Stirling Bagpipes, Cambuskenneth Abbey & the Majestic Falkland Palace

It was the 5th day of our 5-day adventure in and around Stirling and Edinburgh on October the 8th. We would be returning to Aberdeen by nightfall. Yet, we were determined to make the most of our last day and fit in as much as possible. We set out to see some more ancient sites in the immediate area around Stirling and another Palace belonging to the Stewarts in the small town of Falkland about 30 miles away in Fife.


IMG_7547After devouring yet another satisfying home-cooked traditional Scottish breakfast, we checked out of the hostel in Stirling and ventured a IMG_7588short distance up the road toward the Church of the Holy Rood.

Behind the old church, there is a massive graveyard that occupies all of the land lying between the church and the defensive walls of Stirling Castle further up the hill.

Lindsay has an ancestor with the surname of Lawson from this town, and he was hoping to find their headstone in amongst the throng. This could be tricky!


Luckily, there is a hill off to one side that you can walk up to get a great view of the surrounding countryside and all parts of the vast graveyard. It was a beautiful sunny fall morning, and the air was warm, yet the crispness of fall was evident in the early light of the day.

Once we had a birdseye view of the place, we walked back down the hill and began exploring the Old Kirkyard and learning about its curiosities. There are quite a few unique statues scattered about and handy interpretive signage to help guide the way and draw your attention to each unique specimen.

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IMG_7556IMG_7555Our luck was with us that morning because we found the Lawson headstone he wanted to see not long after our search began. He knew it had a statue of an angel on it. Knowing that tidbit of information narrowed it down quite a lot! 

After getting a good IMG_7574shot of Lindsay next to the stone, I decided to backtrack a bit to see if I could possibly get a decent silhouette of the stone against the bright morning sky. It wasn’t exactly the shot I was hoping for. Still, in the process, I found something else of interest to me quite by chance standing right next to me – a headstone with the surname of Frew, which I had never noticed before on previous trips to this particular graveyard. Not exactly sure who this Frew is, but I can investigate later to learn more! What a lucky find!IMG_7575

IMG_7584Lindsay lived in a small town nearby as a young child. We drove through the cobbled streets of Stirling and out of town to see if we could find the house where he once lived. We also wanted to visit an old Abbey nestled in the curvature of the River Forth down in the valley below Stirling.2nd map_LI (3)

When we arrived, however, we discovered the Abbey had already been closed for the season about a week earlier. The gates were padlocked. Oh well.  We peeked over the fence and let that suffice.

I visited this site a couple of years ago and discovered the gravesite of my 17th great-grandparents, James III King of Scotland Stewart (1451-1488), and his wife, Margaret of Denmark. In 1486 Margaret of Denmark died at Stirling Castle and was buried at the Abbey. A couple of years later, her husband James III was killed at the Battle of Sauchieburn, and his body was brought to Cambuskenneth Abbey for burial next to his bride.

Mary Stuart, Queen of Scots, was James III’s great granddaughter, and it is through James that I share my ancestry with her. He was her great-grandfather and my 17th.

I’ve often wondered, like many, how the two different spellings of Stewart/Stuart came to be. Touring the Palaces of the Stewarts over the last couple of days and learning more about Mary, had provided the answer!

The House of Stuart, originally Stewart, was a royal house of Scotland, England, Ireland, and later Great Britain. The family name comes from the office of High Steward of Scotland, which had been held by the family scion Walter Fitz Alan (c. 1150). The name “Stewart” and variations had become established as a family name by the time of his grandson, Walter Stewart. The first monarch of the Stewart line was Robert II, whose descendants were kings and queens of Scotland from 1371 until the union with England in 1707. Mary, Queen of Scots, was brought up in France, however, and it is there that she adopted the French spelling of the name – Stuart. Soooo, it was because Mary decided to change the spelling of her name to suit her fancy to the French language!!! Now I know!

But I digress; back to the Abbey… it fell into disrepair during the Scottish Reformation. After the dismantling of most of the Abbey, the King’s tomb was incomplete, and restoration of it was undertaken by Queen Victoria in 1865. It now stands within a railed enclosure at the east end of the abbey ruins where a chapel used to be.

King David I founded Cambuskenneth Abbey about 1140, to serve the royal castle of Stirling. Most of it was built in the 1200s, and much of the surviving structure dates from then. The free-standing bell tower, which still stands today, is unique in Scotland. Its lancet windows and ornamental arcades serve as an excellent example of architecture in the 1200s. 

On our way back to the main road, we spied a beautiful rainbow arching across the sky toward Stirling Castle up on the hill. What a treat!IMG_7608

IMG_7580Now that it was a bit later in the morning, the shops in Stirling would begin to open. We drove back to town to visit an extraordinary shop called Stirling Bagpipes before we left for home.

To pass the time while we waited for the shopkeeper to arrive and open his shop, we admired the canons on display nearby from the Napoleonic Wars.

The shopkeeper, Alan, soon arrived, and we were delighted to get to go inside and see his combination workshop/retail outlet of high-quality hand-crafted bagpipes!

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It is a fun shop to visit and see all things related to the art and craft of making bagpipes and making music with them. You can tell this is where the pipers come to get quality goods custom-made to meet their needs. He also sells an excellent selection of pipe band CDs to play in the car when we’re traveling about the Scottish countryside! 

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He even had a small rack of second-hand pipe band kilts for sale at a very reasonable rate. Kilts, if you don’t know, are rather spendy. They are used for special occasions such as weddings and can cost about the same as what a new Tuxedo would cost.

A friend of mine was busy at my house building shelving in my garage while I was away on vacation all summer. He also has some Scottish ancestry and would love to have a kilt of his own. As a thank you gift for building the fantastic sturdy shelving for me, I purchased a kilt to take home to him. Alan got it all wrapped up nicely for me and even included the name of the Pipe Band that it came from – Clackmannanshire!  Nice to know its provenance!

Armed with the perfect gift for my friend, we said our goodbyes to Alan at Stirling Bagpipes and started making our way toward Falkland.

IMG_7637We didn’t stop to visit, but we did pass just underneath the 220 foot Wallace Monument standing proud on Abbey Craig overlooking the valley and the Abbey below.

One of Scotland’s most distinctive landmarks, it is an iconic tower commemorating the life and legacy of Sir William Wallace, the 13th-century Scottish patriot, and martyr who inspired the movie ‘Braveheart.’ It seems appro pro to make the monument where it stands since Abbey Craigs also overlooks the scene of Wallace’s greatest triumph against the forces of England’s King Edward I at the Battle of Stirling Bridge in 1297.

Legend has it that William Wallace’s remaining corpse after he had been hung and quartered in London were scattered at various places in Scotland, including Stirling, to make a statement to the Scots. It is said that the portion that went to Stirling was secretly absconded and then buried at Camuskenneth Abbey. There is a headstone lying flat on the Abbey grounds with the initials WW.

After a pleasant drive, we arrived in Falkland and drove to the center of town. I immediately recognized the place even though I had never been there before! Alas, it was yet another filming location for Outlander. In the very first episode, Claire and her husband took a trip to Scotland, and they came to this town after the war was over in Season 1! How fun!  I keep running across these places by chance that I recognize from Outlander during this particular little adventure.

Being so late in the season, it wasn’t crowded at all, and we quickly found parking right next to the Palace.  


Falkland Palace was a royal palace of the Scottish Kings. Today it is under the stewardship of Ninian Stuart, but who delegates most of his duties to The National Trust for Scotland. (Arms of the King of Scots at right)

IMG_7657Before Falkland Palace was built, a hunting lodge existed here in the 12th century. The lodge was expanded in the 13th century, and it then became a castle. The castle was built here because the area could be easily defended. After all, it is located on a slight hill. The land surrounding the castle eventually became the Palace gardens.

Between 1501 and 1541, Kings James IV and James V transformed the old castle into a beautiful royal palace: along with Stirling Castle, it was one of two Renaissance palaces in Scotland.  James V extended his father’s buildings in the French renaissance style. He even built a Royal Tennis Court on the grounds of the Palace in 1541.

They loved using the tennis court. Queen Mary became especially fond of the game, and it is said that she scandalized the people of Scotland by wearing men’s britches to play! The court still survives to this day and is the oldest in Britain. The Palace became a popular retreat with all the Stewart monarchs. They practiced falconry and used the vast surrounding forests for hawking and for hunting deer.

We toured the Palace but were unable to photograph anything inside except the Bakehouse and Apothecary in the cellars. I particularly enjoyed these two places, and I enjoyed learning about the different types of bread they made at the time. 

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The Apothecary was full of all kinds of hands-on information where you could grind herbs, etc.


I really liked the weaved baskets, in particular the weaved sconce filled with lavender. They also had a unique spiral herb drying rack in the corner that I thought was an ingenious method for drying herbs without taking up too much space in the process.

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Lindsay even got to play King for a Day while he lounged on his throne…

After touring the Palace, we headed outside to check out the gardens, the old castle site, the glasshouse, and of course, get a glimpse of the tennis courts!

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As we made our way back toward the entrance, we passed by and got a great view of the orchards and the lovely wrought iron gates where you can gain entry into the orchard in the meadow below. 



It is a lovely palace to visit, and it was very nice to see firsthand where my ancestors hung out and lived part of their lives. Each place I visit adds one more piece of the ancestral puzzle I’ve been putting together. IMG_7705

By the time we finished the tour, we were kind of hungry, so we headed directly across the street from the Palace to a lovely restaurant called “The Bruce.”  First, we enjoyed some appetizers.  Lindsay ordered deep-fried Haggis, and I tried some of their jalapeno poppers.  Tasty!

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The rest of the day was rather uneventful because we just drove north about 80 miles on the main road to Aberdeen. It had been 5 days of fun-filled adventures, and we had made a whole bushel of new memories to treasure and enjoy over and over again in the future.

We spent the rest of the week taking care of domestic chores and getting together with Lindsay’s kids for barbeques and get-togethers sharing all of our recent adventures with them as well.

It wouldn’t be long, however, before we planned one more little jaunt to finish off our summer’s adventures. It had been raining all week since we returned to Aberdeen, and there was a forecast for a spell of a few sunny days the following week. I only had two weeks left of my summer-long vacation and had been hoping we could get a chance to visit Northern Ireland together before I flew home. The weather gods were shining upon us and offered up a perfect opportunity for another 6-day mini-adventure. Perfect.

Stay tuned, the last installment of our 2019 adventures will take us to catch a ferry from Stranraer to Belfast and the beautiful coastline of Northern Ireland.  Until then…. happy traveling, albeit “virtually!”


Author: Claudia Frew

Adventuresome, independent, and fun-loving 68-year young American great-grandmother who loves to travel; often going solo!

One thought on “Stirling Bagpipes, Cambuskenneth Abbey & the Majestic Falkland Palace”

  1. Lindsay did indeed look like a King on his throne! It was so interesting to see a bagpipe shop and what a nice gesture to buy your worker friend a kilt outfit! I’m wondering if that straw maiden figure was made by Sam Heughan’s uncle. Tennis seemed to be enjoyed by many monarchs. George’s 1st cousin (many generations removed), Henry the VIII, was an avid tennis player and because of that he was very fit. Until he got injured in a jostling accident, then his health declined because he still ate like a King, but no more exercise. Probably why he got so mean! lol

    Liked by 2 people

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