It was a late night getting to bed, which is why I stayed in bed later than I should have. I planned to take a little day trip to Stirling, but not one that was going to be all day. I learned my lesson from St. Andrews. After you have seen so much and you’ve walked for so long, you’re ready to go back home.
My train was set to leave at 9:34 am from Edinburgh to Stirling. I finally pulled myself out of bed, got dressed, put on my American flag cap, and walked briskly to the bus stop. I got on the bus and traveled to the Edinburgh Waverley train station. As has been the usual, I was feeling a bit tense because I had stayed in bed a little too long. The bus finally neared the station. I jumped off and ran to the side entrance. I jogged down the sloped entrance, around the corner, went inside and printed my ticket. I ran out to the platforms, looked at the screens that displayed the arrival of the trains, ran to the platform, got into the train, and sat down in the seat at 9:32. Two minutes to spare. Piece of cake.
ARRIVING IN STIRLING
It was a pleasant train ride to Stirling and not very long. Only about an hour. The train arrived in Stirling. There was a slight drizzle in the air, but it wasn’t technically raining. Luckily I brought my umbrella.
I wasn’t certain which way to go or how far everything was. There was a little cartoon-like map at the exit of the train station. I stared at it for a little while. I spotted Stirling Castle and began my trek toward it. From the station, it was all slopes. It was a bit of a climb along the cobblestone path. It was entirely noticeable that it was Sunday because just about all the stores and shops were closed.
I was really craving some coffee since I didn’t have a chance (my fault, I know) to get any and I learned from the St. Andrews trip that the train coffee…not so good.
I kept moving forward, as all good Americans do, and stopped in a place that looked like a gift shop. It also sold tickets to the castle. I grabbed my ticket from a nice older lady and made my way to the castle.
REACHING STIRLING CASTLE
I was greeted by a rather fierce statue of Isaac the Bruce. I made my way inside, took a right, and went inside the café. I grabbed a coffee, which was the darkest coffee I had ever seen, and a white chocolate and cranberry muffin. They were both quite good. A real Isaac the Bruce breakfast, sans the muffin (and the cream and sugar I put in the coffee).
After eating, I walked toward the other side of the castle into Queen Anne’s Garden. It was a beautiful sight full of colorful flowers and bright green grass. The ledge of the garden offered a lovely view of the Church of the Holy Rude (Cross) and what must have formerly been trees and green grass as far as the eye could see. Now there was a busy street and numerous houses and small buildings in the background.
I spent a couple of hours inside the castle, going through all the rooms, taking photos, and reading the displays of where the origins of Scottish royalty came from. There were various rooms beautifully decorated, including the King James Palace and the Queen’s Bedchamber (hey-o!). There was also an area in the back of the castle that explained the elaborate unicorn tapestry that was throughout the castle and how the unicorn represented Christ. Like I said: elaborate.
ON TO THE CEMETERY
While standing atop Stirling Castle, I could see the beautiful layout of the cemetery of the Church of the Holy Rude. I meandered down to it after exiting the castle.
I was told by a friend of a friend to make sure I took a moment to look at the Wigtown Martyrs sepulcher, representing two women who were killed for their beliefs. It was definitely worth the look. A really glorious statue.
I walked up a little knoll that stood above all the statues, sepulchers and tombstones. From there, there was a wonderful viewpoint of the cemetery, Stirling Castle, and the Church. It really was something.
INTO THE CHURCH OF THE HOLY RUDE
When I walked inside the Church of the Holy Rude, I was truly taken aback by how beautiful it was. The stained glass windows were absolutely amazing and how the light came through in such a calm yet fascinating way was breathtaking. I took so many pictures while in there. I couldn’t help but just stare at the beauty and intricacies of everything. It was also the place where Queen Mary of Scots crowned her son, King James VI.
I took a lot of photos and then decided to leave and try to make it to Stirling University where my good friend and mentor, Danel Olson, had received his PhD. I also made the decision to grab a little trinket before leaving. It was a Church of the Holy Rude bookmark. Nothing much. But it would be the decision that would keep me from getting to the University.
AMERICAN POLITICS FOLLOWS ME TO STIRLING
There were two older ladies working the booth where I purchased the bookmark. One seemed in her 50s with white hair and about foot taller than the other, who was about 15 to 20 years her senior. The older had a thicker Scottish accent, while the younger had more of a British accent.
They asked where I was from and I said, “Houston, Texas.” I was raring to go, but then I was asked how I felt about everything back home. I thought she meant the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, so I said, “We’re doing alright.” Then she asked two more times and I finally realized that she wasn’t talking about weather situations, it was political. So I repeated: We. Are. Doing. Fine.
It was as if a rushing mighty wind blew through the church and almost knocked her down. She started on President Trump and Kim Jung Un and how she thought Trump was crazier than Un (brilliant assessment). Then she tossed her own Prime Minister, Theresa May, out there for insult. She was obviously unhappy with everyone in power and thought, in her words, they should both be shot. Good grief. So much for a vacation that involved a little escape from the insanity of American politics.
The older lady had her say, but in a much more gentle way. I found it very strange to have a political debate in a church that was super quiet and about 600 years old. I tried to answer reverently, for the church’s sake and not for the younger lady. By the grace of God, the lady finally left. The older lady remained and said that she had met several visitors who said they were ashamed to acknowledge they were from America and that they were telling people they were from Canada. I told her that was stupid. I told her I wasn’t proud of how the President was handling the office, but that I would never tell someone I was from somewhere else. I had a freaking American flag cap on. Who was I trying to impress? I told her that she was very kind, that her friend didn’t know what she was talking about, and that those false-Canadians could move to Canada (they were from New Jersey).
I wasn’t able to go to the university all because of one rude woman in the Church of the Holy Rude. Oh well. What can be done? I got back to the train station and waited on the platform thinking, “I wonder if anyone else wants to have a political debate while I wear this cap?” Bring it. Just don’t try to have it in an old church.