Castles and Queens

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Saturday, July 25 Day 3
It’s time to leave Edinburgh to pick up our car to go west to Oban, taking Airlink Bus 100 back to the airport is easy. Our hotel is a block away from Waverley station from where all the buses leave. Unfortunately while on the bus I dropped my camera and didn’t realize it until later in the morning – but I’m getting ahead of myself. That was only the beginning of the drama.

The bus let us off at the Edinburgh airport car rental area. I’d booked the car online through Travelocity requesting the smallest automatic, which they gave us. However as we were leaving we discovered the phone charger didn’t work (we need it for GPS). They moved us to another small automatic – a cute little sapphire blue Mercedes A Class. I loved the little blue wonder with the leather seats and pretty color – at the time.

They aren’t kidding! We saw this sign often!

I was nervous about driving on the left side of the road but felt it would get better as the day wore on. Afterall, I’d driven all over Cornwall without incident – 10 years ago and it wasn’t Scotland in high season. I was fine on the highways but as the roads became two lane, narrow, and windy I was just stressed and never really relaxed. I found I wasn’t concerned about staying on the left side, it was more the narrow roads. In order to not hug the left side and go over curbs I had to hug the center line. I alway felt I was going to loose my mirror to an oncoming car, or bus, or truck! To top it all the GPS wasn’t exactly steller and we were fighting with that off and on. We were not having a good time!

Needless to say by the end of the day I was very happy to get rid of, the by then named “Lucifer”. Gail, bless her, was just as happy to park the car at our Guest House, neither of us were enjoying the lovely scenery we came to Scotland to see.

In the meantime, during the drive to Oban we stopped at Sterling Castle, a short drive from Edinburgh. The parking lot was full so we were led to a distance Park and Ride with a bus to the castle. That’s when I realized my camera was gone (not a good way to start the day)!

Throne room Sterling Castle


Sterling Castle was originally contructed in the 1200s – the current structure is from the late 1400s to 1600. Mary Queen of Scots was crowned at Sterling Castle. Bonnie Prince Charlie tried unsucessfully to take it in 1746 just before the disasterous battle of Culloden later that year. The castle has a long and interesting history.

Sterling Castle has been refurbished but to me they went overboard and it didn’t have an authentic feeling. The colors on the wall paintings and ceilings were too bright to be authentic for the times, but I’m likely being too picky. There were characters dressed in period costumes and the kids were enthralled. That’s a good thing. The organization and signage of the rooms for the audio tour was confusing and hard to find, that was bad.

We waited forever for the bus to take us back to the parking, it was way too far to walk. Then we were back in Lucifer for the short drive to Doune Castle.

I have to confess – I’m a huge Outlander fan! Diana Gabaldon started writing the Outlander series in 1988 on a whim. She wanted to try writing a book and thought it would be easiest to write historical fiction. At the time she was a research professor at Arizona State University with masters degrees in Zoology and Marine Biology and a PHD in Behavioral Ecology. No dummy is Diana!  The book took off and by 2014 she’d finished writing the 8th book in the series! She’s working on the 9th! She has spin off books from the point of view of related characters. Particularly her Lord John Gray series.

The Outlander series is a mixture of historical fiction, romance, mystery, adventure and science fiction/fantasy. I couldn’t put them down.   Last year STARZ released their adaptation of the series and it was great to put faces to the characters and visuals to the locations.  Reading Outlander was partly responsible for my decision to come to Scotland.  

Doune Castle was used as a location in the STARZ television series to represent the fictional Castle Leoch.  – I’m told it was also used as a location in Monty Python’s Holy Grail in 1974.

Doune (WIKI)
Recent research has shown that Doune Castle was originally built in the thirteenth century, then probably damaged in the Scottish Wars of Independence, before being rebuilt in its present form in the late 14th century by Robert Stewart, Duke of Albany (c.1340–1420), the son of King Robert II of Scotland, and Regent of Scotland from 1388 until his death. Duke Robert’s stronghold has survived relatively unchanged and complete, and the whole castle was traditionally thought of as the result of a single period of construction at this time. The castle passed to the crown in 1425, when Albany’s son was executed, and was used as a royal hunting lodge and dower house. In the later 16th century, Doune became the property of the Earls of Moray. The castle saw military action during the Wars of the Three Kingdoms and Glencairn’s rising in the mid-17th century, and during the Jacobite Risings of the late 17th century and 18th century. By 1800 the castle was ruined, but restoration works were carried out in the 1880s, prior to its pass Matthew Stewart, 4th Earl of Lennox, in 1570, after a three-day blockade. George Buchanan and Duncan Nairn, Deputy Sherriff of Stirling presided over the torture and interrogation of a messenger, John Moon, at Doune on 4 October 1570. Moon was carrying letters to Mary, Queen of Scots and Mary Seton. It is now maintained by Historic Scotland.

Mary, Queen of Scots, (reigned 1542–1567) stayed at Doune on several occasions, occupying the suite of rooms above the kitchen.[7] Doune was held by forces loyal to Mary during the brief civil war which followed her forced abdication in 1567, but the garrison surrendered to the Regent.

Doune was easy to find and easy parking. It was funny to see the castle after watching the Outlander episodes. Although they changed the forground to represent the times, the outline of the castle was very recognizable.

When we arrived there was a wedding party in the inner courtyard and a group of bagpipers were playing as the guest arrived. The males in the wedding party wore kilts and clearly had enjoying a few nips as they waited for the ceremony to begin. They were a happy bunch who loved having their picture taken with two “mature” woman.

The castle is authentic, the rooms unadorned and plain, but there was a feeling of history in the rooms. The narration on the audio was excellent and you could wander the castle without being bothered. I climbed several sets of winding steps with small rooms on every level until I came to the roof top and could look down on the courtyard and over the surrounding countryside.



I thoroughly enjoyed Doune Castle but it was time to get back into the little blue devil and get on our way. We were both dreading the journey. However we did arrive without incident at our Guest House Glenbervie Guest House Oban in Oban on the west coast of Scotland.
The Glenbervie is just what we wanted, clean and comfortable – and walkable into town for dinner. I won’t get back in Lucifer until I have to! We booked a tour for tomorrow, Sunday – Three island tour through West Coast Tours – we’re going to the Inner Hebrides islands of Mull, Iona and Staffa. I slept well knowing I have a day off!

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