Stirling, Scotland (1297 & 1314 AD)
The battles of Stirling and Bannockburn were the definitive engagements of the First Scottish War of Independence. Popularized by the movie Braveheart, these two battles marked the first major victory of the Scots in 1297 and their final triumph over England in 1314. The Battle of Stirling turned William Wallace into a national hero, while Bannockburn resulted in Scottish independence and cemented the kingship of Robert the Bruce. Unfortunately, Scottish independence was not long-lived, and many more wars have been fought ever since.
In the latter half of the 13th century, most of Scotland was annexed to the Kingdom of England, especially duting the reign of Edward I. Edward, one of the most warlike kings in England’s history, fought wars of expansion all over the British Isles and in France. However, none of his territories gave him as much trouble as Scotland. In the 1290s, Edward put into place particularly repressive measures to keep the Scots under control. His efforts backfired.
In 1296 AD, open revolts sprang up throughout the country, notably under Andrew de Moray and William Wallace. The English sent an army north to restore the region to order. In response, Scottish freemen flocked to the banners of Moray and Wallace. A ragtag rebel army was assembled at Stirling to meet the English threat. The two forces met at Stirling Bridge on September 11, 1297.
The Scots, outnumbered by as much as four-to-one, made their stand at the bridge. After allowing half the English army to cross, they attacked the divided forces. The result was a stunning victory for Scotland. Thousands of English soldiers were killed, not only liberating Scotland for the time being, but also exposing Northern England to the threat of a Scottish counterattack. Edward I personally reorganized the English forces and re-invaded Scotland in 1298, winning a resounding victory over the Scots at Falkirk.
For the next sixteen years, Scotland lay under the English yoke, though sparks of rebellion and fighting never ceased. Wallace was captured and killed in 1305, at which time Robert the Bruce took over leadership of the Scots. First in secret, and later openly, he prepared for renewed hostilities. His efforts culimated on June 24, 1314 at the Battle of Bannockburn. Once again an outnumber Scottish army defeated a significantly larger force, with heavy casualties on both sides. When it was over, the English army was forced to withdraw, leaving Scotland an independent nation, if only for a brief time.
The Stirling Battle was fought in the immediate vicinity of Stirling Bridge, which actually dates to the 15th century. The original bridge that stood at the time of the battle was just nearby, and is marked by the foundations of its original pillars. On a hill overlooking the battlefield is the Wallace Monument, which contains, among other things, Wallace’ sword. Bannockburn is just outside of Stirling and is the better preserved of the two battlefields. The site has a monument and heritage center, as well as a great statue of Robert the Bruce.
Both battlefields are located in Stirling, one in the city center and one two miles south, approximately thirty miles northwet of Edinburgh. Both battlefields are open sites. The Wallace Monument is open daily from 10:30am-4:00pm (longer hours in Summer). The cost of admission is L8.25. Web: www.nationalwallacemonument.com (official website of the Wallace Monument).