Tour Stirling Castle, Scotland
Tell me a little about Stirling Castle
Stirling Castle sits in the centre of the old medieval town of Stirling which in turn forms part the historic heart of Scotland and is within easy access of Edinburgh and Glasgow. The Castle, which occupies a strategic position atop a 350m year old volcanic outcrop, ranks as one of Scotland’s top visitor attractions. The physical structure, contents and exhibitions can satisfy a wide range of interests including castle architecture, military history, tapestry weaving, renaissance architecture, photography (stunning views) and more. Once inside, there are free escorted tours by expert tour guides and refreshment facilities. Allow at least one hour to get a basic appreciation for the Castle.
Tell me more about Stirling Castle
There was a castle on the current site from at least the 12th century. This is because of the strategic location in context of the incessant warring during the medieval period when the castle changed hands many times between English and Scots. Close by were fought decisive battles at Stirling Bridge (1297) and Bannockburn (1314).
During the 15th and 16th centuries, the Castle was not only a military establishment but also a Royal Palace which housed the courts of James IV and V. Effectively, therefore, Stirling Castle was the capital of Scotland from the late 1400s through to 1603. This dual role of military structure and royal residence has left an unusual legacy of plush, high status buildings (Great Hall and Palace) within the confines of a working, military fort. Here is a summary of the key buildings and structures at Stirling Castle:-
- Outer Defences dating from the 1550s and 1708-14.
- The Forework dating from around 1500 comprising a central gatehouse with three towers.
- The Outer Close which occupies space between the Palace to the west and Great Hall to the north.
- The Inner Close which was surrounded by the royal buildings and may date from the time of James IV around 1500.
- The King’s Own Building (south side of the Inner Close) which, again, dates from the time of James IV around 1496. Extended at the north end after a fire in 1855.
- The Chapel Royal, a large rectangular building which was built very rapidly in 1594 to celebrate the baptism of Prince Henry. The architecture shows evidence of renaissance influences with the design probably modelled on the Temple of Solomon in Jerusalem.The interior was restored during the 1930s and the present timber ceiling installed in 1996. Inside can be found a collection of locally woven tapestries.
- The Great Hall which is located at the northern end of the Inner Close. This is a magnificent building which has been restored to represent its condition around 1500. The huge building was the venue for parliaments, the Royal Court, feasting and other functions associated with the royal lifestyle and government. The gold coloured exterior waterproofing signifies wealth and power whilst inside the hammer beam roof is made from locally grown oak and contains no metal nails.
- The Royal Palace built for James V and his wife, Mary of Guise. This building dates from around 1538. The interior has been restored and refurbished to a high standard, to reflect as near as possible, the decor and furnishings of the 16th century. Actors in period costume inhabit the Royal quarters to add period flavour to the visitor experience. Visitors can also admire the external architecture and the series of statues which include representations of James V, the Devil and classical deities.
- The Great Kitchens and North Gate. These are located on the north-east side of the Outer Close. The kitchens feature an excellent re-enactment display (using mannequins) of the working kitchens during the 16th century. The North Gate is probably the oldest part of the current castle building and may date from 1381.
- The Nether Bailey and Magazines. Access is via the North Gate. This area also contains a fascinating, working, tapestry weaving studio
What else can I see and do in the area?
- Within a short walk of the castle entrance is Argyll’s Lodging, an elegant 17th century town house.
- A short drive away and within sight of the castle is the Wallace Monument (‘Braveheart’). This commemorates William Wallace, the victor of the Battle of Stirling Bridge in 1297
- Battle of Bannockburn Visitor Centre. A ten minute drive to the approximate site of the decisive 1314 battle where Robert the Bruce defeated Edward II.
- Doune Castle which dates from the 14th century and situated some 8 miles north west of Stirling. Made famous for featuring in the 1975 film ‘Monty Python and the Holy Grail’.
- Visit scenic Central Scotland with its many visitor attractions.
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