Stirling Castle sits high atop Castle Esplanade in Stirling, Scotland overlooking surrounding lands as far as one can see. Its commanding presence indicative of its historical imprint in Scotland. From here you can see the National Wallace Monument on the edge of the Ochil Hills. Towards the north-east, you can view the mountain peaks of the Loch Lomond & Trossachs National Park. Simply stunning. Rendering one feeling quite small in a land of grandeur and natural beauty.
I arrived here one cold windy blistering March day, part of a one day tour through Loch Lomond with our end destination Stirling Castle. Towards the end of our time at the Castle, quite late in the afternoon, I found myself resting at the back of my tour bus. Having spent a couple of hours exploring the Castle and soaking up its stories of Scotland’s Renaissance Kings and Queens, I was weary. My head full of Robert the Bruce, King Edward, William Wallace, Queen Mary of Scots and Bonnie Prince Charlie.
The inclement weather taking its toll, the warmth of the bus was enticing. As I started to settle in and wait for my fellow travellers to return my tour guide turned to me and said. “Weren’t you the one who mentioned your ancestors came from Clackmannanshire?” Yes, I replied. Earlier that day I struck up a conversation with him. Explaining that part of my reason for being in Scotland was to explore my ancestral lands. I rattled off some towns, foreign to me, only as names appearing on ancestry.com. A friendly guy who paid attention to his guests. He remembered our brief chat. “Well come with me”. Putting my coat and beanie back on I stumbled out of the bus. The blustery winds shook out any weariness. He walked me over to the edge of the car park. “There” here said pointing towards the base of the mountains, “There, that is the land where your ancestors lived.” It was so far away I couldn’t see detail, yet I saw where. Where they lived and worked.
To some, it was a speck on the sprawling landscape to me though, a weary wanderer from Oz, a seeker of connection… it was gold. I hadn’t come ‘here’ on this tour with this expectation. I was merely spending a day exploring a loch and a castle. Never did I expect to be shown, to see and to feel the land of my ancestors. I stood transfixed and he continued to share with me about the type of life they would have had and experienced. I was given an insight into them. Who they were and why they would have left. It was deeply profound. Whilst the trip was loosely ancestral focussed I didn’t have the fortitude to arrange to hire a car and exploring small Scottish villages on my own. However, it wasn’t needed. I was here, I was seeing and I was learning.
It felt full circle.
In the late 1850s my great grandparents 3 times removed left Scotland. Embarking on a journey many Scots had taken to a land far, far away. A land so foreign nothing they were prepared for.
They left perhaps seeking a better life. One can only imagine how different my life would have been if they had travelled to the Americas instead. They left in an attempt to improve.
Their choices gave me the life I have now. It provided me with freedom. Freedom that resulted in me travelling here to Scotland. Their land, my land. They didn’t get to return. I have done that for them and with them. I felt this strongly standing on this hilltop at Stirling Castle. As the winds continued to howl and a slight drizzle of rain moved through, a tear trickled down my cheek. A tear of gratitude and belonging.
No longer was Scotland just another tourist destination. Something happened at that moment. It was my home too. Through the DNA pumping through this body, there was a recognition and remembrance of those that came before me.
My tour guide sensing this internal shift, left me to be. To be with them, to be with me.
This is the magic of ancestral travel.
I didn’t set out looking for this place. Yet the land found me. It drew me towards it. It wasn’t planned or expected. Yet it found me. Pulled etherically.
I stood as long as I could. Until the others had returned to the tour bus. Until I was called. It was time to leave the car park at Stirling Castle. I had arrived a tourist. I was becoming an explorer. I was connecting to place in a way previously unknown. My journey had only now begun.
Interested in finding out more? These sites are worth a visit:
I highly recommend the 1-day Loch Lomond and Stirling Castle tour with Rabbie’s Tour Company. https://www.rabbies.com/en/scotland-tours/from-edinburgh/day-tours/loch-lomond-national-park-stirling-castle-day-tour . I am not receiving any financial incentive to say this.
#enlightenedtraveller #ancestraltraveller #ancestry