rwrylsin signed up for a sabre training course which ran today, 12:30 to 6:30, and it was being held in a small (cheap, underused) hall in Stirling. Since I drove her up there, it gave me 6 hours to go wandering around Stirling, and I think I used them well.
I started by driving through Stirling, following the tourist signs pointing to the castle - except I missed the one for the turn-off which led up to the castle, and ended up heading out the other side of town. I saw a sign pointing to a viewing spot, which turned out to have a great view of the castle, just across a grassy field (an interesting field, because there are multi-levelled mounds in it - having watched all these archaeology programs recently, I'm now wondering if the mounds are a recent thing, and if not, what age they're from). I wandered around the mounds first, then across the field to another field full of wildflowers, and noticed that a small path led off from the back of the field into the forest on the hillside. I figured it was worth investigating, and went up the path - and up, and up, and up. The forest I was passing through was green and greener and greenest, and very quiet, and thoroughly enchanting. I got to the top soon enough, followed another path, and found myself in the car park for Stirling Castle (yay!).
I went in to the castle, to find that I was just in time for a demonstration of falconry - first there was a kestrel, I think, then a type of falcon, swooshing and swooping past the lawn area (which I think is called the bowling green, or is a bowling green) grabbing food held up by their trainer. I attempted to take photos, of course, but moving birds are rather tricky to get good photos of.
When that ended, I started wandering around the castle, looking for views or interesting features which were worth photographing (I had a lot of camera stuff with me - 35mm camera and lenses from 17 to 300mm, medium format camera (Mamiya TLR, with three lenses), tripod, and my little Pentax digital), grabbed a snack, then wandered back out to the front - just in time for the next session of falconry, so I sat down and had another go at taking photos of the nice birdies.
Finally, I decided it was time to walk back down through the pretty forest, and then go on to the Wallace Monument.
So, I got back to the car and drove through Stirling, again following tourist signs, and parked at the car park for the Wallace Monument. Getting to the monument involves a fairly steep walk up the road which curls around the hill (Abbey Craig is its actual name ... ), then there are 246 steps (so they say; I didn't count them) up to the top. The climb is well worth it though, because the views of the surrounding area are spectacular, to say the least, so I stopped at the top, caught my breath and took photos with all three of the cameras I had with me (the 35mm camera had black & white film, the medium format film can make enlargements pretty much as large as you'd like, and the digital is very handy for quickly sticking things up on the web. If I remember, I'll put some images up tomorrow).
After going berserk with the cameras it was time to head down again (another 246 steps, and a very narrow staircase, so it was tricky when people were heading the other way, since I had a large backpack and camera bag and tripod bag). At the bottom of the monument I started the walk down the hill, then saw a path which had a sign indicating it led to another viewing point, which I decided I'd follow for a while. I found the viewing point, took a couple of photos, then decided to keep following the path. I wandered on down the path, which went into the forest on the hill (more lovely greenest forest !), generally heading down and into the forest, I kept going for quite a while, and some sections of the path were very muddy - I debated turning around when I reached them, but decided to work my way around them. Of course, once I'd worked my way past the first couple of muddy bits, turning around became less and less an option (because of course there wouldn't be any more of them, right ? And if I turned around I knew just how many I'd have to pass, and they'd be uphill too, which could be trickier), so I kept going on the path, and going, and going. Finally, I reached a place where the path turned around, following the boundary between the forest and someone's sheep paddock for a while, and figured it would be easy from there on. The path headed back in to the forest after a while, though, and didn't head uphill as I expected it to. I followed on further, and it seemed that I was in a less-travelled area of the forest (more low branches over the path, a few more muddy patches). Finally, I reached what seemed to be a dead end - in front of me, and on both sides of the path, there was a slope down a metre or two, a bit of flat ground, then stone surfaces all around, at least 3-4 metres up from the bottom of the slope. I went back a bit, and finally found a place where I could clamber up on some rocks, grab a tree, then shove myself up to the upper level of ground there. There was another path up there, again following the boundary of a sheep paddock, so I followed it along, and along, and along some more - saw a couple of rabbits running away, and a squirrel scampered along a stone wall, and I was reaching a point where I was worrying that rwrylsin would start worrying where I was (because I thought her course finished at 6:00, and it was just on 6:00, and I didn't have my mobile with me), when I saw a wide path heading off to the left. I took a chance, climbed up that for a few hundred metres ... and found myself back at the road around the hill (yay !). After that, it was easy to get back to the car, check that the course finished at 6:30, and drive back to Stirling to pick rwrylsin up and head home.
So, here I am, rather sunburnt (it's Scotland, why would I be thinking of suncream ? - I had my umbrella with me at all times, though), quite tired, but very happy with my summer afternoon.