There is something mysteriously exciting about being surrounded by mountains and lochs that draws me back to Scotland, year after year, in search for a slice of its peace and tranquillity. The apartment where we stay is beautifully set in the Trossachs National Park, not far from Loch Lomond, and you don’t need to venture far to see a herd of Highland cattle or, if you are really lucky, the odd stag.
But there is so much more to this beautiful country than breathtaking scenery. The towns and cities, often a hive of activity and steeped in history providing excellent architecture, offer the perfect juxtaposition to the tranquillity of the landscape. This year we spent quite a bit of time in Edinburgh, a city full of nooks and crannies that scream to be explored; I can see perfectly well why Ian Rankin decided to set his Rebus novels there.
That aside, this year my highlight was confined to a more central region. The historic town of Stirling is often referred to as the ‘gateway to the highlands’. The town is built around the imposing castle on the hill and its surrounding fortress. Driving into Stirling, the castle is the first sight you see and I’ve seen this several times on previous visits and taken a look inside. However, this is the first time I’ve witnessed it at night, lit up in all its glorious splendour. We made the trip specially to visit Hermann’s Austrian restaurant (well worth a visit), but this time of year it also offered us the unique experience of seeing the old medieval town of Stirling by night.
The view from the castle is magnificent, day or night, and there is a wonderfully eerie graveyard nearby which is open into the dark hours if you fancy a spooky walk. Other than that, it’s teaming with ancient buildings. Here are some of my highlights in pictures:
If you do find yourself in Stirling with some time to spare, other notable towns nearby are Dunblane, a very pretty place and home to Olympic tennis champion Andy Murray, and Bridge of Allan which is wonderful for an aimless wander and littered with pleasant cafes and eateries – I’d recommend dinner at The Meadowpark Hotel if you are looking for a culinary delight.