“If you held the castle, you held the crossing. If you held the river, you cold hold the realm.”

I found these words written on the wall inside the museum at Stirling Castle, but they may as well be from George RR Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fires series (Game of Thrones to all you show watchers). The two-sentence quote is so poetic and elicits such a powerful vision that it just has to be from a story.

Of course, Stirling WAS the center point of a story, one of Hollywood’s most famous (or infamous). A story about the war for a kingdom, for freedom from tyranny and oppression. About a seemingly outmatched group of kilt-wearing, face-painting warriors saving the realm from English conquerors after a rousing speech from William Wallace that your friend Mark can quote verbatim to this day.

Braveheart is of course rife with historical inaccuracies. The Scots didn’t wear kilts until much later in time and it was their Pict ancestors who wore face paint. It’s like the screenwriters just took everything cool they could find in Scotland’s history and mashed it all in a blender. For good measure, they stuffed in Mel Gibson because, well, Hollywood.

As Gibson showed in the film, albeit inaccurately, William Wallace defeated the English at Stirling. The castle, however, would change hands more than once between the two rival lands over the coming years. Finally, at the Battle of Bannockburn, Robert the Bruce won back the keep for the Scots for the forseeable future. Braveheart romanticizes this too, at the end of the film. Robert implores the brave souls gathered at the battlefield, “You’ve bled with Wallace, now bleed with me!”

Poetic as the words inscribed in the castle museum, this line showcases what the movie means to me. Braveheart is legend. It’s my childhood. And it’s the reason why I was here taking this photo. The lifelong interest in Scotland that the movie invoked led me to this castle, to this moment. Capturing the country’s beauty is my attempt to “bleed with” Robert, to show my support Scotland the brave land.

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