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5 Historic Southern Scottish Places You Don't Want to Miss



If you like exploring castles, wandering through ruins in the mist, or trying to solve a historical mystery or two, you need to get to Scotland. Immediately, if at all possible!

While many associate the country with Loch Ness, Glasgow, and Edinburgh, there's so much to see in the southern portion of Scotland. Don't overlook these gems, all of which are located within an hour and a half or so of the England/Scotland border.

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1) Stirling Castle 
5 Historic Southern Scottish Places You Don't Want to Miss | CosmosMariners.com

One of the major tourist attractions in Stirling, the castle has ties to both James VI (the king who united England and Scotland) and Robert the Bruce (a major figure in the quest for Scottish independence). 

Unlike Doune Castle (below), Stirling Castle has been furnished with period replicas, so you can see how the other half lived during the 1400 and 1500s. There’s even a dress up section for little kids in which I may or may not have participated. 

2) Doune Castle 

5 Historic Southern Scottish Places You Don't Want to Miss | CosmosMariners.com

Did you pack your coconut shells? Let’s hope so because this castle is where the entire filming of Monty Python and the Holy Grail took place—even the bits that are supposed to be in France! (They just went around back of the castle to film that part.) 

Movie history aside, Doune Castle is worth visiting on its relevance to Scottish royalty alone. Before James I (AKA James VI in Scottish history) took the English throne and united Scotland and England, Scotland had a violent past when it came to its rulers. Doune was home to some of these earlier warrior kings, but, as you can imagine, it was won and lost many times over during its heyday. 

3) Rosslyn Chapel
5 Historic Southern Scottish Places You Don't Want to Miss | CosmosMariners.com

If you’ve seen or read The Da Vinci Code, you know that this chapel has quite a storied past. The St. Clair family, who still owns the chapel and the nearby Rosslyn (also spelled Roslin) Castle, had ties to the Knights Templar in the medieval period, a group that, rumor has it, was sent to the Holy Land to find the Grail. 

While there’s no definitive proof that the Grail made it back to Scotland, the chapel is a remarkable work of architecture and sculpture. Strangely, many pagan symbols, like the Green Man, show up in the carvings. Near the altar, there are hanging, carved protrusions that some scholars think represent the notes to a song. 

Fun fact: what we see as the Rosslyn Chapel was only supposed to be the altar section. The original design was about four times the size of what is currently there; after the mastermind (and St. Clair patriarch) died, his son didn’t finish the chapel. There’s speculation that it was due to finances or lack of interest, but we don’t know for sure.


4) Melrose Abbey
5 Historic Southern Scottish Places You Don't Want to Miss | CosmosMariners.com

Constructed by the Cistercian order about nine hundred years ago, Melrose Abbey is tucked away in the Scottish borderlands. It’s not really on the way to anywhere, but these mysterious ruins are worth the drive from Glasgow or Edinburgh. 

Originally, the abbey was home to a community of monks who made their living by raising sheep; it evolved into a powerhouse that defined the town of Melrose until English armies badly destroyed the building. 

When visiting, make sure to climb the spiral staircase to the roof. It’s a jaunt, but the view of the ruins and the surrounding countryside is worth it. 


5) William Wallace Monument 
5 Historic Southern Scottish Places You Don't Want to Miss | CosmosMariners.com

The other must-see attraction in Stirling (second only to the castle on the hill), the monument was constructed during the Victorian period because the Scottish people felt as if their national heroes had been completely overlooked. 

William Wallace, who rebelled against English leadership and was ultimately captured and killed by the English, had risen to demigod status by the early 1800s (you know why if you’ve seen Braveheart). This gigantic tower was the result of their efforts, and in it, you can see Wallace’s gigantic sword, learn about other Scottish leaders, authors, and political figures, and discover why Wallace remains such an important hero to this place. 

It’s a looooong trip, but you need to climb all the way to the top—the views are amazing!

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Is Scotland on your travel bucket list? If you've been, what did you love?

5 Historic Southern Scottish Places You Don't Want to Miss | CosmosMariners.com
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