It would be hard to find a place that has had more heroes than Scotland. Today, with a new Parliament, Scotland is rejuvenating and has different sorts of heroes.
William Wallace: 1270 – 1305 (Braveheart)
William Wallace is one of Scotland’s greatest national heroes. He was the undisputed leader of the Scottish resistance forces during the struggle to free Scotland from English rule at the end of the 13th Century. William Wallace was a powerful man with bright eyes. He stood more than six and a half feet tall, a giant during a time when most men were five-feet-tall. Wallace was a humble and passionate patriot loved by the Scots. Unlike the conniving Scottish nobles who had collaborated with the English in return for financial benefits, Wallace never sought personal fame and gained neither wealth nor land.
Wallace was born in Ayrshire, Scotland. His father was a small landowner and little-known Scottish knight. Because he was the second son, William did not inherit his father’s title or lands.
William Wallace spent his childhood near Stirling under the supervision of his uncle, a priest. Wallace probably led a comfortable and peaceful life as a child and must also have trained in the martial arts of the time, including horsemanship and swordsmanship. When Wallace was born, Alexander III had been on Scotland’s throne for over twenty years. During his reign he had successfully fended off the English. King Edward I, known as Edward “Longshanks,” came to the throne of England in 1272, just two years after Wallace was born. Life changed, and Wallace fought. The Wallace Monument is just north of Glasgow. This 250-ft tower commemorates Wallace and his valiant fight for Scotland’s independence. When you climb to the top, you’ll see Wallace’s two-handed broadsword, the likes of which would not be seen again for another 200 years. Most electrifying is the “talking head’, which presents Wallace’s defense before his brutal execution in 1305. The 360 degree views from the top of the monument are extraordinary.
Robert the Bruce: (1274 – 1329)
Robert the Bruce was King of Scotland from 1306 until he died in 1329. He became one of Scotland’s greatest kings, as well as one of the most famous warriors of his generation, eventually leading Scotland during the Wars of Scottish Independence against the Kingdom of England. He claimed the Scottish throne as a four-greats-grandson of David I of Scotland, and saw the recognition of Scotland as an independent nation during his reign. Bruce is remembered in Scotland as a national hero, similar to George Washington, and is referred to as “The Hero King.” His body is buried in Dunfermline Abbey, while his heart is buried in Melrose Abbey. His embalmed heart was to be taken on a crusade by his lieutenant and friend Sir James Douglas to the Holy Land, but it only reached Moorish Granada, where it acted as a talisman for the Scottish contingent at the Battle of Teba. From there his heart, brave and grand, was brought back home.
Rob Roy: (1671 – 1734)
Robert MacGregor, known as Rob Roy, grew up as a herdsman near Loch Lomond. After a series of harsh winters he began raiding rich, Lowland properties to feed his clan, and was declared an outlaw by the Duke of Montrose. The Duke burned Rob’s house to the ground. This inflamed Rob Roy’s Jacobite sympathies and he was wild to avenge the crime. Plundering the Duke’s land, and repeatedly escaping from prison, earned him a reputation similar to that of Robin Hood. A favorite of the people, and several Lords, he was pardoned in 1725 and spent his last years freely in Balquihidder, not far from the place of his birth. It is here that he’s buried.