I couldn’t stay in Edinburgh forever, even though it was tempting. I had come to see Scotland, after all, and there is much more to see. I had waited until August 1, 2020, for Edinburgh Castle to open, and after that, it was time to move on.
I took the ScotRail train from Edinburgh to Stirling. That was thirty-seven miles and the ride lasted an hour and five minutes.
Castle Walk B&B, my home for the next few days, is built on the large, broad hill that leads up to Stirling Castle, so there are steps involved in getting inside. It is not an accommodation for anyone who has much difficulty walking, but it is otherwise very charming and well-kept. (With really excellent breakfasts, too, I discovered.)
I was greeted by my host Adrian. He and his wife were the owners, and one of his tasks in the labor division was greeting. My room was the single on the second floor. One of the quirks of Great Britain v. the U.S. is that the “second” floor is two flights up. We were standing on the ground floor. The first floor was up the first flight of stairs, and then I would go up a second flight to get to the second floor. (It’s really pretty logical.) Because of the pandemic and potential transmission of the virus, Adrian was not supposed to touch my bags.
My trip upstairs with my bags was rewarded by the view from my window, which overlooked their garden at the back of the building. It was quite lovely, with a small table to enjoy tea among the lush plantings, and a small outdoor room, where one could sit and read. My room was very nice, and en suite, something I always liked to have. With contagion loose in the land, I liked it even more.
After settling in a little, I came downstairs again to sit in the garden and rest a bit amongst the green. Adrian brought me a glass of lemonade and we chatted about what there is to see in Stirling. Some things were still closed – a situation I encountered throughout my stay in Scotland – but the castle was open, and he thought the art gallery, also. He made a couple of other suggestions about things near the village – the Wallace Monument and a nice walk to an outlying neighborhood with a ruined abbey.
Revived by lemonade, I took my daypack and ventured into the town to see what there was to see. I didn’t have to walk far – Stirling is filled with statues, old buildings, and atmospheric streets, and barely a hundred feet, I found Rob Roy.
“Rob Roy,” the romanticised protagonist of a novel by Sir Walter Scott, was a real person, a Scottish outlaw who became a folk hero. Robert MacGregor was born in 1671, died in 1734, and is buried in Balquhiddar Church Cemetery in Balquhiddar, a village near Loch Moir in the Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park.
While Scott’s Rob Roy was a “dashing and chivalrous outlaw,” the historical Rob Roy, whose nickname describes his thick, unruly, bright red hair, was one of the “Wild MacGregors, cattle rustlers and brigands,” according to Ben Johnson’s article on the Historic U.K. website. (I should note, however, there was a comment on the article from Anne MacGregor, who says, “This was written by an Englishman.”)
Stirling, the village, came to exist because of the port along the River Forth. Stirling has been a harbor since medieval times, with traffic moving between Stirling Castle, the harbor, and Cambuskenneth Abbey. By the 15th century, industry was establishing itself along the shore. Wine, wood, and oil were the main imports, and Stirling exported cloth, salmon, and coal out to other places, especially Europe.
In the 15th and 16th centuries, the salmon runs in the River Forth were plentiful, but by the 17th century, fishing and pollution sent the salmon into decline. Textiles filled the gap with more exports to Holland and the Baltic ports from Stirling’s mills.
In the 1700s trade with America grew, passing mostly through Glasgow. This caused some shift in business from Stirling to Glasgow, but it wasn’t long before steamers helped maintain business on the River Forth into the late 1800s.
During the First and Second World Wars, Stirling harbor prospered as a shipping point for munitions and tea to Scotland, but after the wars, other means of transportation – railways and roads – made running boats on the River Forth with its navigational challenges and tidal difficulties less competitive, and harbor business declined. Today, it remains a minor source of revenue.