I’m well aware that there are uber patriotic Americans- Saturday Night Live skits and the Daily Show have made me well aware of the fact. However, outside the Fourth of July or the most recent election day, I rarely witness or take part in extreme patriotism. It’s not that I’m ashamed of my nationality, its just not one of the ways I primarily identify myself, and I think many of my peers feel the same way.
And then there is Scotland. Outside of watching My Big Fat Greek Wedding, I have never witnessed a national pride like I have here. From the Scottish National Party’s recent political victory to the heart filled performances of Bonnie Loch Lomond to kilt-wearing guides leading Scotland tours to the displays at a local grocery store, Scotland is swelling with Scottish pride.
And I’m not kidding about the grocery store.
I have about 10 more photos just like this, but I don’t want you to think you got lost and stumbled onto a food blog. (You know how I feel about food blogs.)
It’s true that Scotland has much to be proud of. A country full of friendly, hospitable people. Energetic cities and hauntingly beautiful landscapes. And enough inventions to drown a patent office. (Adhesive postage stamps, anesthetics, golf, microwave ovens, penicillin, and air filled tires, to name a few). But Scotland also has one man, one legend, one story great enough to become a hollywood blockbuster: William Wallace, or, as you may know him, Braveheart.
The name William Wallace has a way of arousing feelings of Scottish pride centuries after his death. His status as a national icon is well deserved- the name exudes determination and courage in the face of terrible odds. It was a real life David and Goliath tale when Wallace defeated England in 1297 at the Battle of Stirling Bridge with a 10,000 men disadvantage. To learn more about Wallace and the one of Scotland’s most beloved figures, we headed to Stirling for a day to visit the Wallace Monument.
The monument is a tall tower with 246 steps to reach the top. Along the vertigo and asthma inducing way, there are three different rooms to stop in, catch your breath, and learn more about Wallace’s history, other Scottish leaders, and the history of the monument.
I loved reading about the history and especially the reflections on the Scottish character and how Wallace has become a symbol for all that Scotland is. One of my favorite quotes follows:
“The happiest lot in the world is to be born a Scotsman. You must pay for it in many way, as for all other advantages on earth. You generally take to drink… but somehow life is warner and closer, the hearth burns for redly; the lights of home shine softer on the rainy street; the very names, endeared in verse and music, cling near round our hearts.”
– Robert Louis Stevenson
Upon reached the top of the very un-handicap accessible stairway, you were rewarded by a sprawling, open balcony topping off the tower.
The best part? The view! It was great to stand up there and reflect on Wallace’s amazing victory, the land he worked so hard to protect, and how this monument would definitely put anyone with a slight fear of heights straight into a coma.
I had to laugh when we finally made our way down and read the guestbook. I guess we weren’t the only ones that had trouble with those steep steps! Best comment: “Get an elevator.”
Oh, and you didn’t think I’d end a Scotland post without a mention of my bovine obsession, did you? Stirling will always hold a special place in my heart as the city that brought my highland cow hat into my life.
Travel Tip: Stirling was a lovely town and a worthwhile day trip from Glasgow or Edinburgh. Combine your trip to the Wallace Monument with a trip to the Stirling Castle. And don’t forget your Student ID for discounts everywhere!