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A Stirling Castle
Stirling Castle (Stirling)
Member Name: catsholiday
Stirling Castle (Stirling)
Advantages: Fab views and lots to see inside
Disadvantages: Busy on a sunny sunday
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.
Summary: A popular and busy castle with a proud Scottish history
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