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Why Bannockburn Reshaped Scotland

No visitor to Stirling can fail to notice the city’s rich history, not least in shaping relations between Scotland and England down the years.

Back in the days before the union, devolution and referendums, these were matters often settled by kings and troops on the battlefield, with legendary figures like William Wallace being immortalised in statues and inaccurate Hollywood films made by people who don’t know when the Highlanders began wearing tartan.

Wallace’s greatest triumph was winning the Battle of Stirling Bridge in 1297, but he had long since been captured, hung, drawn and quartered by the time the 1314 battle of Bannockburn came about.

Wallace’s nemesis, English king Edward Longshanks, had also departed, with Braveheart omitting the fact that he actually died of dysentery in 1307 in Cumbria while planning another raid from across the Solway Firth.

Bannockburn, named after the stream of that name, lies south of the city and after dinner in Stirling the battle site with its visitor centre is a must-see, the place where Robert the Bruce sealed his reputation as one of Scotland’s great kings as he comprehensively defeated the English forces.

Bruce had been enthroned as King of Scotland in 1306 in defiance of Longshanks and while Edward 1st suffered the kind of end most of us fear after a dodgy Vindaloo, Edward 2nd was keen to regain control, with the help of troops from England, Welsh archers and - whisper it quietly - some Scots loyal to his side.

The Scottish victory wrecked such ambitions, though the wars continued until the signing of the Treaty of Edinburgh in 1328, with the status of border towns like Berwick-upon-Tweed changing frequently.

Such has been the mystique around Bannockburn that on the 700th anniversary in 2014, various Scottish clans came back to the site to enjoy a large-scale re-enactment, with 400 performers in action.

Of course, these days some will want to make a political thing of it all, but, like any historic battle site, there is also plenty to interest those with a fascination for elements of historic battles such as weaponry and tactics. Bannockburn did much to define the history of Scotland, so be sure to check it

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