A Travellerspoint blog

Days 17 to 22

We leave Scotland and head home

semi-overcast 16 °C
View A maiden holiday in Scotland on SteveJD's travel map.

On our last full day in Scotland, we decided to visit Stirling Castle. It was about an hour's drive and we parked in the (free) car park for the (free) park & ride into the city. The car park also has 32 EV charging points, some fast, some slow, powered at least in part by solar panels on the roof over the parking spaces - and, yes, the sun does shine in Scotland! Now we know where some of our taxes go! The bus dropped us off a short walk from the castle and we arrived in time to enjoy an informative and amusing tour. Up to the Union, it was a royal palace as well as a fortress. After the Union, it was principally used for military purposes, a prison and a barracks (and now houses the Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders Museum), so that all the royal decor was lost. In 2011 a project was completed to restore much of the castle to the state it would have been when James V was King of Scotland. As part of the restoration, the Great Hall was painted a pale gold colour, apparently as it would have been, although citizens of Stirling were not impressed with this gaudiness on their skyline!

The Great Hall in its new coat of paint, compared to the Palace

The Great Hall in its new coat of paint, compared to the Palace

Inside the Great Hall, the throne is raised on a dais

Inside the Great Hall, the throne is raised on a dais

Colourful and ornate ceiling in the Great Hall

Colourful and ornate ceiling in the Great Hall

Most of the buildings that we can see now were built in the 16th century, during the reigns of Kings James IV and V of Scotland.
The last building, The Chapel Royal was built at the end of the 16th century by King James VI of Scotland, a few years before he also become King James I of England and Wales.

The Chapel Royal

The Chapel Royal

Inside the Palace

Inside the Palace


In 2015 a team of weavers in Sussex completed a series of tapestries based on originals held in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

Large tapestry in the Palace

Large tapestry in the Palace

The Royal coat of arms in the Palace

The Royal coat of arms in the Palace

Among the restorations were the Stirling Heads. These were removed when the ceiling started to collapse in 1777. Craftsman, John Donaldson, spent five years carving 37 replicas which were then painted using traditional methods.

The replica Stirling Heads

The replica Stirling Heads

Outside the Palace there is garden area known as the Queen Anne Garden. Opposite the Palace, across the garden, are the casemates which now house an exhibition showing the development of the castle.

The Palace from the Queen Anne Garden

The Palace from the Queen Anne Garden

The Queen Anne Garden with casemates to the right and the castle entrance in the background

The Queen Anne Garden with casemates to the right and the castle entrance in the background

View from the Queen Anne gardens, showing the King's and Queen's mounds in what were gardens in the 17th century

View from the Queen Anne gardens, showing the King's and Queen's mounds in what were gardens in the 17th century

Apparently, the castle is similar to Colditz Castle in Germany and it was used for external shots in the TV series "Colditz". I can just see the glider being launched out over the countryside far below!

View from the battlements to the distant memorial to William Wallace ("Braveheart"!)

View from the battlements to the distant memorial to William Wallace ("Braveheart"!)

After exploring the castle, we walked down to the town where I spotted a barber shop (my hair, such as it is, and beard were becoming unruly. I wandered in and a large, bearded Middle Eastern man followed me in and asked what I wanted. He was a Turkish Kurd and I came out shorn, although at least he did not cut out a parting as some Turkish barbers apparently do. Feeling very light-headed, I re-joined Judith and we took the bus back to the car park.

We drove over to Falkirk where we were impressed by The Wheel which carries narrowboats (and other boats) from the aqueduct carrying the Caledonian Canal down to the canal at ground level. Great engineering and a sight to behold. I wish I could upload my video! I'll put it on my Facebook page when I post this blog.

The aqueduct carrying the Caledonian Canal to The Wheel

The aqueduct carrying the Caledonian Canal to The Wheel

The Wheel part way through its rotation, carrying a narrowboat

The Wheel part way through its rotation, carrying a narrowboat

A narrowboat exiting The Wheel at ground level

A narrowboat exiting The Wheel at ground level

A lovely wicker sculpture of one of the horses - a Kelpie - and its guide

A lovely wicker sculpture of one of the horses - a Kelpie - and its guide

After this we had time to drive a few miles to Helix Park where we were able to see The Kelpies, amazing sculptures of horses' heads. Apparently, the horses which towed barges along the canal were known as Kelpies and this is a memorial to them. The park was officially opened in 2014 by Princess Anne.

The Caledonian Canal and The Kelpies

The Caledonian Canal and The Kelpies

The Kelpies - "Duke" and "Baron"

The Kelpies - "Duke" and "Baron"

The following day, we packed and prepared to leave Scotland. Firstly though, we headed over to Livingston to see the daughter of an old friend from Rhodesian days. She owns a great, very busy, coffee shop in a large shopping mall but had time for a chat and it was wonderful to turn the clock back to when she and her brother used to come, with their mother, to us at Christmas in Rhodesia.

We stopped at Jedburgh, again, for a coffee break on our way to Durham. We had booked a B & B hotel which had the address Durham, Durham but it was in fact at Cornsay Colliery and looked a bit dilapidated. Once again we had to quickly find alternative accommodation and booked a Premier Inn in Durham.

Luckily, we were close to a park & ride station (back in England, so we had to pay for the bus!). The bus dropped us close to the Market Place where we were entertained by the North Tyneside Pipe Band before walking up the hill to the Cathedral. We walked past the tomb of the Venerable Bede (his bones were buried in the Cathedral in 1022) and were in time to join a guided tour. Again, we had an excellent guide who took us round the Cathedral with so many stories of its history. He gave us all time to file by St Cuthbert's shrine; poor chap had at least three burials!

On the tour, the guide drew our attention to a "modern" (1984) window which had been gifted by the staff of the local branch of Marks & Spencer, commemorating the company's centenary. It is an unusual depiction of the Last Supper with a subtle rendering of Judas.

The Marks and Spencer window

The Marks and Spencer window

As the tour ended at the transept, we saw an orchestra and choir setting up. We popped off to the café near the cloisters and then returned to watch and hear the Durham Choral Society and Orchestra in rehearsal for their performance in the evening of Mendelssohn's "Elijah". This is not a piece with which we were familiar but we both enjoyed sitting in the pews for a couple of hours soaking up this wonderful music.

North Tyneside Pipe Band in the Market Place

North Tyneside Pipe Band in the Market Place

Palace Green, the Cathedral and library building

Palace Green, the Cathedral and library building

The tomb of the Venerable Bede

The tomb of the Venerable Bede

Beautiful rose window

Beautiful rose window

The rehearsal in progress

The rehearsal in progress

From the Cathedral we took a side street down to the River Wear and walked back along that to our bus stop.

20220521_P1230475.jpgViews along the River Wear

Views along the River Wear

The following day we were able to visit one of my cousins near Staithes (the last time there as they are moving to north Wales) for coffee and a chat. We then drove on to Whitby where we had an excellent lunch by the harbour.

The harbour with Whitby Abbey high above the town

The harbour with Whitby Abbey high above the town

Unfortunately, we did not have time to do much exploring or to visit the abbey as we were heading on down to Scarborough to catch up with an old friend from Rhodesia. We used to babysit her two daughters, one of whom lives in Durham but was in Scarborough the day we were there! We enjoyed Scarborough and, apart from seeing Joan, it looks worth a return trip.

We both enjoy seeing seabirds and had heard about RSPB Bempton Cliffs, so as this was not far down the road, we diverted and were diverted! Although we didn't spot any Puffins (Judith's favourites), the air was full of wheeling Gannets and the cliff faces were covered with nesting Gannets, Guillemots, Razorbills, Kittiwakes and even a pair of Jackdaws.

Guillemots, Razorbills and Kittiwakes - good neighbours!

Guillemots, Razorbills and Kittiwakes - good neighbours!

A Gannetry covering the cliff face

A Gannetry covering the cliff face

Jackdaw parent feeding its young

Jackdaw parent feeding its young

Gannets are really handsome birds

Gannets are really handsome birds

Razorbills are among the noisier of the birds!

Razorbills are among the noisier of the birds!

On our way back to the car, we were delighted to see a Barn Owl quartering over the fields behind the cliffs.

P1200287.JPGTwo views of one of our favourite birds

Two views of one of our favourite birds

We continued to our overnight stop in Boston were we stayed in a comfortable but rather odd hotel by the river. The place was unmanned so we had to phone for a code for the key safe and when we walked into our room and turned on the light, the room was suffused in a pink glow!

Passion Flower Hotel?!

Passion Flower Hotel?!

We did find "normal" lights and had a good night's sleep and a reasonable breakfast (no kitchen staff either - clearly a no frills budget hotel!).

Never ones to travel straight, we decided to visit RSPB Titchwell in Norfolk - as it happens, exactly a year since our last visit. I treated myself to a new pair of binoculars and we walked out through the reserve where we saw Sedge and Reed Warblers, a Reed Bunting, Avocets, Pochards and all manner of other birds - and, even a Water Vole, a rare sight these days although I well remember hearing the plop as they went into the water in the canal not far from my home in Newbury, occasionally seeing them as well.

20220523_IMG_6392.jpgA lonely Sedge Warbler singing for a mate an a beautiful, graceful Avocet

A lonely Sedge Warbler singing for a mate an a beautiful, graceful Avocet

20220523_IMG_6412.jpgFemale and male Pochard, female with leg oddly twisted up onto her back

Female and male Pochard, female with leg oddly twisted up onto her back

20220523_IMG_6419.jpgA Black-tailed Godwit and a Canada Goose with goslings in tow

A Black-tailed Godwit and a Canada Goose with goslings in tow

A Reed Warbler hiding in - reeds of course!

A Reed Warbler hiding in - reeds of course!

A nice change from birds, a Southern Marsh Orchid (I think!)

A nice change from birds, a Southern Marsh Orchid (I think!)

A Muntjac Deer to see us on our way

A Muntjac Deer to see us on our way

We came back to a rather overgrown garden and have been busy getting it back into order and enjoying the fruits of our labour.

Posted by SteveJD 22:31 Archived in United Kingdom Tagged birds scotland england castle stirling whitby

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