Bannockburn by bus or bust

After a hearty breakfast prepared by Mike and a bus route planned by me, we were off to the Battle of Bannockburn visitor center.  Before we get to details about the battle and our afternoon at the center, let’s talk about the journey there…

I confidently led us to the bus stop about 10 minutes from our apartment.  I knew of at least 3 buses that would get us to Bannockburn.  One came by, I walked on and confirmed that the bus was stopping at Bannockburn, so we all had a seat.  A little while later, and no visitor center in sight, the bus driver called out Bannockburn. We hurried to get off (as he didn’t specifically call out any other stops, we knew he was talking to us), but before we left, Mike asked if this bus was supposed to stop at the Battle of Bannockburn.  He said, “Oh, no. It’s about 2 miles that way. The 54 will get you there for sure.” He then exchanged our individual tickets for an all-day family ticket.  I think he may have suspected we would possibly need to hop on and off a couple of buses before finding our way…It was very nice of him, so we thanked him, crossed the street and headed back to our starting point to catch one of the other buses I’d identified as ones to get us to the Battle of Bannockburn.  

You see, asking the driver if he went to Bannockburn was my first mistake.  It’s the name of a city, and the first bus we took did indeed stop there, but the visitor center — The Battle of Bannockburn — is a place and is on the other side of the city of Bannockburn. :/

We waited…and waited…at our original bus stop.  A bus finally made it’s way towards us, and I announced this and then stood there…Mike waved, but a little too late for the driver to actually stop, so we missed that one.  Mike asked, “Did you wave?” as he was standing back a few feet from me, so couldn’t see if I had or not. I replied, “No, I thought you were the waver.”  Oops. 🙂  Second mistake.

So, we continued to wait…and wait…and another bus came along eventually.  This time we waved…and waved sooner rather than later!  The bus stopped, we confirmed it was going to stop at the Battle of Bannockburn, and we got on and walked to the back of the bus, where we could all sit together. 🙂  We followed the same route for a bit and then veered off, so we were confident we were headed in the right direction this time.

A stop here, a stop there, and then the bus driver stopped and when no one got off, he announced the name of the bus stop (which was not called The Battle of Bannockburn).  The people on the bus one by one started to look to the back of the bus, but it took us a good several seconds before we realized that he was talking to us and that the whole bus was waiting for us to get off at this stop! Hilarious! We quickly made our way to the front and off the bus and looked across the road to see the visitor center sign. Whew!  We made it! In the time we spent on the wrong bus and waiting and riding the right bus, we realized we could have easily walked!

So, now on with the day!  What a great interactive exhibit and history lesson on the Battle of Bannockburn.  The battle was “a significant Scottish victory in the First War of Scottish Independence, and a landmark in Scottish history.”  In 1314, the Scottish army, commanded by Robert the Bruce,

and comprised of 7,000 to 8,000 men fought against the English army, commanded by King Edward II,

and comprised of 18,000 to 20,000 men (yes, more than double!!) to reclaim Stirling Castle after 2 days of fighting.

Upon entering the center, the staff let us know right away that is isn’t a museum; it’s an exhibit.  It’s also designed for kids 7+.  Using state-of-the-art 3D technology, we would be able to experience a medieval combat and learn more about about this significant event in Scottish history.  The first thing we saw was a cool, short 3-D movie about the history of the battle.  Afterwards, we walked into a dimly lit room surrounded by giant screens projecting medieval warriors ready for combat!

The visitor center staff person gave lots of information about how they prepared for battle and described the long bows, the crossbows, the cavalry, and then showed how the warriors practiced by having them “shoot” arrows at us.

He told the kids that if they “catch” an arrow in their teeth, there will be free lemonade, hot chocolate and cake at the end! 🙂 While I turned my head, (because virtual or not, it was a little disconcerting to have someone leveling a crossbow at my head!) L met them head on and caught 1 with his teeth and 2 with his hands!

After this part of the center, we moved to the Battle Room. In this room, the group of visitors was sorted into Scots or English by staff, so the ratios were close to real life.  In our case, we had 4 Scots and 7 English.  L was the Scottish King (Robert the Bruce) and Mike and 2 other guys were with him.  G was the English Queen (in real life it was King Edward, but it was more fun to put a kid in that position).  In addition, G was supported by me and 5 others.  We sat around a table with a giant, topographical, interactive map that showed the castle, roads, rivers, etc.  One of the staff members gave some historical information about the real battle and then let us stage our own battle by taking command of this virtual battlefield, which required quick decision making and strategic moves.

We ended our visit by walking outside to check out the real-life landscape, where the battle took place, the giant statue of Robert the Bruce, and a 100-foot flagpole with the Scottish flag flying high.

Notice the 3-D glasses, below. 🙂

So time to leave and catch the bus. 😉  While we knew which bus to take this time, it wasn’t due for another 22 minutes, so we decided to start walking back.  It worked out well, as we found a fun playground.

The kids played for a bit and then we caught the bus for a 3-minute ride to Stirling’s town center.  The Saturday market was just packing up, so we quickly walked through and then walked into Thistle Shopping Center, where there was a little “museum” L found the day before called Thieves Pot. We walked down a winding rod-iron staircase located in a small hallway right between two stores and found a replica of a 16th-century jail.  In this tiny room below, we were able to read about how it once was used to guard an angle of Stirling’s Town Wall.

G and L spent the evening working on trying to create games similar to the one at the Battle of Brannockburn visitor center. 🙂  

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