Daily Escape

Stirling Castle

Photo by Scottish Viewpoint / Aurora Photos

Stirling Castle

Stirling, Scotland

If walls could talk, this castle would write a novel. Scotland’s Stirling Castle is one of the largest and most important castles in a country where castles appear around every turn. Walk the halls in the footsteps of Mary, Queen of Scots, then survey the valley -- those views have withstood invading forces for centuries.


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Atholl Highlanders
Atholl Highlanders

Atholl Highlanders

Members of the Atholl Highlanders -- Europe’s only legal private army -- participate in the Open Tug O' War at the Atholl Gathering at Blair Castle in Perthshire, Scotland. The earliest recorded highland games were held during the reign of Malcolm Canmore, King of Scotland nearly 1,000 years ago. 960 1280

Paul Tomkins / VisitScotland / Scottish Viewpoint  

Ballater Highland Games in Aberdeenshire, Scotland

Ballater Highland Games in Aberdeenshire, Scotland

A sword-dancing event takes place at the Ballater Highland Games in Aberdeenshire, Scotland, as a piper provides musical accompaniment. The original highland games decreed that young men should gather to hold tests of strength so the best of them could be enrolled in royal service. 960 1280

Paul Tomkins / VisitScotland / Scottish Viewpoint  

The Lonach Highlanders

The Lonach Highlanders

The Lonach Highlanders, a society formed in 1823 to preserve Highland dress and Gaelic language, march once a year to open the Lonach Highland Gathering in the Strathdon area of Aberdeenshire, Scotland. 960 1280

Paul Tomkins / VisitScotland / Scottish Viewpoint  

The weight-throw event

The weight-throw event

In the weight-throw event, a weight ranging from 14 to 56 pounds (depending on the event) is thrown by either its handle or a chain. It can be thrown using any technique, although a spinning technique is the most popular. Here, a man participates in the Newtonmore Highland Games and Clan Macpherson Annual Rally in Newtonmore, Scotland. 960 1280

Paul Tomkins / VisitScotland / Scottish Viewpoint  

The weight-over-bar event

The weight-over-bar event

In the weight-over-bar event, like the one pictured here at the Newtonmore Highland Games and Clan Macpherson Annual Rally, the athletes toss a 56-pound weight over a horizontal bar. The catch is they can only use one hand. They are allowed 3 attempts at different heights, and the highest successful toss with fewest misses wins. 960 1280

Paul Tomkins / VisitScotland / Scottish Viewpoint  

Newtonmore Highland Games and Clan Macpherson Annual Rally

Newtonmore Highland Games and Clan Macpherson Annual Rally

A pipe band competes at the Newtonmore Highland Games and Clan Macpherson Annual Rally. The Newtonmore gathering was first held in October 1945 as a welcome home to the village’s returning servicemen after 6 years of war. Their first games were held in a small arena beside the 17th hole of the Newtonmore golf course. 960 1280

Paul Tomkins / VisitScotland / Scottish Viewpoint  

World Highland Dancing Championship

World Highland Dancing Championship

The world’s biggest Highland Games are the Cowal Games held in Dunoon, Argyll, Scotland. These games are also home to the World Highland Dancing Championship where dancers gather from the US, Canada, Australia and South Africa to compete in this form of traditional Scottish dance in its homeland. 960 1280

Paul Tomkins / VisitScotland / Scottish Viewpoint  

Atholl Gathering at Blair Castle

Atholl Gathering at Blair Castle

Members of the Atholl Highlanders dance during the Atholl Gathering at Blair Castle. The Atholl Gathering prides itself on having held onto many of the old Scottish traditions, and the grounds of Blair Castle make for a perfect afternoon for the spectators as well as the participants. 960 1280

Paul Tomkins / VisitScotland / Scottish Viewpoint  

The McGlashen stone

The McGlashen stone

The McGlashen stone tests the athletes’ strength when they have to lift it onto a whisky barrel. For centuries, a young man was considered a man when he was able to lift his clan's testing stone to waist height. 960 1280

Paul Tomkins / VisitScotland / Scottish Viewpoint  

The caber-toss event

The caber-toss event

In the caber-toss event, a long, tapered pine log is held upright and hoisted by the competitor who balances it vertically. Running forward, the competitor tosses the caber so that it turns end over end. In a successful toss, the caber is as close as possible to vertical and the athlete is said to have “turned the caber.” 960 1280

Paul Tomkins / VisitScotland / Scottish Viewpoint  

The Scottish hammer throw

The Scottish hammer throw

A competitor prepares his swing in the Scottish hammer throw, where a round metal ball attached to the end of a wooden shaft about 4 feet long is whirled about the competitor’s head and thrown over the shoulder. Hammer throwers sometimes even wear footwear with flat blades to dig into the turf so they don’t lose their balance mid-throw. 960 1280

Paul Tomkins / VisitScotland / Scottish Viewpoint  

Inverness Highland Games in Scotland

Inverness Highland Games in Scotland

Most Highland Games include piping and drumming competitions, ranging from solo piping, pictured here on the Eden Court lawn during the Inverness Highland Games in Scotland, to solo drumming, small ensemble and pipe band competitions. 960 1280

Paul Tomkins / VisitScotland / Scottish Viewpoint  

Atholl Highlanders

Atholl Highlanders

The pipes and drums of the Atholl Highlanders sound as they march from Blair castle to the field at the start of the Atholl Gathering held annually in Perthshire, Scotland. First employed as the personal bodyguards of the Duke of Atholl in 1839, the regiment is now purely ceremonial. 960 1280

Paul Tomkins / VisitScotland / Scottish Viewpoint  

Highland Games  13 Photos

Waddesdon Manor
Waddesdon Manor

Waddesdon Manor

The 12,000-acre estate of Haxby Park in Downton Abbey owes its impressive exterior to Waddesdon Manor. The sprawling country estate in Buckinghamshire, England, was built between 1874 and 1898 for Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild. Downton’s Mary calls the house large and rather vulgar; we call it rather divine. 960 1280

Elliott Brown, flickr  

Leeds, England

Leeds, England

Downton Abbey is set in Yorkshire County, with local cities such as Leeds mentioned in the show. The thriving city is home to more than 750,000 people, and can trace its history back to the 5th century, when the Celtic’s Kingdom of Elmet was covered by the forest of "Loidis," the origin of the name Leeds. 960 1280

iStock  

Ealing Studio

Ealing Studio

This West London studio is the oldest continuously operating film studio in the world, says Guinness World Records. Scenes focused on Downton Abbey’s servants’ quarters were shot on the studio’s 3A and 3B stages. 960 1280

Diamond Geezer, flickr  

Highclere Castle

Highclere Castle

Welcome to the real Downton Abbey. Since 1679, this sprawling, 1,000-acre estate in Hampshire, England, has been home to the aristocratic Carnarvon family. Tours of the castle include the gardens and woodlands, as well as the state rooms, such as the library, which is home to nearly 6,000 books. 960 1280

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Bampton

Bampton

Many of Downton’s exterior shots have been filmed in the village of Bampton in Oxfordshire, England. Among the sites captured on film is the Church of St. Mary the Virgin (pictured), a local parish church built in the 12th century. 960 1280

Holly Hayes, flickr  

County of Yorkshire

County of Yorkshire

This historic county in Northern England serves as the fictional location for the series. With its gently rolling hills, the countryside has earned the nickname of, “God’s Own County.” That’s no exaggeration; within its borders, the county contains some of the greenest areas in all of England. 960 1280

Paul Stevenson, flickr  

Malton

Malton

Downton’s characters often talk about this North Yorkshire town. The small, ancient locale, which historians say rests on the site of a former Roman settlement, is home to 4,000 people, and includes a cozy, charming market place with a number of cafes. 960 1280

Thinkstock  

Rise Hall in Akenham

Rise Hall in Akenham

Downton’s gripping World War I scenes were filmed in Suffolk, near the village of Akenham. While you’re touring this stretch of Eastern England, check out the village: home to just 60 residents, with landmarks such this Georgian building on the site of an ancient manor house. 960 1280

Andrew Hill, Wikimedia Commons  

York

York

This city in North Yorkshire, England, was the site of one of the series’ most dramatic moments: John Bates’s trial for the murder of his wife, Vera. (Spoiler alert: a mutual acquaintance later helped to clear Mr. Bates’s name.) Pictured here is a city landmark, York Castle, a fortified complex build up over 9 centuries. 960 1280

Thinkstock  

Greys Court

Greys Court

Shortly after their wedding, Downton Abbey newlyweds Lady Mary and Matthew Crawley went looking for property. Their search led to this picturesque 16th-century mansion, set amid a sweeping courtyard and gardens in Oxfordshire, England. 960 1280

Wikimedia Commons  

Swallow’s Nest, Ukraine
Swallow’s Nest, Ukraine

Swallow’s Nest, Ukraine

This ornate castle stands atop a cliff 130 feet high, on the Crimean peninsula in southern Ukraine. Built between 1911 and 1912, the neo-Gothic structure offers great views of the Black Sea. And while the castle may look a little shaky there on the edge of Aurora Cliff, don’t be fooled -- the castle was strong enough to withstand a 7-magnitude earthquake in 1927. 960 1280

flickr  

Positano, Italy

Positano, Italy

Italy’s Amalfi Coast is home to several towns -- and the village of Positano is arguably its star attraction. Situated on a steep, rocky slope, the town is dotted with colorful stucco buildings that enliven the Mediterranean scene. 960 1280

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Taktshang Monastery, Bhutan

Taktshang Monastery, Bhutan

At a dizzying 3,000 feet above Bhutan’s upper Paro Valley, Taktshang Monastery is the most famous Buddhist Himalayan monastery in the South Asian country. It was built in 1692, with subsequent restorations in 1958 and 2005. 960 1280

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Neuschwanstein Castle, Germany

Neuschwanstein Castle, Germany

On a rocky hill above the German village of Hohenschwangau stands Neuschwanstein Castle. The 19th-century Romanesque Revival palace was commissioned by the king of the German state of Bavaria Ludwig II. At an elevation of 2,620 feet, the palace offers amazing views of the Alpine foothills to the south and hilly terrain to the north. 960 1280

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Bonifacio, Corsica, France

Bonifacio, Corsica, France

On the southwest tip of the French island of Corsica you’ll find Bonifacio. This ancient fortress town was established in the 12th century by the Republic of Genoa to thwart invasion by the Moors. Here’s a view of the Bonifacio fortress, perched on a limestone plateau overlooking the harbor of the same name. 960 1280

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Oia Village, Santorini, Greece

Oia Village, Santorini, Greece

Small white houses dot the rocky hillside of the Greek village Oia, overlooking the Aegean Sea. The porous volcanic rock upon which the houses stand are the result of a volcanic eruption that occurred during the Minoan period -- about 3,500 years ago. 960 1280

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Holy Monastery of Varlaam, Greece

Holy Monastery of Varlaam, Greece

Perched on a cliff 1,224 feet above central Greece’s Meteora Valley, the Greek Orthodox Holy Monastery of Varlaam stands in tribute to faith -- and engineering precision. Built on natural sandstone rock pillars in 1541, Varlaam is one of 6 similarly constructed monasteries in the region. 960 1280

Dido3, Wikimedia Commons  

Castellfollit de la Roca, Catalonia, Spain

Castellfollit de la Roca, Catalonia, Spain

The Spanish town of Castellfollit de la Roca is situated on a rocky precipice -- over 164 feet high and more than half a mile long. The eye-catching terrain is a result of volcanic eruptions that took place thousands of years ago. Once solidified, the lava became the hard rock basalt upon which the town resides today. 960 1280

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Dar Al Hajar, Yemen

Dar Al Hajar, Yemen

This stone mansion -- known as the “Rock Palace” -- served as a summer retreat for the imam of Yemen in the 1930s (in his day, the country’s equivalent of a president or king). Intricately built on a towering rock, the 5-story structure dates back to 1786. The upper level was added in the 1930s. 960 1280

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Al Deir Monastery, Petra, Jordan

Al Deir Monastery, Petra, Jordan

The rock-cut architecture of Petra, Jordan, stretches back to the 6th century B.C., yet it remained unknown to the Western world until 1812. Since then, the “rose-red city half as old as time,” as an 1845 poem described it, has become an enviable tourist destination -- described by Smithsonian Magazine as one of the top places to see before you die. Among Petra’s sites is the Al Deir monastery, pictured here. 960 1280

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Neemrana Fort-Palace, Rajasthan, India

Neemrana Fort-Palace, Rajasthan, India

Nestled in the foothills of the Aravili mountain range in western India is Neemrana Fort Palace. The 25-acre fort was built in the 15th century, then converted into a luxury hotel about 25 years ago -- with gardens, a pool and an amphitheater on its sweeping grounds. 960 1280

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Xuankong Monastery, China

Xuankong Monastery, China

Built -- amazingly -- more than 1,500 years ago, the Xuankong Monastery stands more than 246 feet high, on a precipice in China’s Shaxi province. Its remarkable endurance over a millennium is a result of oak crossbeams fitted into holes chiseled into the rock. 960 1280

Brunner Emmanuel, Wikimedia Commons  

Mont-Saint-Michel, France

Mont-Saint-Michel, France

Perched on the rocky islet of Mont-Saint-Michel (less than a mile from the Normandy coast) is this 13th-century, Gothic-style Benedictine abbey. Its eye-catching location stands in technical and artistic triumph: For centuries, the abbey’s bay location has been subject to some of the strongest tides in Europe, as high as 39 feet. 960 1280

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Popa Taungkalat Monastery, Burma

Popa Taungkalat Monastery, Burma

At more than 2,417 feet high, the vast volcanic plug of Taung Kalat in central Burma is home to this Buddhist monastery. At the top of the summit, enjoy a panoramic view: the ancient Burmese city of Bagan to the south, a conical peak to the north. 960 1280

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Hearst Castle, California

Hearst Castle, California

At an altitude of 1,600 feet, you’ll find the Hearst Castle in Sam Simeon, CA. The mansion was built in this area of coastal California over a 28-year-period for newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst. He nicknamed the estate “La Cuesta Encantada (“The Enchanted Hill”) -- you can see why with dramatic views of the surrounding Santa Lucia Mountains and nearby Pacific Ocean. 960 1280

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Hanging Houses, Cuenca, Spain

Hanging Houses, Cuenca, Spain

Tucked into a mountain valley at 8,000 feet you’ll find Cuenca. The town’s most amazing sight is Las Casas Colgadas, or "overhanging houses" -- a row of 14th-century homes a nail-biting distance from Huécar river canyon. 960 1280

  

On the Rocks  16 Photos

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