May 15, 2011
Sunday morning we were heading down to the Borders. After a breakfast of crepes, we loaded up the car, said goodbye to Colin, our host, and took the road towards Stirling. We left around 8:30. I was hoping that the scenery along our route would be as spectacular as the rest of the Highlands but it wasn't. The weather was overcast and a bit rainy. If it had been nice, maybe we would have detoured up to Glencoe again, but it wasn't any different than how we saw it the first time.
We wanted to stop at Doune Castle. This is where the movie Monty Python and the Holy Grail was mainly filmed. It was an interesting castle. Terry Jones from the movie narrates the audio guides we had, and as you go through each room he tells you the history. Then if you are interested you can push another button and hear what part of the movie was filmed in that particular room. I took a photo of Mike in the window where they sang the Camelot song.
We made pretty good time, so we decided to head to Stirling Castle. It was busy in town. We parked down the hill and then walked up to the castle. We decided to first have lunch in the cafe at the castle and then toured around. We also got some good views of Stirling Bridge where the English tried to invade. It wasn't raining at this point.
We stayed about an hour at the castle and then moved on. Down through the Borders, we made it to Traquair House around 4:30. This was our accommodation for the night. It is the oldest continually inhabited house in Scotland and still owned by the Stuart family. The oldest part was built in the 1100's and the newer part in the 1500's. Because the family remained Catholic, they never had enough money to keep refurbishing, and so the house has retained much of its history.
The housekeeper met us at the door and showed us our room. It was beautiful, with a four poster bed, fireplace, big windows and chairs to relax in. It was also quite big. We had an outer room and our private bathroom was off this. We were on the second floor up some stone steps.
We also had the use of a sitting room in one of the wings built onto the house. This had paintings of Lord Nithsdale and his wife and some other family members. Lord Nithsdale made a daring escape from the Tower of London with the help of his wife. The cloak that she brought for him to disguise himself is upstairs in Traquair House's private museum.
We used the sitting room to eat our supper (take-away fish and chips) but it was quite a dark room, and we preferred our brighter bedroom.
There was a large maze in the backyard. I went through it and Mike took photos of me from our bedroom window.
The house is open for touring from 11:00 until 5:00, so we arrived too late to see it that evening. But we had breakfast in a very old room with lots of china plates displayed, and then toured the house on our own before it was open to the public. The cousin of Mary, Queen of Scots owned it and she came for visits. There is the bed that Mary used and also the cradle for her son, James.
The house has a priest hole. Because the family was Catholic and had a priest, they had a way for him to escape should the authorities arrive looking for him.
Upstairs was a private museum with lots of things owned by the family. We enjoyed staying here and would again. We would want to arrive earlier to take better advantage of it. It is not cheap but it is unique. £180 per room per night.