Click to enlarge

I’m very pleased to report that I’ve now seen both of the castles used in Monty Python and the Quest for the Holy Grail as of today! After we left Oban this morning from the hostel, we haded out into the highland farms on the much-lauded “Hairy Coo Safari.” Now before any of you read that the wrong way, bear in mind that “coo” is the Gaelic word for “cow” and you’ll realize that these are the famous Highland Hairy cattle, which to my eye looked like big woolly dogs with ugly huge noses. They seemed quite used to the attention we were providing, but Michael warned us not to get too close to them, as there was a very large bull close by to the heifers and death in the highlands really wasn’t something we were hoping to conclude with.

But yes, from there it was onto the small town of Doune, more specifically, Doune Castle. As we pulled up the driveway, my heart leapt in my throat and I was giddy with happiness. The walls, the sunlight behind it, the tall tower…I could almost see John Cleese standing on the ramparts shouting the oft-quoted insults at me or see the trojan rabbit being wheeled to the gate. To make things even better, the kind and wonderful staff provides coconuts for you if you wish, which I happily clattered together around the castle. The rest of my group probably thought I was nuts, but it didn’t matter…I was in full Python-mode. I must have photographed every room in that castle from every angle I could in preparations for watching the movie again as soon as I get home, and I cajoled my fellow travellers to photograph me in classic Python poses (charging down the steps like Sir Lancelot slaughtering the party-goers, for example, and lying on the floor where Sir Galahad is “serviced” by the ladies of Castle Anthrax). And of course, going up to the top ramparts of the castle and looking down, realizing that I was standing exactly where Cleese had stood decades earlier and looking down to where Graham Chapman, dear King Arthur, would be standing. Obsessed? No, of course not. Although they did have to honk at me to get out of the castle so that they could move on.

Next we went to the imposing William Wallace monument in the city of Stirling, where Wallace won the Battle of Stirling Bridge in the late 1200’s against an English force twice the size of his own, and also one of the battles in Braveheart. Up on the highest hill in the city, the grateful citizens built a 67 metre tall tower, made a huge statue of him, and placed his monstrous claymore (gaelic for “great sword;” original I know) within it. 246 steps up to the top gives a great view of the surrounding countryside and the nearby Stirling Castle (which unfortunately we didn’t have time to go to). I took the time to watch the informational video on Wallace, though, and Michael had told us to be back at the bus by 15:45…I ended up sprinting up the 246 stairs (which are about .75 metres across, making it tough to pass people!) snapping a few shots as quickly as possible, and racing back down the cliff again. Once again, I was the last one back, but I think people were at least getting used to me doing this sort of thing.

That definitely was one of the sad and unfortunate consequences of trying to fit so many different events into my trip to Scotland – not enough time to stay and look at everything I wanted to, like yesterday at Stalker Castle, or at Doune Castle, and again at the Monument. My Scottish Heritage pass would have gotten me into Stirling Castle for free too, but we had to get back to Edinburgh, so that was out too. It definitely made me wish that I had opted for the 7 day trip, if I had the time and money too! I definitely recommend the MacBackpackers though, and Michael as a great guide too. He really impressed me with his knowledge of Scottish history, great jokes, and uncanny knack for timing his history stories for exact locations so that we’d see his intended target just as he reached the climax of his tales. His company’s website is and I would definitely recommend him to anyone!

Before too much longer though, we were back in Edinburgh, bidding farewell to everyone and catching trains, buses and planes either onto the next tour location or back home for some. I met some really great people on the trip (even though the snoring last night by my roommate Phil was awesome to behold and left us all wanting to smother him in his sleep!) and I’m really glad I took a break from having to micromanage everything for the past 3 days and just was able to relax and take pictures.

Well, it’s time for me to make my way back to Liverpool now, but I’m definitely going to miss Scotland and I know I’ll be back. I have a mountain to climb, a Loch to swim in, and an island to tour, and that’s the very minimum. Next time I’m in Great Britain, I’ll work my way from the top down instead!