A visit to Stirling Castle....and remembering those who couldn't come along.
From a tourist attraction perspective Stirling Castle is about as close to Disneyland as Scotland gets. Cars and big tour buses que up on the cobblestone roadways as thousands of people visit every day. Stirling Castle was an important destination point for me as a military history fan since the castle is the home of the Argyll and Southerland Highlanders Regimental Museum. Robyn's grandfather Bill Rigg was from Kilsyth just outside of Stirling and served in the Regiment during World War 1. We took a shuttle from a nearby Park and Ride and were glad we did when we saw the narrow cobblestone streets and the jammed parking lot.
The castle still looks every bit as intimidating as it did when most of the existing buildings were built back in the 1500's.
The actual castle rooms have been rebuilt top to bottom and are pristine. I found them almost too nicely done (the ruins we already visited had much more mystery and intrigue). But if you were a big fan of medievel history seeing the restored rooms could teach you a lot. Most of the rooms had someone dressed in character giving you historical facts.
Once you got back to walking the castle perimeter, you definitley felt like you had entered a time machine.
This was my favorite picture I took of the castle buildings. Something about the light and the coloring of the stone and moss made this image really vibrant.
The regimental museum was full of detailed information. The top floor had the full history of the Regiment, but different rooms were dedicated to different eras. The World War 1 section was what I focused on. Here is the main room.
They had a map on one wall that oulined where each Battalion had participated in battles during the war. The second image below shows all the battles Bill Rigg had to have fought in from 1914 to 1918 in the 7th Battalion.
The museum had some great example of uniforms and artifacts. The Glengarry Bonnet with the badge shown below confirmed that I bought the wrong kind of bonnet for Rachel and Shawn's wedding. Mine was solid black, but it should have had the yellow and red checks. The badge we have is the real thing and matched this one exaclty. They also had an example of the medal set that Bill Rigg likely earned. We have two of the four h earned, but none of the ribbons.
Finally they had an engraved watch of another soldier very much like the one we have that was given to Bill by his hometown of Kilsyth in recognition of the Military Merit medal he earned during the war.
I felt really honored to have known Bill Rigg's history and to be able to visit his Regiment's Museum. As it happens, Robyn and I were both more emotionally effected by a different building just a block away, the Church of the Holy Rude.
The church's origin's date back to the 11th century, but the surviving building is from the 15th century. These dates are staggering for a third generation California boy. The top tombstone has a date from the 1600's. Many of them were decorated with very simple images of wings and skulls symbolizing death and salvation.
Inside the church, they still have services and when we were there they were practicing tunes on the pipe organ. The front half of the Church had a lot of plaques commemorating those who had died. Some listed names of men from the church who had died in battle during various wars. I came across the red poppy wreath under the plaque for soldiers from World War 1. Across the way this this very ancient chapel. It had lit candles in it and encouraged you to light a candle in memory of someone you loved.
Robyn reminded me that her Dad used to always asked her, with a wink in his eye, that we "remember him" in church . Sort of a non-religous man's covering his bets to make sure he made it to heaven. This church visit brought that memory back and she lit a candle in his honor. As we started to walk out, sitting on the table with the candles was a card with a poppy on the cover and a hand-written note inside that caught my eye. It was so direct and heartfelt, even though it was written to a man they had never met. It made me think some about our trip to Stirling and to Scotland as a whole.
Robyn's Dad left Scotland when he was 19 years old and never went back. We are a generation late to have made this trip with Scotty at our side, but it sure would have been nice to have him along.
Here is what the card said.