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Where Highlands Meet Lowlands

Since the country's earliest days, Stirling has been a highly coveted
place where momentous battles were fought, kings held court...and
now, visitors flock.


The Celtic rock band Runrig announced recently that they were packing it in, after a 45-year career that has sent a Gaelic song into the UK pop charts for the first time ("An Ubhal as Airde," 1995), seen ex-keyboard player Pete Wishart win a seat as a Scottish National Party Member of Parliament (and ex-vocalist Donnie Munro fail to win one for Labour), and established their raucous take on "Loch Lomond" as the all-but-obligatory finale at Scottish wedding discos.

Their farewell gig next summer will be a landmark occasion, and they presumably gave a lot of thought to the venue. Perhaps the Hydro in Glasgow, biggest, newest and trendiest indoor arena? The esplanade at Edinburgh Castle, where they once played a triumphant televised show? The national soccer stadium at Hampden Park, or Murrayfield rugby stadium? Somewhere wistful and romantic on their native Skye? No, none of these. The show will take place on August 18, 2018, at City Park in Stirling, with the city's great castle as its backdrop.

An unexpected choice, but it makes sense. Standing guard over the border between Highlands and Lowlands, and with the monument to national hero William Wallace watching over its shoulder, the floodlit castle provides a stage set second to none. For a band that blends Gaelic traditions with mainstream rock, that specializes in foot-stomping anthems, and that is single-mindedly Scottish, the city at the nation's geographical and cultural crossroads could not be bettered. It has a great deal to commend itself to the rest of us, too.

Were it not for Edinburgh further down the Forth, Stirling Castle would be the world's favourite, and most famous, Scottish castle. It hasn't quite the scale of Edinburgh, it doesn't host the global spectacle of the military Tattoo and it doesn't form the heart of a capital city. Yet, in many respects, it can match its eastern neighbour, point by point.

The full text of this article is available in the Winter 2017 issue of Scottish Life.

Click here to preview our feature article on Harris Tweed by Paul Stafford.

Click here to preview our feature article on Saving Historic Sites by Jim Gilchrist.

Click here to preview our column Scotland In Music by Edward Scott Pearlman.

Click here to preview our reviews of Scottish Books.

Photos © Paul Tomkins / VisitScotland / Scottish Viewpoint