worries! Can you drive the car?” they asked. “Yes, we can drive it.” I replied. “Perfect. Bring the car here and we’ll get you a ride to your hotel”. Salvation was at hand. We drove over to the Enterprise office, shook the glass out of our stuff, loaded it into a van, and one of the awesome staff from Enterprise got us over to the Munro Guest House.
Checking in at the Munro Guest House
Munro Guest House is located in the heart of Stirling and was perfect. The proprietor Richard McKendrick greeted us warmly and showed us to our comfy rooms. I was still having some post-traumatic stress from the rental car incident as we relayed our story to Richard. We said we needed a good pub to recover our wits. Richard was quick to mention the Curly Coo Bar.
Post-Traumatic Stress Recovery at the Curly Coo
Conveniently located in downtown Stirling and just a minutes’ walk from the Munro Guest House is the Curly Coo Bar. We gathered in a little booth just off the bar and spent the next few minutes gobsmacked by fantastic array of scotch. Mandy greeted us as if we were long lost friends and helped us pick out a few whiskies to ponder.
It turns out that the Curly Coo (slang for the curly haired Scottish highland cows) is named one of the best whisky bars in the world. They have 130 scotch covering the wide variety of tastes available from Scottish distilleries. Beyond the fantastical scotch is the pub itself. It oozes with charm. No doubt this is partly to do with Mandy. It was Angie’s birthday and Mandy heard us talking about it. She popped over to our table with a wee little cake with a candle. The entire bar sang Happy Birthday.
Dinner and beers in Stirling
After a beer and scotch with Mandy at the Curly Coo, we set off for Nicky Tams and a bite to eat. Opening in 1718, Nicky Tams is one of the oldest pubs. The bar area was packed with folks enjoying some music and beverages. We headed to a table upstairs and enjoyed a fine meal.
Our final stop of the evening was at the Settle Inn which is billed as Stirlings oldest alehouse. On the way, we met a friendly gentleman who was fond of my beard. This resulted in a quick picture together to remember our new found friendship. Let it be known that Scotland is full of very friendly people.
We tipped back a pint at the Settle Inn as we enjoyed the homey goodness of this old pub. We also marveled at the nice set of curling stones by the fireplace. As twilight gathered, we remarked on what a great day this had been. Misadventure and all, it was another fantastic day on vacation in Scotland
We’ve got a few more pictures in our gallery.
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