Yep, that's right, Braveheart.
While the movie is mostly fictional, the man William Wallace really lived. He wasn't from the poor and humble backgrounds the movie would have us believe though. He was the son of a Lawyer and gave up his lands in order to join the Scots in their battle against the English. The movie may be fictional, but the truth is actually better than the movie.
Not far from a place called Stirling in Scotland is a tall monument that is clearly visible for miles around. It stands on the top of a hill not far from Stirling Castle and the two have a clear view of one another even over the distance.
While photos really don't do justice to the size and magnitude of the Wallace Monument, I can assure you that first-hand experience has shown me that when you're in it, for all acounts and purposes it might as well be as large as the Statue of Liberty - and in some ways I actually look at is as though it's the Statue of Scotish Liberty. This man lead many others to fight and die for the nation they loved. He is a celebrated hero even today, and monuments of William Wallace can be found all over the world in some of the most surprising locations anyone would marvel at. Unfortunately the monument was so large that I couldn't get back far enough from it to take a full length photo without risking a nasty tumble off the side of the mountain.
The tall portion of the tower in the photo above is actually far larger than it seems in the photo. On the left hand side of the tower is an odd spiraling shape going all the way up one corner of the structure. It's lined with thin, open windows each about three feet high. That spiral is actually a spiral staircase that has been traveled millions of times by travelers all over the world. The steps are so worn in some areas that they are bowed in the shape of a canoe bottom. Those steps are the only way up - and down - the tower.
Several large rooms are housed inside the tower, allowing visitors a sneak peak into the life and times of William Wallace. Timelines and historical artifacts are displayed on each level of the tower and people travel from all over the world just for a glimpse at one of the most famous swords in history - second only to Excalibur in my mind. People gathered around the glass case and marveled at the black leather stretched over the grip of the sword. The blade had a few knicks in the edge and the leather had long since dried out, but seemed perfect otherwise. It was a custom built sword, and if it's historically accurate, then William Wallace is assumed to have been well over six feet tall, judging by the length and weight of the massive blade.
When finally we reached the top of the tower, the view was among the most amazing views I've ever seen - including watching the sun set over the Pacific Ocean. Rolling hills stretched as far as the eye could see. Rivers wound their way around the landscape nearly forming perfect loops in several areas. Those rivers had been following the same paths for hundreds of years - all the way back to the days of William Wallace.
By the time we got to the top of the tower, both of us were starving. It had been a long hike, and several times I felt my knees turning to jello on the stairs. I got the height-willies several times before visiting the highest chamber, and we hadn't yet made it to the roof!
One of the most famous battles in Scotland's History was the Battle of Stirling Bridge, where the English army was masacred by the cunning Scots. I believe it was also the origin of the naming of the flower of Scotland - quite a legend in itself and a story worthy of it's own entry.
Below are two photos - the first is a copper map of the battles fought near the Wallace Monument before it was built. It was fascinating to see the map as I myself looked over the landscape and realizing it hadn't changed much at all.
Hunger finally drove us back toward the staircase and the long climb down. Each step was perilous for us both and we constantly had to hold on to the walls in order to keep from falling. A large woman tried to pass us on the stair case and I found myself kneeling inside one of the windows, the breeze lifting the cuffs of my jeans and cooling my legs by several degrees. Suddenly hungry and cold, I couldn't get away from the wonderful history quite fast enough. I was starving!
TO BE CONTINUED...
Click on the images to enlarge them.