“ Located off the A872, in Stirling. Tel:+44(0)1786 450000. Open all year. Joint ticket with Argyll's Lodging. One of the most important and powerful castles in Scotland, Stirling Castle stands on a high rock, and consists of a courtyard castle, which dates „
* Prices may differ from that shown
This was our first stop on our trip up to Scotland and we made it in time for lunch. Be aware that parking is limited at the castle and you do have to pay £4 just to park but there I no time limit for this charge so you could stay all day should you want to. Once you are in the queue to park you have to stay in it as the road is steep, narrow and cobbled and there is no way you could turn around. The queue was well managed and we didn't have to wait too long. It was a sunny Sunday afternoon which probably accounts for how busy the castle was on that day.
OPENING TIME AND PRICES
The castle is open all year even days a week. From April 1st to Sept 30th it is open from 9.30am to 6pm. From Oct 1st to Mar 31st it is open from 9.30am to 5pm. The opening times for Christmas and New Year check the website as they vary.
Adults cost £14, Concessions £11 and children £7.50
Dogs are not allowed except for guide dogs.
Some parts of the castle are cobbled and so wheel chair and push chair access is tricky though not impossible. The castle does off a mobility vehicle for those who might find the steep and cobbled inclines too difficult but you need to ask. There I also a virtual tour but that is not quite the same in my opinion.
This castle is part of Historic Scotland as is Edinburgh castle and if you pay £29 for a 'Go Explore' pas you then have access to their other attractions which you would need to check for yourself if it I worth buying. You can do this on the website www.historic-scotland.gov.uk/explorer.
A QUICK LUNCH
Once we parked the car we made our way to the castle and paid the entrance fee and went straight to the Unicorn café for our lunch. The café was pleasant enough but the selection was quite limited. My husband had a pastrami Panini and I chose a brie and bacon one which we both had toasted. We decided that we would just enjoy their free tap water that we could help ourselves to from a jug on a table nearby. The food was okay, nothing special but fresh and tasty.
The cafe was clean and had tables regularly cleared. We ate inside but there was a nice terrace with great views over Stirling . We chose not to sit there as we had a few things to carry and it was pretty hot and sunny and this was a functional meal before visiting the castle so we were not planning to sit around too long.
WALKING THE WALLS
We made our way through the courtyard to the Chapel Royal. This building reminded me of Mexican buildings with its clean painted wall and turreted roof tops. On the very top of the roof sat four proud animals one was a lion and another looked like a lion with a unicorn horn. They had gold collars and chains and otherwise they were painted black so very outstanding up there on the roof top.
Inside the chapel was also pain sort of painted chalky walls with a wooden ceiling. At one end was a lovely leaded window and painted mural type decoration which continued around the chapel at the top of the wall. I like the simplicity of the building and somehow it didn't seem to belong with the rest of the castle buildings.
The building near this had the most impressive gargoyles and figurines in stone that has been well worn over the years. I do like a gargoyle as they are so ugly and odd but somehow quite attractive in their strangeness and I am always drawn to them.
We then made our way to the rather lovely, peaceful Douglas garden and then to the castle wall and walked to the end in both directions. The end of the wall walk ended up at the Grand Battery with all the canons but more interestingly gave a fabulous view over Stirling towards the Wallace Monument and over the site of the Battle of Stirling Bridge. There was a poster labeled with the different sites of interest so that you could check where these were in the vista in front of you.
Stirling castle sits at a very strategic point in Scotland and so has been important throughout Scottish history. It sits at the lowest point over which the river Forth could be bridged and so guarded the strategic gateway between the Lowlands and Highlands of Scotland.
We then decided to explore some of the other building and went down an alleyway that had small rooms off it offering different experiences that would appeal to younger visitors. One room explained how the clothes of the people living in the castle might have been made and also had some there for visitors to dress up in and then pose for photos with different backdrops. One family was enjoying this activity when we were there the parents and two girls all in costume and they looked great.
Another room was for those in need of additional help so that there were notices with raised print, articles that you could feel, computers with information and so on which I thought was really a positive approach for anyone needing this.
THE LION'S DEN
Inside the castle was the recently restored palace of James V. The palace rooms were beautifully restored to their renaissance splendor with stunning paintings and gilt adornments, furnishings and guides in costume to tell you about the different things in the rooms.
The King's Outer Hall had the most impressive painted emblem above the fireplace which appeared to be two unicorns on their back legs. Once we got to the Inner Hall all you could say was 'Wow'. The ceiling had about a hundred paintings of royals and classical heroes. Henry VIII and Mary Queen of Scotts as well as James V and his queen were among the faces on the ceiling. The paintings were beautiful, slightly raised in places so kind of 3D. Again there was a beautiful painting above the fireplace, thsi time a single unicorn as part of an emblem.
We then moved into the Queens inner Hall which was once again quite splendid. The bed was a four poster with purple drapes and blue silk cover but apparently she slept in a small bed in a room nearby. On the ceiling were three birds hot by a single arrow painted which was the symbol of Mary of Guise's family. I rather liked the cupboard at the back with decorated panels . I think it would have looked rather good in my bedroom at home.
In the next room there was a throne and a carpet leading up to it. On the walls were several tapestries. A lad in costume was telling visitors about the clothes worn in the day. She has a sark or long shirt which was white and the garment, worn close to the skin. Men wore cutty sarks or shorter, knee length sarks and that is where the term cutty sark comes from.
We made our way out of the palace and back into the main castle to explore more of the gardens and walls . After this we headed back to the car via the toilets which were clean and just near the ticket office.
We left more easily as the crowds had died down and the road was emptier. We stopped at the bottom of the hill to get a photo of the castle which looks most imposing in its position at the top of the hill overlooking the town and valley as well as the River Forth.
I would say this is well worth the money paid to visit as there is so much to see and explore. The information boards are strategically placed with enough information to be interesting but not over whelming. The Palace rooms were stunning and the views from the castle worth the visit alone. Just be aware that on a Sunday in the tourist season you may have difficulty getting into the car park and once you are in the queue you are stuck and have to wait your turn.
I would say on a week day that you would have no problem getting in and parking but remember you have to pay to park as well as to get into the castle. You can enjoy the view from outside the castle and the monument to Robert the Bruce stands on the grassed area near the walls and you could sit and picnic there if you wanted to. I enjoyed a Scottish ice cream from the van parked there and then sat on the wall after our visit to the castle.
Thanks for reading. This review may be posted on other sites under my same user name.
I've lived in Stirling for nearly 6 months now and I've had a Historic Scotland membership for a year but until last week I had never been to the castle. I love history and I'm especially interested in Scottish history so I love visiting our castles. Stirling is a particularly impressive castle for many reasons, not least because it is where kings and queens of Scotland were crowned back in medieval times when Scotland had its own monarchy.
The first place I went was the Clan gift shop, where I bough a book on my family's clan (the Black clan) and also got a miniature bottle of clan Douglas whiskey (a famous Scottish clan which originated in a village close to my home town). I also got some books which tell you all about the castle and it's history. One of the books I got was about the Stirling tapestries, and another about the history of clans in Scotland.
The Stirling tapestries are a series of seven tapestries which were woven in Stirling castle and are currently being reproduced to be displayed in the recently refurbished palace. There is an exhibition about them within the castle which tells you all about the seven tapestries and their history and shows you the work that's went into recreating them and you can even watch the weavers at work. The seven tapestries depict the story of a medieval hunt for an elusive unicorn, an animal which was commonly thought of as real back then. It shows the hunters tracking the animal, finding and capturing it, killing it and then, in the final scene, it is alive again as unicorns were believed to be immortal. I quite liked the exhibit as unlike a piece of art in a museum, Historic Scotland have put a great deal of effort into researching these pieces and the display is very informative. I also enjoyed seeing the weavers at work. It's quite a complex process and they are working very hard to recreate the tapestries perfectly.
The next place I went to was the Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders Regimental Museum, which I found quite interesting but not really very unique. Edinburgh Castle has a similar museum and I can't remember what it's about but I do remember the two museums are very similar. I am considering a career in the army after graduation so I was really interested in the history of the regiments. I was particularly impressed by the vast collection of medals on show which were presented to soldiers in this regiment. There's also a small exhibit on the modern day regiment but the focus is heavily on the regiment's history. There's a small shop which I was happy to support and bought myself a little William Wallace statue from. There was also one of those cool machines which presses pennies for you and puts a cool design on them, but I didn't have a penny to put in it.
After that was the Douglas Garden and the Wall Walks. The garden isn't that impressive, with just a couple of trees and some flower beds, but I'm sure it would have been much better back in its day. The Wall Walks are blocked off in certain areas but you can walk from the Douglas Garden to the main courtyard. There are some stunning views of the city from the castle and you can see over to the Wallace Monument and the University.
My final stop before the gift shop was the Grand Kitchens. This was one of my favourite parts of the castle as the displays were well thought out and there were plenty of information boards which tell you all about the kitchens. The waxworks were also really realistic to the point that when I looked through the window as I was going in I thought they were real people.
Finally, I went to the gift shop (one of at least four, two of which I've already mentioned). This last one was really overpriced and the only thing I got was a tea towel (£6 it cost me) which I needed because I managed to move to University with no tea towels. They have some really great stuff, but nothing an impoverished student can afford.
Overall, Stirling Castle is a great day out and I loved my visit. Unfortunately, I didn't have time to visit everywhere, including the palace, but I saw most of it. I really recommend a visit if you're in the area.
Historic Scotland have done their best to make sure that most people can access most of the castle, but unfortunately there's lots of parts with spiral staircases that are inaccessible by wheelchair. There are plenty of buses into the city and one which goes all the way to the castle gates. There's ample parking available too.
Stirling itself is a historic city and the castle is well worth a visit. Historic Scotland have put a lot of effort into restoring it and it is one of the best preserved castles in the country, alongside its counterpart in Edinburgh.
The ticket prices are quite steep and the gift shops are overpriced but if, like me, you have a Historic Scotland membership you get free entry, 20% off in the shops (except the regimental museum shop) and 10% off in the café. Even with these discounts things can still be a little expensive, though.
The architecture is rather impressive and the recent renovation of the palace is certainly impressive from the outside. I noticed a few additions to the infrastructure, such as a retaining wall in one of the basements, which does not look like the rest of the castle but the castle has been restored and maintained as well as possible.
As I've already said, Historic Scotland have done an excellent job of maintaining the castle and it's excellently well preserved.
Stirling was once the capital of Scotland and the castle was the seat of the reigning monarch for centuries. The displays all give detailed accounts of the history of the castle and the tapestries display in particular gives you a picture of a dying art form.
At time of writing, entry fees are as follows:
*Adult - £13.00
*Concession - £10.00
*Child - £6.50
*Under 5 - Free
As I've said, members also get in free.
This is a great place for a family outing and is very educational. It's in an excellent condition and is definitely a must see if you're in Central Scotland. The entry fees are a bit steep and the stores are expensive but overall a good day out.
_This review is also published on trivago.co.uk under the same username._
Whilst on a half term visit to Scotland, my husband and I spent a morning at Stirling Castle. As you approach Stirling itself, the castle sitting perched on a hill is very impressive, and it is immediately easy to see why is was of such importance, particularly strategically over the course of many centuries.
Unfortunately on the morning we visited, it was blowing a gale, with the rain to follow later, so we didn't hang around. We parked the car in the designated car park, paying £2 for the privilege ( a 4 hour ticket), and walked in through the main entrance. In the small entrance courtyard area are a gift shop, ticket office, toilets as well as an audio tour stand. Rather oddly, the ticket office counter was outside, although it opened out into the gift shop. When we were leaving the castle that day, the rain was so heavy, that we watched many people go inside the gift shop in the attempt to get their tickets, only to be told that they only served from the outside - a rather strange idea since this was Scotland, and the weather is not guaranteed sunshine.
When we arrived, there was a queue for the ticket office. Adult prices are £9, but it is £11 for an audio tour (that is, if you would prefer to take the tour independently, at at your own leisure). If you choose the £9 adult ticket, this includes a 1 hour guided tour of the castle, as well as access to the Argyll's lodgings. We chose the £9 ticket option. Pensioners and the unemployed gain admission for £7, although we heard many people grumbling on the day we visited, because students were not classified as unemployed and therefore were required to pay the full admission price, which we thought was a little on the mean side.
Tickets are checked before you enter up into the main forecourt, and it is at this point, that you will be asked you would like to pre book a ticket to Argyll's lodgings (this is included in the price of the main castle ticket). These spaced fill up quickly, and we accepted a ticket for a later tour that day.
Up in the forecourt, there is a nother small book/gift shop offering free whisky samples, as well as fine views over the landscape of Stirling below, as well as the famous Wallace monument. On the day we visited however, there was a lot of low cloud, and so some of these views were rather shrouded unfortunately.
Tours start on the hour and visitors are asked to meet at the well in the centre of the forecourt. Do be prepared that if you visiting in Autumn/Winter and possibly even in the spring, a waterproof coat, gloves, hat etc are probably a good idea to have to hand, as the first part of the tour is all outside, some of which is pretty exposed places. We were immensely glad of our waterproofs that day, especially as the rain began to pelt down later.
Our tour guide was terrific. He was a character and therefore it would have been near impossible not to have been drawn into the history of the castle, as he recalled with great expression and passion some of the battles the castle has witnessed, as well as some other tales.
After a little talk around the well, we headed for some of the walls of the caslte, overlooking the garden area. This was a quite exposed area to stand at, but our guide distracted us from the blowing gales with his enthusiastic telling of the history of this part of the castle.
Unfortunately, the palace is currently closed for restoration, and will not be open to the public for another few years, However our guide did take us on a tour of the Great Hall and the Chapel Royal, housing some beautiful tapestries. From there, we were allowed to explore ourselves, however it was at this point that the rain suddenly became very very heavy, bouncing off the ground, and so we headed for the Regimental Museum.
If you are interested in the military, this is a fine collection of pieces and history, as well as the marvellous display of Victoria crosses. I have to admit that I am not interested in the history of the military, but my husband very much enjoyed the museum, and I can see how it would be a very educational plcae to visit. A lot of work has been put into it, and it is worth a look.
Due to the adverse weather, we managed to run down to have a look around the great Kitchens, which were very interesting, with a little cinematic presentation inside as well. Although we would also have likted to visit the taspestry studio and see the tapestries that are currently being created for the restored palace, the weather was so bad we decided to give it a miss.
We also in the end had to return our tickets for the Argyll lodgings, as did many others, as few people wanted to wait around for another couple of hours in the pouring rain to go on this tour of this 17th century townhouse.
All in all, we enjoyed our visit to Stirling Castle. I don't think we would have found it quite so interesting if we hadn't had such as wonderful tour guide, who brought the history of the castle to life, and I don't think the audio tour could have matched our tour guides enthusiasm. We would have loved to have spent more time after the tour, exploring the taspestry studio and touring the argyll's lodgings, however with such terrible weather, it was simply out of the question.
We would certainly recommend a visit to Stirling particularly if the weather is to be dry, and we will probably return some day with our own family. A very interesting historical castle along with a great tour guide!
Stirling's historic importance is due to its position on a very desirable river crossing on the Forth and effectively guarding the only access to the Highlands from the south. It wasn't possible to go round as the surrounding terrain (Ochil Hills in the east and the Trossachs in the west) was pretty inhospitable. Effectively, the crossing at Stirling was a gateway between the North and the South, between the Lowlands and the Highlands, and ultimately and at least for a period in history, between England and Scotland.
The town of Stirling has grown around the castle and is connected with some of the most important events of Scottish history, notably the battle of the Wars of Independence (Stirling Bridge in 1297 and Bannockburn in 1314). Mary Queen of Scots was crowned here and the castle was the favourite royal residence of the Stewarts in 16th and 17th centuries to then be besieged again during the Jacobite uprisings in the 18th century.
Stirling, and particularly the Stirling Castle is the linchpin of the central belt of Scotland, rising dramatically and - when approached from the west - quite impossibly from the rugged crag of the rock which was first fortified in the Iron Ages. The western face of the rock drops 80 meters down, but the site is naturally well defended form three sides. The castle perches on top, visible from miles afar and overlooking not just that river crossing but a vast expanse of the surrounding area.
Obviously the rock can't be as sheer as that on all sides and indeed it's more accessible from the south where a road connects it to the town centre and where massive fortifications of the Forework have been erected: the Gatehouse, the curtain wall, ditch and several towers.
The defensive location makes for fantastic vistas from every point on the battlements and ramparts. Add to that the ever-fascinating Scottish sky and on a good day the views out of the castle are as good as the monument itself: south to the town itself, raising in crenellations of the chimneys and towers like Edinburgh in miniature, and then to the chimneys and smoke of industrial Falkirk beyond; east to meandering river, the Abbey Craig topped by the Victorian rocket of the Wallace Monument and the velvet greenery of the Ochil Hills, west to the silhouettes of the high peaks on the horizon, the characteristic and easily recognisable shapes of Ben Lomond, Ben Vorlich and Stuc a'Chroin.
The castle itself is a huge structure, which has grown organically through the years and is both interesting and beautiful. There are walls, battlements, tiny windows, towers, gates and other defence structures that surround it and can be largely walked on and explored. You can't walk around the whole castle, but you can climb up and down bits of the fortifications in all sections of the site (those views again!). This itself is fun to do, especially for smaller children (supervision is needed, as some steps don't have railings).
Inside the walls are several buildings and exhibitions of interest.
The Palace is a mid-16th century structure, started by king James IV, but completed after his death by his widow, Mary de Guise. The Palace is currently undergoing major restoration work (which is due to be completed in 2011) but even from outside it's a remarkable building, decorated with grotesque sculptures and other Renaissance stonework.
The Great Hall was built as venue for state occasions and is an impressive building. The vast space was used for state banquets, receptions and even sittings of the parliament and still seems huge to modern visitors. The outside of the Hall has been rendered and limewashed during the recent restoration, to apparently make it look as it did originally. It looks good, and such a restoration is fitting for a complete, and functional building. An added bonus is a good contrast with the bare stones of the rest of the castle. The restored Hall looks quite cheerful, and the large windows, graceful shapes and elegant decorations give it a touch reminiscent of a French chateau. A row of lions and unicorns, with gleaming gold crowns, adorns the roof of the Hall and draws the visitor's gaze up to the towerlets and chimneys.
The Great Hall and the Palace form two sides of the Upper Square. The other two are The Chapel and King's Old Building.
The chapel was built by James VI for the christening of his son, and is simple one-storey building with lovely decorative frescoes on the upper parts of the walls. The finished tapestries made in the studio in the Nether Bailey are hanging on the walls of the Chapel in their admirable glory.
King's Own Building completes the Upper Square and is one of the older on site, dating to the end of 15th century. It sits at the edge of the rock face and offers impressive views to the west. Sadly, inside isn't restored or even left bare but houses the regimental museum of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, a reminder of the long period when the Stirling Castle was mostly an army barracks (the military left finally only in the 60's).
The Great Kitchens are located in the basement of the building near the North Gate, and contain a wax-work like reconstruction of what the kitchens would be like when working at full steam, complete with hanging hams, baskets of fish and a recipe books for delicacies like dressed peacock.
The North Gate leads below the Great Hall to the Nether Bailey, an area located in the lower part of the castle rock. It's a separate and quieter area, with large parts of natural rocks visible and somehow incorporated into the wall and provides great views north of Stirling as well as good perspective of the main sections of the castle.
At the very end of the Nether Bailey is the Tapestry Studio, where a team of weavers is engaged in a project to recreate The Hunt of the Unicorn Tapestries to be eventually displayed in the restored Palace. Each tapestry takes years to complete and the visitors can watch the image appear (and there are also talks by the weavers about the project and their craft).
Stirling Castle Exhibition in in the Queen Anne casemates by the bowling green tells the history of the castle while guided tours are frequently conducted round the castle (there is also an audio guide available). The castle is managed by Historic Scotland and is a site for frequent their events, little shows, talks and re-enactments.
All in all, the castle is an excellent day out for pretty much everybody, and you can easily spend three to four hours here, especially if one of the events is on or if you bring a picnic/decide to eat in the cafe.
The town is easily reached by car (from A9/M9) or public transport from all directions (about half an hour by train from Glasgow or Perth). The castle is well signposted, there is plenty of parking nearby, but on busy days using the town car parks might be necessary.
There is a cafe on site as well as a good bookshop and an excellent whisky shop (apparently some people join Historic Scotland purely to get the 20% members' discount in the whisky shop) as well as a gift shop just outside the castle walls (with relatively low tat quotient).
Historic Scotland members free
9.30 to 6pm in summer (Apr-Sep)
9.30 to 5pm in winter (Oct-Mar).
Tel: 01786 450000
Post Code for SatNav: FK8 1EJ
I've lived near Stirling Castle for a few years now and it's only recently that I visited it.*shocking!* I guess people never think to go to tourist places they live close to.
The castle has an interesting history, tied into most of the kings and queens since it was built in the 15th century. This history is enthusiastically declared to you by hyperactive tour guides-they literally bring history to life in their re-enactment of grand meetings and fights that occurred in the castle. Other staff are equally friendly and knowledgeable, and welcome questions from visitors.
A modern tapestry studio has been built in the castles nether bailey, where old tapestries are restored and new ones made in traditional methods. It is much fun to watch the weaving as it is happening.
There are many parts of the castle available to public visit, but you get a sense of emptiness when wondering around. It's all very well looking at the great hall but without the tour guides flamboyant display you begin to wonder what you're supposed to be looking at.
By far the most interesting places are the dungeon and kitchens, they are packed with models of cooks and prisoners, wall displays going into detail about the diet of the days and methods of punishment.
The cafe has reasonably priced average food and drink but is friendly enough to make your stop comfortable. As far as entry goes, it is a little pricey, but bear in mind that a major renovation is going on and all the money goes to upkeep and staffing.
© L Wade 2009 - submitted only on dooyoo.
A visit to Stirling Castle is an essential part of any visit to central Scotland. Its location rivals even Edinburgh Castle for sheer magnificence as it sits atop a high, craggy volcanic rock, visible for many miles in all directions.
Situated at the main north-south and east-west routes across Scotland, Stirling Castle stands at a supremely strategic location literally in the centre of Scotland. Between the highlands and lowlands it guards what was throughout much of history the lowest crossing point of the River Forth.
This geographical factor forced any traveller or army going north or south to pass through Stirling. Stirling was therefore the key to the kingdom purely because of its vital geographical position.
It's position ensured that it played a major part in the Scottish struggle against English domination. The result is that it has been fought over and changed hands more than any other Scottish castle. He who controlled Stirling, effectively controlled Scotland.
All this meant that Stirling Castle was a focal point for many of the most turbulent and influential episodes in Scottish history.
Some of the most important battles in Scotland's history took place within sight of this mighty fortress, particularly those of William Wallace's victory over the English at Stirling Bridge in 1297 and Robert the Bruce's defeat of the same mob at Bannockburn in 1314.
* HISTORY of the CASTLE *
The earliest recorded castle at Stirling was used by Malcolm Canmore in the 11th century. It was later replaced by a new castle commissioned by Alexander I (1107-24), who died at the Castle in 1124 and was taken to Dunfermline Abbey for burial.
When William the Lion was captured by the English at Alnwick, he was forced by Henry II to sign the Treaty of Falaise in 1174, which decreed that the six most important castles in Scotland, including Stir
ling, should be garrisoned by English s
oldiers. In 1189 the castle was returned to Scottish hands. William the Lion died here in 1214.
During the Wars of Independence, Stirling Castle had a busy time of it. After capturing Berwick in 1296, Edward I of England took Stirling Castle without a problem. But the next year the Scottish forces, under the Scottish patriot, William Wallace, destroyed the English army at the battle of Stirling Bridge.
Within a year it was back in English hands, but they soon had to surrender to the Scots. In 1304 the castle was the last stronghold in the Scottish rebels' hands and in April of that year King Edward I besieged Stirling.
This saw the castle bombarded for four months by seige engines hurling lead balls (the lead melted from nearby church roofs), greek fire and stone balls. Under this attack, the garrison finally surrendered in July. The English held the castle until 1314, when it was yielded to the Scots after the Battle of Bannockburn.
In 1452 Stirling was the site of the death of William, 8th Earl of Douglas by King James II. Douglas, had been invited to dine at the castle under safe conduct from the King. The safe conduct was not respected, and Douglas was murdered.
On the 9th of September 1543, the young Queen Mary (Mary Queen of Scots) was crowned in the chapel royal at Stirling. The two month old Prince James, son of Mary was baptised here in 1566 after being moved to the castle by feuding Scottish lords. It was here that he was crowned as James VI when he was 13 months old.
After the Union of Crowns in 1603 and the removal of the King and his court to England, the palace was neglected. James VI (James I of England) only visited the castle on two further occasions.
Stirling's last military use was an unsuccessful attack by Bonnie Prince Charlie in 17
45. From 1881 to 1964 the castle was a depot for recruits into the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders but today it serves no
military function. A huge statue of King Robert the Bruce overlooks the approach to the castle and seven battlefields can be seen from the grounds.
* The Castle Today *
The Esplanade was originally an area in front of the castle kept clear of any buildings to allow an unobstructed view of any who approached the castle. It was laid out as an army parade ground in 1809 and now serves as the car park.
The castle itself is entered by climbing the tail of the rocky crag, (Castle Wynd), crossing the first gateway and ditch, then into the Inner Gateway. The 15th century entry and portcullis house opens to the lower courtyard. On the left is the Queen Anne Garden, which was once a bowling green, and is now a well-tended formal garden.
Perimeter defences protect all parts of the castle and within them the Guardroom Square forms a second line of defence. There is a shop located in the former storerooms in this area. Internal interconnected walls were built to strengthen the battery and these provided emergency barracks in times of crisis. These now contain the display areas and also a restaurant.
The Outer Close is the lower of two courtyards in the castle and leads into the Inner Close. This is bordered by the Palace to the west and the Great Hall to the north. The present layout of the close began taking shape around 1500 - previously the buildings ran diagonally - following the natural contours of the rock. One building survives at this angle squeezed between the Palace and the King's Old Building.
To the east, lies The Grand Battery - an impressive series of terraced casements with rows of cannons that cover all the approaches to the Castle. The battery overlooks the town of Stirling an
d Stirling Bridge to the right.
The King's Old Building is the highest point of the castle and enjoys the best view. It has been chang
ed many times since its construction in 1496 and nowadays houses the regimental museum of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders.
The Palace was commissioned by James V around 1538 for his queen, Mary of Guise, but it may incorporate parts of an earlier building at lower levels. It is a large quadrangular building around a central courtyard known as the Lion's Den.
The statues which adorn the outer walls include depictions of King James V, St.Micheal, the devil, and several classical gods and goddesses. Men at arms line the parapet of the south face and many smaller pieces show dragons, elephants, and mythical beasts.
The Chapel Royal has been re-sited at least twice in the history of the castle. It was built in its present location in time for the baptism of James VI's first son, Prince Henry, in 1594. To enter the building you have pass through an imposing arched doorway with windows either side. There is a heavy Italian Renaissance influence here.
The Great Hall is the largest of its type ever built in Scotland and was intended for great celebrations and occasions of state. Five fireplaces heated the vast space. The restoration - almost a reconstruction - of the Great Hall followed the departure of the military from the Castle in 1964. It took 35 years and has produced a result that, though rather controversial, is certainly very striking.
It was designed and built by Robert Cochrane, a favorite of James III (1460-88) and is reputedly the finest example of Renaissance building in the British Isles.
The Great Hall has been re-roofed, re-harled, and is a smooth pinkish-salmon color. It's a huge difference from the dark black-brown of the other stone buildings. However, it's as historically accurate as they can make it. The colour, windows, and most of the
decorations, were taken from descriptions in books and letters and other research.
The Palace was begun in 1495 by James IV and compl
eted in 1540 by his son. It is a masterpiece of renaissance ornamentation - statues and intricate carvings grace the building.
Stirling Castle, Falkland Palace, and Linlithgow Palace remain the only examples of European Renaissance styles in Scotland, but they didn't have much effect on Scottish architecture as a whole.
The kitchens that served the Great Hall were built against the curtain wall on the north-east wall of the Outer Close. Visitors can see a display of how the kitchens would have appeared in operation in the 16th Century: complete with the inadequate lighting, models, and an interesting choice of foodstuffs.
The North Gate contains what is thought to be the oldest surviving masonry in the castle. The outer part, facing towards the Nether Bailey, dates from around 1381. It has been extended inwards and upwards several times, most notably in the 1512 when a kitchen,(see above), was constructed on the first floor.
Stirling Castle's vast formal gardens date from the 16th century, when they became a symbol of Scotland's cultural ascendancy. The King's Knot, a ghost of a formal garden beyond the castle walls is best viewed from the Queen Anne garden. With its roses and sheltering trees, it softens the stone edges of this majestic fortress.
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Stirling Castle is located at the head of Stirling's historic old town off the M9 motorway. Parking is available on the Esplan
ade in front of the Castle.
The castle is open 7 days a week, year round except Christmas Day and Boxing Day. Opening hours are: April to September 9.30am to 6.00pm
and October to March 9.30am to 5.00pm.
Admission: Adult £7.00, Child £2.00
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Stirling Castle is situated on a volcanic outcrop providing the most amazing viewpoint (very good for watching your enemies approach!). It overlooks the entire Forth valley - an excellent position to see your enemies approaching! The castle was mainly built in the 15th and 16th centuries when it was a permanent Royal residence for the Kings and Queens of Scotland. It consists of the Palace, the Great Hall, the Chapel Royal and the Regimental museum. There has recently been a flurry of restoration work including the rebuilding of the Great Hall has been rebuilt. This has caused some consternation, as it's a bit bright to say the least!! However, the architects say they have remained faithful to the original building techniques. The result is a very bright cream hall that is visible on the castle ramparts for miles! We are assured however, that this will eventually fade and blend in with the rest of the castle - just not in our life time. The restoration work was carried out over the past few years and involved carpenters, stone masons, embroiderers and textile specialists. The result is amazing! The Great hall has been restored to its previous grandeur which was a difficult task on an ancient building which was used as army barracks and store rooms. If you haven't been to visit Stirling Castle for a couple of years it would be well worth going back to see the changes. We spent almost the entire day there as there is so much to see and do. The Castle tea-room is a welcome respite as the wind can be rather cold as the castle is exposed. The tearoom is situated in original castle buildings and blends in with its surroundings. It serves everything from full meals to tea and coffee. It was reasonably priced and is quite large so you should be able to get a seat (except possibly in high tourist season!). From the castle ramparts you get a wonderful view over the entire Forth valley and even beyond on a clear day.
It is a lovely accessible place with lots of nooks and crannies to explore and lots of exhibitions. Well worth a visit!