The party is over. Now it’s time to have some fun on my own. Taxi to the airport where I picked up my rental car. Of course I got lost just trying to get out of the airport. Turned wrong on the ‘round about’ and wandered around a residential district, townhouses made to look old with used brick but lacking the rounded edges of time.
I found the Wallace Monument easily enough, good maps and directions at the Tourist Information Center, TIC. In my 2 previous trips to Scotland I’d never managed to see this Victorian tribute to Scotland’s almost mythical hero.
On the shuttle from the gift shop at the base of the hill up to the monument, I started noticing an abundance of wildflowers. Most dominant was what we call fireweed back home because it’s among the first plants to return after a forest fire. Later I looked it up in a book at a TIC and discovered, they too call it fireweed because it was the first plant to bloom in the devastation left behind by the great fire of London in the 17th C.
I rented a prerecorded tour rather than go with a group. The cane became invaluable on the uneven floors and narrow turret stairs. I was very interested in the exhibit about Wallace, his life, his deeds, and his trial by the English. His oversized sword has become the stuff of legend. Mel Gibson did a great job portraying Wallace in “Braveheart” but he’ll never measure up to the true man in physical stature.
The next floor up contained an exhibit of many great men of history with Scottish ancestry. I knew a lot of the names – Edmund Burke, Robert Louis Stevenson, and many, many others. Not all of the names of scientists, physicians, astronomers, and such were familiar, but their deeds were. Scotland is not a backward collection of warring barbarian tribes. It is much, much more.
At the base of the tower hill is another monument, this is a modern bas-relief sculpture of Mel Gibson in “Braveheart”. I was touched by the story of the sculptor who had suffered illness, depression, and injury. He thought his career and his life was over. Then he saw the movie and was seized with overwhelming patriotism. He dug out his tools and painfully began work on his tribute to Wallace. Finishing it took years. But by the time he finished he was nearly completely recovered. He donated the sculpture to the people of Scotland, to reside at the monument, in gratitude.
After lunch in the small cafeteria, I moved on toward Stirling and Banockburn.
On my first trip to Scotland in 1970 I stumbled upon Nigel Trantor’s fictional trilogy about Robert the Bruce. I know a lot more about the Bruce now, and he was ambitious, unscrupulous, driven, and a politician, as well as a decent general, but at the time he became my hero. His greatest achievement in my opinion was that he built upon Wallace’s legacy that Scotland could unite in a common cause. I’m glad I saw the two monuments in order.
I listened to a very good presentation at the information center by a man in mail armor, carrying period style weapons. We talked afterward. My rudimentary knowledge of fencing helped me understand a lot more about the weapons and warfare of the time. Then I wandered over to the statue of the Bruce on horseback that overlooks the battlefield. I stood in awe for many minutes.
On my wanderings I followed a path downhill a bit and onto a country lane, an honest to gosh real British country lane like I’ve read about so often in history and literature. Less than a road, more than a path, a lane bounded by hedgerows. My day was complete.
And so on to Perth and the B&B owned by my plane seatmate LM. The manager sent me down the road a piece to a restaurant that we’d call a steak house. Good salad bar. I had the roast beef and Yorkshire pudding. This was the only time on the trip I indulged in this iconic British meal. Very heavy and way too many carbs, but tasty and satisfying.
A very good day. I met a lot of helpful people who showed me true hospitality. Very satisfied with this part of my adventure.
Phyllis Irene Radford is a founding member of the Book View Café. She blogs here regularly on Thursdays, the same day her cozy mystery “Lacing Up For Murder” by Irene Radford is serialized on the front page rotation.
For more about her and her fiction please visit her bookshelf here on BVC http://www.bookviewcafe.com/index.php/Phyllis-Irene-Radford/
Or her personal web page ireneradford.com