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A Jailhouse Christmas Carol at Stirling Old Town Jail

“There is nothing in the world so irresistibly contagious as laughter and good humor.”

Charles Dickens, 'A Christmas Carol'

We would all do well if we could just remember Charles Dickens' wise words that open this post. Fortunately, you experience a great deal of laughter and more when you visit 'A Jailhouse Christmas Carol' now (at the time of this writing) being performed at Stirling Old Town Jail on select dates until the 30th of December.

We recently visited the Jail, booking the 'Jailhouse Christmas Carol' experience, and we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves! We are also thrilled to share that Stirling Old Town Jail is a dog-friendly attraction. Therefore, we took our Golden Retriever tour guide, Sawyer, along. However, it seems that he didn't realise that our visit was all in good fun and that he wasn't actually being sent to jail. Therefore, Sawyer takes over our blog this week to share his harrowing account of his time spent at Stirling Old Town Jail!

"No Dad. I'm not going to smile when I'm standing next to a sign that says-, 'New Inmates Welcome'."

Welcome dear reader! My name is Sawyer and I'm a Golden Retriever who loves to guide people around Edinburgh with my dad, Sami. However, I'm also fortunate to go on adventures all over Scotland on my days off! I've taken over the blog a couple of times- notably on one of our visits to Culross and on one of my snow day adventures. And, yet, nothing compares to the incredible experience I recently had in Stirling.

Our car trip from Edinburgh to Stirling was rather uneventful, and, as usual, I enjoyed the beautiful views as we drove along. I even gave a nod of greeting to my old friends, the world-famous Kelpies- Baron and Duke. We didn't have time to stop for a visit on this trip. But, that's okay, because we saw them recently when I introduced them to my Golden brother, Stirling. Speaking of the wee cheeky bundle of energy, I have to be honest and tell you that I was rather happy when mom and dad said that he and Finn (my older Black Labrador brother) were going to relax at home with the dog sitter.

As we entered the historic Royal Burgh of Stirling, dad explained that we were going to the Old Town Jail. Now, being a dog, my hearing is excellent, but did he say they were taking me to jail?! I couldn't believe it. I'm very well-behaved boy. I mean, sure, I'll admit that I like the limelight that my tour guide position offers me, but what dog wouldn't?

I also try not to revel too much in my celebrity status, but I must admit it is hard when people take pictures of me everywhere I go in Edinburgh. And, yes, perhaps I shouldn't have bragged to Stirling and Finn so much that mom and dad were only taking me on this trip.....wait a minute! Was this the plan the whole time? Was there a secret ulterior motive to this solo trip to Stirling?!

I tried not to notice how foreboding the Old Town Jail looked as we got out of our car and looked up at its impressive architecture. As usual, dad took photos of me outside the building. However, I was beginning to wonder if he was documenting my visit for another reason.

Did the sign I was just posing next to say ‘New Inmates Welcome’? Perhaps Dad was going to show my brothers what happens to bad doggies. I couldn't believe what was happening- I'm not a bad boy! In fact, dad and mom constantly tell me what a good boy I am. This must be some mistake.

As we entered the Jail, I breathed a sigh of relief as the staff were immediately so kind and loving to me- they even gave me a couple of treats! I realised that I must have been mistaken, and mom and dad were not bringing me to jail after all. I relaxed as dad took more pictures and had me wear some funny costumes (my love of cosplay is well documented on our Instagram account).

Well, all I can say is, I should have remembered the lesson that a smart dog never lets his guard down. Because, the next thing you know, the innocent picture taking session was over and mom and dad started to take mugshots of me! I didn't know that 'streaking through the castle' was a crime....I do it all the time on our visits around Scotland. In fact, I think it’s kind of funny when you think about it.

But my laughter was short-lived when I was charged with my next offence- ‘begging without a license’. I had no idea you needed a license to beg! And is it really begging if you do it from a distance? I guess I should have listened to Finn when he told me that I needed to be a bit more subtle with my technique and that my ‘shoelace’ drool was a dead give away.

After we finished the mugshots, mom and dad marched me into the Governor’s room (as in the man in charge). Well, let me tell you, as soon as I met him, he immediately reminded me of Scrooge! You see, I am familiar with the crotchety character as the night before our visit, mom read me the classic tale, 'A Christmas Carol' by Charles Dickens. I was captivated by the story of Scrooge and the ghosts who visited him.

As many of you know, Scrooge was not a nice person at the beginning of the story and either was the Governor of the prison. He kept telling us about how much money it cost to take care of the prisoners and how he was going to need to start putting multiple inmates to a cell. Now, I don’t mind sharing space with my brothers, but I couldn’t stand the thought of a crowded cell with strangers- wasn’t this supposed to be a reform prison?!

I followed the governor, mom, and dad out to a hallway where I could see the doors to some of the cells. This was it- I was going to be locked up and they would probably throw away the key (at least that’s what I always see them do in all the cartoons). However, you can imagine my surprise when we were then visited by the ghosts of Christmas past, present, and future. I figured that, just as they did in the book, these ghosts also might have important advice to impart so I listened carefully.

After our visit with the ghosts and other surprise ‘guests’, mom and dad said we were now going to spend some time touring around the jail. What kind of sick joke was this? Were they dragging out the process on purpose? Why was dad having me wear different Christmas costumes as we went from room to room? This was no time for dress up!

There were various devices of punishment found throughout the building and I trembled at the thought of what was in store for me at each turn.

At one point, we climbed up a spiral staircase to enjoy the observation tower area. Or at least mom and dad seemed to be enjoying the views as I heard them pointing out famous landmarks like The Wallace Monument and Stirling Castle. I couldn’t see anything, but I did enjoy the fresh breeze that blew all around me.

Speaking of which, apparently once my prison sentence starts, I’m going to get fresh air daily in the ‘exercise yard’. I put that in quotes because calling it a place to ‘exercise’ is a bit generous. I guess I’ll just have to suck it up and join my fellow inmates in marching around the platform (pictured below).

As we went from cell to cell, I was appalled at the living conditions. However, I heard dad say how this was actually an improvement from the infamous Tolbooth where prisoners were sent before this jail was built. Those conditions were absolutely horrendous and inspectors even called it the ‘worst jail in Britain’. Which is scary to think about after seeing the cell below and thinking that was an improvement.

We eventually entered a room and I heard my mom say, ‘well, I guess we’re in luck because that sign says we’re going to be discharged’. She must have seen the look of relief on my face when I heard her say that. She laughed at me and told me to smile and that it wasn’t like this was a real jail- it is an historic jail that is now a museum and one of Stirling’s top visitor attractions. What a minute- why didn’t anyone tell me?!

Actually, now that I think about it, I vaguely recall hearing Dad tell me about it on our drive here, but I was too busy thinking about Santa’s upcoming arrival and what presents I might be getting. I guess I need to listen to him a bit more carefully.

As we made our way back to the same place we entered the jail, I was pleased to see the staff again and the fuss they made over me. I even got another treat, and I will have you know that I didn’t even have to beg for it. One of the staff members looked strangely familiar...a bit like the Governor of the Jail! Before I could make a run for it, Dad and Mom told me that his name is really Jonathan and that he is an excellent actor who played the Governor (and perhaps more😉) in their ‘Jailhouse Christmas Performance’.

Well, along with mom and dad, I highly recommend that you also book this special Christmas performance. It was very well done and clever that it fooled me into thinking it was real! You can head over to their website for more information on days and times. Separate from the special Christmas event, we also recommend you visit this fascinating historical site- I’m told it was the last Reform Prison to be built in Victorian Scotland.

As we exited, I heard mom and dad say that they had worked up quite an appetite and were ready for lunch. Fortunately, our destination- the Old Town Coffee House- was only a short walk down the hill from the Stirling Old Town Jail. I’m happy to say that they are pet-friendly and I was allowed to go inside with mom and dad. As with so many places in Stirling, the location of the Coffee House has historical significance. According to the sign out front, “in the 17th century these premises formed part of the town house of the lairds of Craigengelt”.

Mom raved about how beautiful the interior was as dad took pictures as usual. Unfortunately, I did not get any of his delicious looking haggis and cheese crêpe, but I can proudly say that I did not commit any ‘illegal behaviour’ and beg for his food. I wasn’t going to take any chances with the Jail being just up the road!😂 Dad confirmed that his meal was indeed very tasty as was mom’s cheese and haggis toastie. If you are looking to support a local business and for a relaxing place to stop for lunch or a wee treat- mom and dad heartily recommend the Old Town Coffee House.

Well, that’s going to do it for this post. Thank you for letting me take over the blog this week, and I hope you have had a fun time learning about my recent ‘run in with the law’. However, I just want to reiterate that I really am a very good boy and, if you happen to visit Edinburgh, my dad and I would love to show you around.

In closing, don’t worry dear reader, after my crazy jailhouse debacle, I have certainly heeded the advice of Mr. Dickens and take the following quote from ‘A Christmas Carol’ to heart-

“I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future. The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me. I will not shut out the lessons that they teach.” -Charles Dickens, 'A Christmas Carol'

Until next time- Explore & Discover!


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