In what will possibly go down as the most original third date I’ll ever have, I recently took a mini road trip to Stirling.
This experiment of mine – of living in Edinburgh to write and work remotely, all the while preparing to move to London to write a book – had an unexpected twist the other week. One masquerade party and some sushi later, and my date and I were zipping away towards Stirling.
And while overlooking the surrounding hills, my hair tangled and blowing in his face, I remember something slightly separate from happiness – more of a quiet affirmation that I’m in love with Scotland.
Edinburgh stole my heart long ago, so I only admit to needing space from this wonderful city under extreme duress. As much as I enjoy the lively cafe and pub culture, the crammed bookshops and cobbled alleyways, I find sitting still rather difficult.
Maybe it’s the seagull’s call. Maybe it’s the surrounding Scottish moors. But unlike Paris, in which you can fall into the lights and the wonder and simply forget to leave, Edinburgh encourages you to follow the green and golden hills towards something else – somewhere else.
And that’s when I discovered that there’s something about Stirling – something I can’t quite pinpoint, related to its extensive history and breathtaking views (and yeah, okay, my date too).
I also had the odd realization that I’m used to seeing these types of locations by myself.
Traveling by yourself helps you be introspective. You can understand yourself away from the sounds and tastes of daily life. For me, it was sitting in my white-walled Milwaukee office, swiveling in my chair to stare out a window that overlooks a lovely brick wall, dreaming, sipping cups and cups of coffee, sampling the office’s never-ending supply of sea salt chocolates (I ate most of those). And then boarding a plane. Those daily routines slip into the wind in new places. This is when traveling is beautiful on a very personal level – when you realize who you are and who you aren’t, entirely separate from your daily life.
But it’s the people you meet, the people you love, if only for a night, who remain imprinted in your mind. The people are the ones who can help you really travel, learn about another culture, and observe more than your own personal reflections.
If I had been alone, I would have thought myself to death. With someone else, and while speaking to locals, I didn’t have the liberty to live in my own mind.
But I must admit, I don’t remember everything from my day in Stirling. Just sensations.
I couldn’t even tell you what we discussed.
But I do remember a crisp air, colder than expected, and sunlit hills, with the fortified Stirling Castle perched atop the city. I remember carrot cakes and blueberry muffins, black coffees and lattes, impressive stone walls, as strong and unrelenting as the history they encapsulated, and shivering, my goosebumped skin helped only slightly by the bright February sun.
Visit Stirling Castle, of course, and relish in the scandalous history of Mary Queen of Scots. If you don’t have much time though, first make sure to climb to the summit of Abbey Craig, where you’ll find the Wallace Monument nestled high above a red glaze of trees.
And see the sun set, and the moon rise, over the beckoning Scottish hills.
Have you ever been to Stirling? Would you want to go? What about a place that just stuck with you? I’d love to hear your thoughts!