Sunday 29 November 2009

Stirling effort

With Historic Scotland offering free entry as part of the Scotland Homecoming St. Andrews' Day celebrations, it was an opportunity for us to embark on a castle weekend with the boys. Given the size of our family, anything free is worth picking up on!

On Saturday morning I took Sean, Finn and Rowan to Craigmillar Castle. The big two remembered being there before. We had a good time exploring the nooks and crannies and winding stairwells of what is a very-well preserved medieval castle. I even learned that Little France, the area on which the NRIE hospital was built, was so-called because that's where Mary Queen of Scots' French retinue used to camp whenever she was staying at the castle.

Castles are great for the boys to expend energy: running around, shouting to each other when they discover something they want to show to the others, bawling "ECHO!" whenever they're in a tunnel and generally having some fun in the fresh air. I had to laugh at Rowan shouting to Finn, "Don't run off without a grown-up!" As if Rowan would heed his own advice.

In the afternoon I picked up Zoe and took her and Finn to the Lyceum to see Peter Pan as part of a Standard Life reception. The children had their faces painted and got lots of sweets and biscuits and ice-cream and juice. The cast also appeared after the show. Finn and Zoe were a bit fidgety during the performance but seemed to enjoy it and each other's company, having a good laugh and marching along to the music. Zoe came back to ours for a sleep-over. Both were tired enough that there were no high-jinks and even Finn's crying in the night failed to disturb Zoe.

The Fletchers arrived for a splendid fruit, scones and muffins breakfast on the Sunday morning then, with Zoe returned to Karen, we set off for Stirling Castle. It was bright but bitterly cold as we made our way up to the Castle from the car park, with Finn and Rowan bawling. Fortunately moods improved once we were inside the castle walls and started exploring and having races around the courtyard. Rory was keen to keep up with Sean and Finn as we explored the battlements and Rowan and Duncan were having a good run about. We found tables for lunch amid the busy crowds (free entry is very popular at the bigger castles) and that gave the boys a burst of energy as we took photos by the cannon and walked along the outer wall. The location of the castle affords spectacular views across the surrounding country to the hills and Forth valley. There was snow on the mountains beyond Callendar.

Sean and Finn led the way in climbing up a rocky outcrop with Rory gaining confidence and following them. There was some great climbing going on, with new routes being discovered up and down the 4-5m high wall of rock. This coincided with Rowan's descent into tears and snot which woke Angus from his slumber in the backpack, Sharon manfully hefting his near-10kg form around for most of the day. Rowan was almost hysterical by the time we got back to the car and fell asleep as the key turned in the ignition. That didn't detract from a great day out with the Fletchers at one of Scotland's most impressive castles.

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