I have a little issue when it comes to heights, which for someone who spends an awful lot of time, climbing old crumbling spiral staircases in ruined castles, may come as a bit of a surprise ~ you have no idea!
This isn't the first time I have attempted to climb the Monument. The first time was about 16 years ago, and I made it to the room where William Wallace's sword was, by which time I was feeling sick, dizzy and had an irrational fear that I was never going to leave this chamber again.
William Wallace's actual sword!
Fast-forward to present day, and I found myself once again looking at that never ending spiral staircase. This time, I had a determined teenager with me who was going to reach the top, and she would do so, even if it meant dragging me up those steps.
Needless to say, it took a little bit of encouragement and a big dollop of patience ~ but hey, we weren't in a rush, well I wasn't anyway!
I think we all know who William Wallace is ~ if not, where were you in 1995 when Braveheart hit the big screens?
Now the locals call Braveheart "that comedy" as there isn't much factually correct with it. But, there was a battle between Wallace and his army of loyal followers, and the English.
Let's give the battle it's real name, which is The Battle of Stirling Bridge. Now, Wallace wasn't the only one who had been, shall we say resisting, English rule. There was a Scottish nobleman called Andrew Moray who had been doing his fair share of harassing the English army. Wallace and Moray finally joined forces, and they gathered their troops on the slope of rock, known locally as Abbey Craig and from their position they watched the formidable forces of the English army gather under the leadership of John du Warenne and Hugh de Cressingham.
The Scots were outnumbered. The English had somewhere in the region of 200-300 knights on horseback and 10,000-foot soldiers. The Scots had 8,000-foot soldiers and only 36 horsemen. The English were confident in their numbers. There was no way they were going to lose to this rabble.
Two Dominican friars were sent as envoys to negotiate the Scottish surrender. Wallace replied...
"Tell your commander that we are not here to make peace but to do battle, defend ourselves and liberate out kingsmen. Let them come on, and we shall prove this in their very beards."
The English realised that the Scots were not going to come to them. They were going to have to cross the River Forth and teach these traitors a lesson.
Richard Lundie, a Scottish knight, fighting for the English, said to his commanding officers...
Warrene should have listened to him, but he was so arrogantly confident that this battle would be a mere sword exercise for the men, that he did not heed the warning. The might of the English cavalry crossed the bridge and waited in the loop of the River Forth, while Wallace and Moray watched and prepared the men and when the time was right, they seized the moment. The Scottish spearmen cut off the escape back across the bridge and the English army, floundering in the marshy ground, were slaughtered.
Warrene must have watched with disbelieving eyes as these rebels massacred his men. He ordered for the bridge to be burnt and he retreated to Berwick. It was a decisive Scottish victory, and it wouldn't be the last.
The National Wallace Monument was designed by the Edinburgh-born Glasgow architect J. T. Rochead, and it was built between 1861 and 1869. It is 67 meters high and has 246 steps. I feel sick just thinking about it.
But it is so worth the climb. Not only do you get to see Wallace's actual sword but the views across Stirling are breathtaking ~ but, I have to be honest, I was really glad to get back down again!
You cannot go to Scotland and not climb the Wallace Monument ~ and despite my fear of heights, I am glad that this time, I made it to the top!
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See you on your next coffee break!
Mary Anne xxx