Monday we docked in Greenock, Scotland which is about 45 minutes from Glasgow. We took an excursion to the small town of Stirling and toured Stirling Castle and viewed the area of Bannockburn, which you might remember from the movie Braveheart. After Stirling we drove to the Falkirk Wheel which is a boat lift that was made in the past decade to replace some of the canal locks and to provide recreational use. We got to see the lift in action and rode a boat up and down the lift! Tuesday we return to the Republic of Ireland to visit Dublin
Stirling, Bannockburn, and Falkirk Details
Our guide for the bus tour to Stirling was fine, but she didn't offer nearly the same level of interesting information about the region as we have heard on our other tours, so unfortunately I don't have much info to share about Scottish life. Hopefully we will hear more at the next port in Scotland.
We did another bus tour excursion arranged by Princess Cruise Lines. Our tour headed to Stirling first - we had about 1.5 hour bus ride to reach it and passed lots of interesting metal sculptures that were done recently by a Scottish artist. I can't remember the name right now but I will find it later. Saw some regeneration in the greater Greenock and Glasgow areas where they had converted former shipping buildings into single apartments by gutting the inside and restoring the beautiful brick and stone exteriors.
One of the most interesting things about Scotland right now is that in just a few weeks they are going to have a referendum to decide if Scotland should become independent from the United Kingdom. This June was the 700th anniversary of the Battle of Bannockburn which was a major battle in the first fight for Scottish independence. Driving through Scotland, you can see lots of posters and ads to vote yes or no in the referendum. I have also seen TV ads where celebrities have weighed in on how people should vote. Will be very interesting to see how things turn out.
In Stirling, we got dropped off at the castle at the top of the town and had about 2 hours to tour the castle or explore the town before meeting the bus. We opted to tour the castle and started out following a guided tour which they offer for free, but peeled off halfway through to explore on our own using the audio guides we had rented since we were short on time. They are working hard to restore the castle and have added interesting exhibitions, models, and reconstructed furniture and finishings so that you can really get an idea of what it would have looked like. Some visitors in the reviews we read ahead of time accused the castle of "Disney-fying" the time period but I thought the additions were very helpful rather than looking at a bunch of empty stone rooms. We stepped into the Argyll and Sutherland museum which featured exhibits on the history of the Scottish military from the 17th century to present. We also really enjoyed the tapestry room where they are making a copy of the tapestry known as "The Hunt of the Unicorn" which is currently on display at the Met in NYC. If any of you have ever read the historical fiction called "Girl with the Unicorn" its the same tapestry featured in that story. It takes a master tapestry worker a full day to do one square inch of work, so it will take nearly 5 years or more to complete the tapestry. We saw them working on it and it looks lovely.
After racing back through the town and having some difficulty finding our bus due to poor directions from the guide, we finally found the group and headed for the Falkirk Wheel. This was made in the early 21st century as part of the Millennium Link project which is seeking to restore Scottish canals across the country and bring them back into use for recreation and amusement. The wheel is based on Archimedes' principle of balance and displacement so they are two chambers that can hold water and boats and they let in more or less water on each side so that they are always counter balanced. We got to go into a boat and ride the lift which has replaced a series of 8 locks. Overall I would say it is worth a stop if you are in the area, but don't bother to ride it up. Its actually more interesting to stay on the ground and watch it go up and down.
After the wheel we headed back to the ship and drove through the outskirts of Glasgow. We have made friends with 2 older couples from England and we always team up with them at the trivia games on the ship. Ate dinner in the specialty Italian restaurant again then turned in around 10:30 PM since we have an early start for Dublin on Tuesday.