Our hostess Hannah showed us to our room and made us a pot of tea, which we enjoyed along with shortbread in the sitting room. We relaxed for the rest of the afternoon, walking around the property with one of the neighbor’s dogs and chatting with Hannah and playing with her little pup, Molly. We had dinner at The Birds & Bees, a local pub a few miles from West Plean House, and ended the day with a nightcap in the West Plean sitting room.
Just when we thought West Plean House couldn’t get much better, we sat down to breakfast the next morning and had our socks blown off. Between the creamy porridge, crackling sausage, steaming baked beans, perfect scrambled eggs, and Hannah’s homemade bread, we couldn’t wait until tomorrow when we could eat it all again.
Our first stop of the day was Stirling Castle, one of the largest and most important castles in Scotland and a favorite of the Stewart kings. We were welcomed by an imposing statue of Robert the Bruce.
Having learned our lesson at Edinburgh Castle, we went straight to the line for audio guides then made our way into the castle. I had a bit of trouble with my guide the whole time – it kept jumping around out of order and then I would have to restart it and manually fast-forward through all the content I’d already listened to – but it was still really informative and allowed us to take the castle at our own pace and in whatever order we wanted (though it does recommend a specific route).
We really enjoyed the Stirling Heads Gallery filled with the metre-wide 16th-century oak medallions carved with images of kings, queens, nobles, Roman emperors, and characters from the Bible and Classical mythology. These medallions decorated the palace ceilings until the late 18th century – the current ceilings feature replica medallions and the originals are preserved and protected in the gallery.
A few areas of the castle were a bit kitschy, like the Great Kitchens that were filled with figurines of various household staff members and animals, as well as fake food. Some of the rooms throughout the castle had guides dressed in period costume portraying particular people from the castle’s history.
In addition to the castle itself, there’s a really thorough multi-room display that chronicles the castle’s long history and includes a lot of really cool artifacts. You could easily spend over an hour in this area alone.
After lunch at the castle cafe, we drove about 15 minutes to Doune Castle. Any Outlander fans? What about Monty Python? Well you’re both in luck – Doune Castle features prominently in both. Outlander fans
may should recognize Doune Castle as the real-life Castle Leoch. It also appears in Monty Python and the Holy Grail.
Doune Castle ended up being our favorite castle (and we saw a lot). Its smaller size meant there weren’t nearly as many people as the larger, better-know ones (although it gets a lot more visitors these days due to Outlander) and you can get a much better feel for what life was like there. It just felt more…real? The castle also had a really fantastic audio guide (I know, shut up about the audio guides). As a fun bonus, you can listen to extra narration by Outlander‘s Sam Heughan or Monthy Python‘s Terry Jones (or both) who talk about filming at the castle.
One of our favorite features of Doune was in the castle kitchens – you can still see the marks left by the kitchen staff who used the wall stones to sharpen their knives.
The sun was starting to come out by this point and the light rain seemed to have passed (for a bit) so it was the perfect time to stop by the Battle of Bannockburn Battlefield. We didn’t go into the visitor center but enjoyed a walk around the beautiful battlefield where King of Scots Robert the Bruce fought off English forces in the First War of Scottish Independence.
Our last stop of the day was the Wallace National Monument, built in honor of Sir William Wallace, another Scottish war hero. You may have heard of him. Braveheart, anyone? (I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention how incredibly inaccurate that movie is). The monument sits at the top of the Abbey Craig, a hilltop overlooking Stirling. When you arrive, you have the option of walking up to the monument or taking the complimentary shuttle bus. There are few walking routes from which to choose; they vary in length and difficulty. You probably guessed that we opted to walk. It took about 20 minutes.
We didn’t purchase admission into the monument itself (if you do, make sure to check out the Wallace Sword) but enjoyed the sweeping views of Stirling and surrounding area before a rainstorm blew in and convinced us it was time to head back to West Plean House.
We warmed up with a cup of tea in the sitting room while pondering our dinner options. We settled on Mango, an Indian and Italian restaurant. No, not some kind of modern fusion. Mango offers two different menus, one Indian and one Italian. The owner was super accommodating though his waitstaff was less attentive. Regardless, the food was really good and the decor was gorgeous. Imagine if Restoration Hardware had a restaurant. That’s exactly what Mango looked like.
Stuffed with curry and pasta, we went to bed wishing we could stay at West Plean House forever.
Next: Over the Sea to Skye