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The Callanish (or Calanais in Gaelic) Standing Stones is a complex of 50 stones in a cruciform arrangement roughly aligned north-south, with an inner circle of 13 stones and a small chambered cairn. They date from 3000BC and there are several other prehistoric sites nearby, including 3 additional circles. As with other stone circles in Britain, there is no satisfactory explanation for the purpose of these monuments - though, according to tradition they are petrified giants.
There is a modern visitor centre managed by Urras nan Tursachan (The Standing Stones Trust).
Magnificent ruins of a late medieval/16th century royal palace, overlooking a loch. The 'pleasure palace' for several Scottish monarchs, it was also the birthplace of Mary, Queen of Scots. It takes little imagination to picture it as it was, full of the nobility in their finery, with its wide stairs, elegant windows, rich furnishings and a fountain running with wine. Was this Scotland's Hampton Court? It could have been.
Linlithgow has another claim to fame - it was the birthplace of Scottish Nationalist politician Alex Salmond, who also grew up in the town.
The interior of tiny Dornoch Cathedral is stunning: magnificent stained glass windows set in simple stone walls, crowned by a white, vaulted, roof. It exudes tranquillity. Founded by the Bishop of Sutherland, Gilbert de Moravia a little after 1222, in 1570 Dornoch Cathedral was almost totally destroyed during a clan feud between the Murrays of Dornoch and the Mackays of Strathnaver, when it was set on fire. It was partially repaired in 1616, but the restoration was not completed until the 19th century. The pop star Madonna had her son, Rocco, baptised at Dornoch in 2000; she and her then husband, Guy Ritchie, were married at nearby Skibo Castle.
Dunrobin is the largest great house in the northern Highlands and has been home to the Earls and Dukes of Sutherland for more than 700 years. Though dating from the 13th century, the present house is largely Victorian, built in Scottish baronial style with a nod to a French chateau. It has been used as a hospital and school, but is still the Sutherland family and clan home. There are also extensive gardens and grounds.
Now a private members club, The Carnegie Club, the medieval Skibo Castle was a residence of the Bishops of Caithness. The current building is largely 19th/20th century, when it was home to wealthy industrialist Andrew Carnegie. More recently, it was purchased by businessman Peter de Savary. Various celebrities have been married at the castle.
Photo copyright Graeme Smith via geograph.co.uk
The Battle of Bannockburn took place over the 23rd and 24th June 1314 between the Scots, under Robert the Bruce, and a significantly larger army under Edward II of England. The English were under siege by the Scots at Stirling Castle and Edward's army was intended to relieve the siege. Instead, Bruce inflicted a massive defeat. This ultimately led to the Declaration of Arbroath in 1320.
Much of the probable site of the battle is now built over. However, the National Trust for Scotland operates a visitor centre that offers a hi-tech battle experience (ticket only), a shop and a cafe. There is memorial to the battle on the site as well as a statue of Robert the Bruce. Note - there is no museum or exhibition.
The battle was fought on 11 September 1297. Following Scots support for the French, Edward I of England invaded Scotland, deposed the King, John Balliol and left an army of occupation. Sir William Wallace and Sir Andrew Moray led a rebellion and met an English army outside Stirling. The English advanced over a narrow bridge over the River Forth. The Scots fell upon the English from the high ground on Abbey Craig, cutting the invading army in two. The English commander, the Earl of Surrey, could not reinforce because of the narrowness of the bridge. The portion of his forces that had crossed the bridge were cut down, though some of managed to escape by swimming back across the river. The Scottish victory destroyed the myth of English invincibility. Legend has it that the hated English treasurer, Hugh de Cressingham, was flayed after the battle and that Wallace made a belt from the skin.
The actual bridge of the battle was destroyed at the time. The current 'old' bridge was built downstream of it in the 16th century and is still in use by pedestrians. There is a plaque on the east end of the bridge, with a small portion of meadow adjacent, but it is thought that most of the fighting took place on ground that is now built over. It's a nice bridge, though. Post code is very approximate.
A unique and massive boat lift connecting the Forth and Clyde Canal with the Union Canal. Completed in 2002 at a cost of £84.5 million, the Falkirk Wheel raises boats 79 feet (24 metres), though there are still a couple of locks to negotiate as well. An engineering masterpiece, there are boat trips, walks, a play park, visitor centre and other activities.
The National Wallace Monument is a large Victorian tower, in baronial/medieval style, built high on a prominent hill, to commemorate the Scottish patriot Sir William Wallace (c1270 - 1305), who led resistance against the English during the Scottish Wars of Independence before being betrayed, captured and taken to London, where he was executed. The Monument opened in 1869 and includes 3 exhibition chambers telling the story of Wallace, his victory at nearby Stirling Bridge in 1297, and the building of the monument. There are 246 steps to the top of the monument, from which there are stunning views of Stirling, the castle and surrounding countryside.
Stirling Castle is one of Scotland's premier fortresses and oozes history and legend. Built on an intrusive crag known as 'castle rock', it is in a strong defensive position and visible for miles. The castle changed hands several times during the medieval struggles between the Scots and the English and two major battles, Stirling Bridge (1297) and Bannockburn (1314) were fought nearby and won by the Scots. Stirling became a royal castle, a residence of the Stuart dynasty. The last siege was by Bonnie Prince Charlie in the 18th century and the present buildings are mainly 15th/16th century. Meticulous restoration work enables us to see parts of the Royal Palace, Great Hall and Chapel as they would have been and there are fabulous views.