Visit Scotland Expo 2014
Glasgow, Perthshire Highlands, Stirling, the Trossachs & Edinburgh
April 2, 2014 – April 6th, 2014


April 4

Our first visit was to the Bannockburn Heritage Centre and a guided tour of the newly refurbished Bannockburn Heritage Centre. The only place in Scotland where 3D technology and medieval warriors meet. For new or returning visitors, this cutting edge visitor centre with state-of-the-art 3D battle simulation completely changes the way you experience Bannockburn. Outdoors, the landscaping and parkland around the centre allows visitors to appreciate the battleground and restored commemorative monuments; including an iconic statue of Robert the Bruce cast in shimmering bronze.

Then on to Stirling Castle and guided tour. It was beautiful and the views…wow. Just down the hill was a lovely old cemetery and the village itself is history…truly enjoyed my visit here. Stirling Castle, located in Stirling, is one of the largest and most important castles, both historically and architecturally, in Scotland. The castle sits atop Castle Hill, an intrusive crag, which forms part of the Stirling Sill geological formation. It is surrounded on three sides by steep cliffs, giving it a strong defensive position. Its strategic location, guarding what was, until the 1890s, the farthest downstream crossing of the River Forth, has made it an important fortification from the earliest times. Most of the principal buildings of the castle date from the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. A few structures of the fourteenth century remain, while the outer defences fronting the town date from the early eighteenth century. Several Scottish Kings and Queens have been crowned at Stirling, including Mary, Queen of Scots, in 1542. There have been at least eight sieges of Stirling Castle, including several during the Wars of Scottish Independence, with the last being in 1746, when Bonnie Prince Charlie unsuccessfully tried to take the castle. Stirling Castle is a Scheduled Ancient Monument, and is now a tourist attraction managed by Historic Scotland.  We also enjoyed a delicious lunch while here at the Unicorn Café, so named because of the statues and other representations of unicorns around the castle.

On our way to our next visit we passed the famous Gleneagles Golf Course. No time to go in but we did a drive by. After this we left for Blair Castle and a guided tour there. Now I wasn’t expecting a castle to be quite so different but Blair is…it is white and built like a huge manor house not a castle. Journey into the fascinating past of the Dukes and Earls of Atholl. Unique amongst Scottish castles, the story told here will take you from a visit by Mary Queen of Scots to the Civil War, and from the Jacobite cause to the disaster of Culloden following Bonnie Prince Charlie's own stay in the castle. You'll hear how the lucky inheritance of a smuggler-infested island helped turn the castle into a comfortable home, and learn how Queen Victoria's famous stay led to the creation of Europe's only private army, the Atholl Highlanders. Dating back to 1269, the castle has been transformed through the ages, from its cold medieval beginnings in a strategic position during political struggles to become a fine Georgian mansion and finally a Victorian castle in the baronial style. These influences can still be seen today across the 30 rooms on full display. The grounds were breathtaking and even though it was April and not too much up yet I could see how gorgeous these landscaped grounds were going to be. Hercules Garden is a stunning 9 acre walled garden recently restored to its original Georgian design. Named after the life-sized statue of Hercules which overlooks the garden, it incorporates landscaped ponds, a folly, a Chinese bridge and an impressive orchard of more than 100 fruit trees. The glory of this garden in summer are the herbaceous borders which run along the 275m south-facing wall. This was all I had time for but there was much more to see. 

Our hotel tonight would be in Perth at The Royal George Hotel, a heritage hotel that has seen guests for the past 230 years and a lovely one at that. Notable visitors have included Empress Eugenie and Queen Victoria, who made The Royal George Hotel her place of residence when she visited Perth in 1848. She was so impressed with its hospitality that The George Inn was renamed The Royal George Hotel in her honour, and both the Royal Warrant and two lamps, fashioned from the bed the monarch slept in, are still in the hotel today! Right on the river Tay it was lovely to park my bag and go out to see where I was. The architecture here is beautiful. Right next to the hotel is this old church and it had the most wonderful little gardens….a bridge across the river told me tales full of history. A wonderful walking path and gardens along the waters edge was a nice way to relax. Dinner was just wonderful here and the staff were so kind to us all. I loved the thistle wallpaper too! Then it was off to bed as you can guess…

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