I had 4 nights at Stirling (The Woods caravan site, which was OK though lacking in character).

First stop was Stirling Castle, not so much for the Castle itself (though it did seem to be very popular with tourists from all over Europe and beyond), but for the regimental museum of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders (GG grandfather John Thomas Wells was with the 91st Argyllshire Highlanders when he went off to the Zulu war in 1879… one of the little factual titbits he contributes to the family tree is that the treatment for gonorrhea in 1882 involved “purgatives and injections”. Nice…..).

The castle itself was far too over-preened for my liking:


Argyll’s Lodging, a 17th century townhouse just outside the castle (included in the castle ticket) was more interesting I thought than the castle itself. The story of Sir William Alexander (1577 – 1640) who owned it for a time was good though focused more on his dying bankrupt than on the founding of Nova Scotia. I have a line of Alexanders but only back to a James Alexander born around 1806, so Who Knows…. ? Being descended from a prominent bankrupt certainly would help to answer the “Where Does he get it from?” question that so troubled my grandma…. (and if so she would have been pleased to announce that it wasn’t from her side!).

The next day I checked out the Battle of Bannockburn (1314), which comprises a visitor centre (National Trust Scotland) with a full visitor experience involving the use of 3D specs, plus a statue of Robert the Bruce. They did the best job I’ve seen to date of creating something out of a battleground where no physical evidence remains.


I had more ancestors to track down within spitting distance of the battle (in Cambusbarron), though they didn’t show up until 1868-1871ish so a little while after the end of the hostilities. A large Victorian-looking building in the village (together with not much else) certainly gives a logical explanation for my GGG grandmother and her children moving down from Perth – it turns out to have been a huge mill that employed around 1000 (she was a weaver) and was expanding rapidly at the time. Of course her husband’s death back in Perth in 1868 having fallen down the stairs in the early hours of the morning in a house that wasn’t his own may also have been a motivating factor behind the move…..


I visited two more National Trust Scotland properties in the area – Menstrie Castle (which was shut and is quite interestingly in the middle of a modern council estate. The promotional photos have been very carefully taken!) and Alloa Tower, which seems to have had a lot of money spent on preservation but as yet very little on interpretation / explanation.


My last visit in the area was to the fantastic Doune Castle, which it turned out was used for the filing of Highlander (whatever that is) and (drum roll….) Monty Python’s Holy Grail. The audio guide, introduced by Terry Jones, was quite entertaining which makes a welcome change).


Then it was on up to Perth for some more ancestor-bothering……


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