Stirling Castle, located in Stirling, is one of the largest and most
important castles in Scotland, both historically and architecturally.
The castle sits atop
Castle Hill, an intrusive crag, which forms part
Stirling Sill geological formation. It is surrounded on three
sides by steep cliffs, giving it a strong defensive position. Its
strategic location, guarding what was, until the 1890s, the farthest
downstream crossing of the River Forth, has made it an important
fortification in the region from the earliest times.
Most of the principal buildings of the castle date from the fifteenth
and sixteenth centuries. A few structures of the fourteenth century
remain, while the outer defences fronting the town date from the early
Before the union with England,
Castle was also one of the
most used of the many Scottish royal residences, very much a palace as
well as a fortress. Several Scottish Kings and Queens have been
crowned at Stirling, including Mary, Queen of Scots, in 1542, and
others were born or died there.
There have been at least eight sieges of
Stirling Castle, including
several during the Wars of Scottish Independence, with the last being
in 1746, when Bonnie Prince Charlie unsuccessfully tried to take the
Castle is a Scheduled Ancient Monument, and is now a
tourist attraction managed by Historic Environment Scotland.
1.1 Early history
1.2 Wars of Independence
1.3 Early Stewarts
1.5 Military fortress
1.6 Twentieth century
2 The interior
2.1 Outer Defences
2.3 Outer Close
2.4 King's Old Building
2.5 Great Hall
2.6 Royal Palace
2.7 Chapel Royal
2.8 Nether Bailey
3 Modern use
5 See also
8 External links
Castle Hill, on which
Castle is built, forms part of the
Stirling Sill, a formation of quartz-dolerite around 350 million years
old, which was subsequently modified by glaciation to form a "crag and
tail". It is likely that this natural feature was occupied at an
early date, as a hill fort is located on Gowan Hill, immediately to
The Romans bypassed Stirling, building a fort at
Doune instead, but
the rock may have been occupied by the
Maeatae at this time. It may
later have been a stronghold of the Manaw Gododdin, and has also been
identified with a settlement recorded in the 7th and 8th centuries as
Iudeu, where King
Penda of Mercia
Penda of Mercia besieged King Oswy of
655. The area came under Pictish control after the defeat of the
Northumbrians at the
Battle of Dun Nechtain
Battle of Dun Nechtain thirty years later.
However, there is no archaeological evidence for occupation of Castle
Hill before the late medieval period.
Other legends have been associated with Stirling, or "Snowdoun" as it
was more poetically known. The 16th-century historian Hector Boece
claims in his Historia Gentis Scotorum that the Romans, under
Agricola, fortified Stirling, and that Kenneth MacAlpin,
traditionally the first King of Scotland, besieged a castle at
Stirling during his takeover of the Pictish kingdom in the 9th
century. Boece is, however, considered an unreliable historian.
Another chronicler, William Worcester, associated
Stirling with the
court of the legendary King Arthur. Tradition suggests that St Monenna
founded a chapel here, as she is said to have done at Edinburgh,
although it is now thought that the legend of Monenna results from a
later confusion of early Christian figures, including Modwenna and
The first record of
Castle dates from around 1110, when King
Alexander I dedicated a chapel here. It appears to have been an
established royal centre by this time, as Alexander died here in 1124.
During the reign of his successor David I,
Stirling became a royal
burgh, and the castle an important administration centre. King
William I formed a deer park to the south-west of the castle, but
after his capture by the English in 1174, he was forced to surrender
several castles, including
Stirling and Edinburgh, under the Treaty of
Falaise. There is no evidence that the English actually occupied the
castle, and it was formally handed back by
Richard I of England
Richard I of England in
Stirling continued to be a favoured royal residence, with
William himself dying there in 1214, and Alexander III laying out
the New Park, for deer hunting, in the 1260s.
Wars of Independence
Statue of Robert the Bruce on the castle esplanade
Stirling remained a centre of royal administration until the death of
Alexander III in 1286. His passing triggered a succession crisis, with
Edward I of England
Edward I of England invited to arbitrate between competing claimants.
Edward came north in 1291, demanding that Stirling, along with the
other royal castles, be put under his control during the arbitration.
Edward gave judgement in favour of John Balliol, hoping he would be a
"puppet" ruler, but John refused to obey Edward's demands.
In 1296, Edward invaded Scotland, beginning the Wars of Scottish
Independence, which would last for the next 60 years. The English
Castle abandoned and empty, and set about occupying
this key site. They were dislodged the following year, after the
Andrew Moray and
William Wallace at the Battle of Stirling
Bridge. Many of the garrison were killed during the battle, after
which the English commanders Sir
William FitzWarin and Sir Marmaduke
Tweng retreated into the castle. However, they were quickly starved
into surrender by the Scots.
Next summer, the castle changed hands again, being abandoned by the
Scots after the English victory at Falkirk. Edward strengthened the
castle, but it was besieged in 1299 by forces including Robert Bruce.
King Edward failed to relieve the garrison, who were forced to
By 1303, the English again held the upper hand, and
Stirling was the
last remaining castle in Scottish hands. Edward's army arrived in
April 1304, with at least 17 siege engines. The Scots, under Sir
William Oliphant, surrendered on 20 July, but part of the garrison
were ordered back into the castle by Edward, as he had not yet
deployed his latest engine, "Warwolf".
Warwolf is believed to have
been a large trebuchet, which destroyed the castle's gatehouse.
Although Edward's victory seemed complete, he was dead by 1307, and
Robert Bruce was now King of Scots. By 1313, only Stirling, Roxburgh,
Edinburgh and Berwick castles were held by the English. Edward Bruce,
the king's brother, laid siege to Stirling, which was held by Sir
Philip Mowbray. Mowbray proposed a bargain: that he would surrender
the castle, if it were not relieved by 24 June 1314. Bruce agreed, and
withdrew. The following summer, the English duly headed north, led
by Edward II, to save the castle. On 23–24 June, King Robert's
forces met the English at the Battle of Bannockburn, within sight of
the castle walls. The resulting English defeat was decisive. King
Edward attempted to take refuge in the castle, but Mowbray was
determined to keep to his word, and the English were forced to flee.
Mowbray handed over the castle, changing sides himself in the
process. King Robert ordered the castle to be slighted; its
defences destroyed to prevent reoccupation by the English.
The war was not over, however. The second War of Scottish Independence
saw the English in control of
Castle by 1336, when Sir Thomas
Rokeby was the commander, and extensive works were carried out, still
largely in timber rather than stone. Andrew Murray attempted a
siege in 1337, when guns may have been used for one of the first times
in Scotland. Robert Stewart, the future King Robert II, retook
Stirling in a siege during 1341–1342. Maurice Murray was appointed
as its keeper, who in the words of
Andrew of Wyntoun "inforsyt it
grettumly, for riche he was and full mychty" (enforced it greatly, for
rich he was and full mighty). In 1360, Robert de Forsyth was
appointed governor of
Stirling Castle, an office he passed on to his
son John and grandson William, who was governor in 1399.
The north gate of the castle, at the lower left, is probably the
oldest part of the castle, dating partly from the 1380s
Under the early Stewart kings Robert II (reigned 1371–1390) and
Robert III (reigned 1390–1406), the earliest surviving parts of the
castle were built. Robert Stewart, Earl of Menteith, Regent of
Scotland as brother of Robert III, undertook works on the north and
south gates. The present north gate is built on these foundations of
the 1380s, the earliest surviving masonry in the castle. In 1424,
Castle was part of the jointure (marriage settlement) given
to James I's wife Joan Beaufort, establishing a tradition which later
monarchs continued. After James' murder in 1437, Joan took shelter
here with her son, the young James II. Fifteen years later, in 1452,
it was at
Castle that James stabbed and killed William, 8th
Earl of Douglas, when the latter refused to end a potentially
treasonous alliance with
John of Islay, Earl of Ross
John of Islay, Earl of Ross and Alexander
Lindsay, 4th Earl of Crawford. James III (reigned 1460–1488) was
born here, and later undertook works to the gardens and the chapel
royal. The manufacture of artillery in the castle is recorded in
1475. James' wife, Margaret of Denmark, died in
1486, and two years later James himself died at the Battle of
Sauchieburn, fought over almost the same ground as the Battle of
Bannockburn, just to the south of the castle.
Almost all the present buildings in the castle were constructed
between 1490 and 1600, when
Stirling was developed as a principal
royal centre by the Stewart kings James IV, James V and James VI. The
architecture of these new buildings shows an eclectic mix of English,
French and German influences, reflecting the international ambitions
of the Stewart dynasty.
Stirling Castle, drawn by
John Slezer in 1693, and showing James IV's
James IV (reigned 1488–1513) kept a full
including alchemists, and sought to establish a palace of European
standing at Stirling. He undertook building works at the royal
residences of Edinburgh, Falkland and Linlithgow, but the grandest
works were at Stirling, and include the King's Old Building, the Great
Hall, and the Forework. He also renovated the chapel royal, one of
two churches within the castle at this time, and in 1501 received
approval from the Pope for the establishment of a college of
priests. The Forework, of which little now remains, was derived
from French military architecture, although military details were
added more for style than for defence. If a satirical account in
two poems by the poet
William Dunbar is based in fact, the castle
walls may have been the site of an attempt at human-powered flight,
c.1509, by the Italian alchemist and abbot of Tongland, John
Damian. James also kept an alchemist called Caldwell maintaining a
furnace for "quinta essencia", the mythical fifth element, at the
The building works begun by James IV had not been completed at the
time of his death at the Battle of Flodden. His successor, James V
(reigned 1513–1542), was crowned in the chapel royal, and grew up in
the castle under the guardianship of Lord Erskine. In 1515, the Regent
Albany brought 7,000 men to
Stirling to wrest control of the young
king from his mother, Margaret Tudor. James V as monarch was said
to have travelled in disguise under the name "Gudeman of Ballengeich",
after the road running under the eastern wall of the castle.
Ballengeich means "windy pass" in Gaelic. He continued and
expanded his father's building programme, creating the centrepiece of
the castle, the Royal Palace, built under the direction of Sir James
Hamilton of Finnart and masons brought from France. James V also
died young, leaving unfinished work to be completed by his widow, Mary
of Guise. His infant daughter, Mary, Queen of Scots, was brought to
Castle for safety, and crowned in the chapel royal on 9
September 1543. She too was brought up here, until she was sent to
Inchmahome Priory, and then to France in 1548. In the 1550s, during
the Regency of Mary of Guise, Anglo-French hostilities were fought out
Artillery fortifications were added to the south approach
of the castle, and these form the basis of the present Outer
James V, builder of the Royal Palace
Queen Mary returned to
Scotland in 1561, and visited
frequently. She nursed Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley, through an illness
here in 1565, and the two were soon married. Their son, James VI,
was baptised here the following year. The celebrations included
fireworks, an assault on a mock castle, and a masque designed by
Bastian Pagez. Darnley was already estranged from the Queen and
did not attend although he was resident at the castle. James'
guardian, the Earl of Mar, was made hereditary governor of the castle
in 1566. Mary was travelling from
Stirling when she was abducted
by the Earl of Bothwell, beginning the chain of events that led to her
forced abdication and her flight to England.
The young King James was crowned in the nearby Church of the Holy
Rude, and grew up within the castle walls under the tutelage of the
humanist scholar George Buchanan. Frequently used as a pawn in the
struggles between his regents and the supporters of Mary, the young
king was closely guarded.
Stirling became the base for James'
supporters, while those nobles who wished to see Queen Mary restored
gathered at Edinburgh, under William Kirkcaldy of Grange. Grange led a
Stirling in 1571, attempting to round up the Queen's enemies,
but failed to gain control of the castle or the King.
The keeper of the Castle,
Alexander Erskine of Gogar
Alexander Erskine of Gogar was ejected by
Regent Morton in April 1578, after his son was fatally
wounded during a struggle at the gate. The rebellious Earls of Mar
and Angus seized the castle in 1584, but surrendered and fled to
England when the King arrived with an army. They returned the
following year, forcing the King to surrender, although they
proclaimed their loyalty to him.
James' first child, Henry, was born in the castle in 1594, and the
present Chapel Royal was constructed for his baptism on 30 August.
Probably built by William Schaw, the chapel completed the quadrangle
of the Inner Close. Like his predecessors Henry spent his childhood
here under the 2nd Earl of Mar, until the
Union of the Crowns
Union of the Crowns of 1603,
when his father succeeded as King of England and the royal family left
Castle in 1900
After their departure, Stirling's role as a royal residence declined,
and it became principally a military centre. It was used as a prison
for persons of rank during the 17th century, and saw few visits by the
monarch. James VI & I returned to
Scotland in 1617, staying in
Stirling during July. From 1625, extensive preparations were made for
the anticipated visit of the new king, Charles I, including works to
the gardens and painting of the Chapel Royal. Charles did not come
Scotland until 1633, and only stayed in the castle for two days.
The castle did not feature in the civil and religious wars of the
1630s and 1640s. Following the execution of Charles I, the Scots
crowned his son Charles II, and he became the last reigning monarch to
stay here, living at the castle in 1650. The Royalist forces were
defeated at Dunbar by those of Oliver Cromwell, and the King marched
south to defeat at Worcester. General Monck laid siege to the castle
on 6 August 1651, erecting gun platforms in the adjacent churchyard.
After the garrison mutinied, Colonel William Conyngham was obliged to
surrender on 14 August. Damage done during the siege can still be
seen on the church and the Great Hall.
The Restoration of Charles II, the
Earl of Mar
Earl of Mar was restored as
governor, and the castle was frequently used as a prison, housing
several Covenanters. James, Duke of Albany, later King James VII
Scotland and II of England, visited the castle in 1681. During this
time, the castle's military role became increasingly important, a
powder magazine being built in the castle gardens, and a formal
garrison installed from 1685. At the accession of King George I in
1714, John Erskine, 6th
Earl of Mar
Earl of Mar was deprived of the governorship,
as well as the post of Scottish Secretary. In response, he raised the
standard of James Stuart, the "Old Pretender", in the Jacobite rising
of 1715. Government troops, under the Duke of Argyll, quickly moved to
occupy the fortress, then advanced to Sheriffmuir to block Mar's way.
Battle of Sheriffmuir
Battle of Sheriffmuir was inconclusive, but the rising was
effectively over. The
Jacobite rising of 1745
Jacobite rising of 1745 saw Charles Edward
Stuart lead his army of Highlanders past
Stirling on the way to
Edinburgh. Following the Jacobites' retreat from England, they
Stirling in January 1746. The town soon surrendered, but
the castle governor refused to capitulate.
Artillery works were set up
on Gowan Hill, but were quickly destroyed by the castle's guns.
Despite victory at Falkirk, the Jacobites withdrew north on 1
From 1800 the
Castle was owned by the
War Office and run as a
barracks. Many alterations were made to the Great Hall, which became
an accommodation block, to the Chapel Royal, which became a lecture
theatre and dining hall, to the King's Old Building, which became an
infirmary and to the Royal Palace, which became the Officer's Mess. A
number of new buildings were also constructed, including the prison
and powder magazine, at the Nether Bailey, in 1810. Queen Victoria
visited in 1842, and the Prince of Wales in 1859.
In 1873 a system of recruiting areas based on counties was instituted
Cardwell Reforms and the barracks became the depot for the
72nd (Highland) Regiment of Foot and the 91st (Argyllshire
Highlanders) Regiment of Foot. Following the Childers Reforms, the
91st (Argyllshire Highlanders) Regiment of Foot
91st (Argyllshire Highlanders) Regiment of Foot and the 93rd
(Sutherland Highlanders) Regiment of Foot amalgamated to form the
Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders
Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders with its depot in the barracks in
Replica of one of the
Unicorn Tapestries in the Queen's Presence
... and the restored fireplace in the King's Chamber.
The Royal Lodgings have now been returned to something approaching
their former glory. A major programme of research and re-presentation,
lasting 10 years and costing £12 million, was completed in summer
2011. Since January 2002, the Tapestry Studio at
West Dean College
West Dean College has
been working on a recreation of
The Hunt of the Unicorn
The Hunt of the Unicorn tapestries, 4
of which are now hanging in the restored Queen's Presence Chamber in
the Royal Palace. Historians studying the reign of James IV believe
that a similar series of Unicorn tapestries were part of the royal
collection. The team of weavers visited The Cloisters, part of the
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City, to inspect the 15th-century
originals, and researched medieval weaving techniques, colour palettes
and materials. The weavers are working both at the College in West
Sussex, and at a studio at
Stirling Castle. The project was completed
Castle remains the headquarters of the Argyll and Sutherland
Highlanders, although Balaclava Company, the sole surviving unit of
the regiment, has been garrisoned at
Redford Barracks since 2014.
The regimental museum is also located within the castle.
Aerial view of the interior castle
The French Spur, part of the Outer Defences, looking eastward...
... and the cannon
The Outer Defences comprise artillery fortifications, and were built
in their present form in the 18th century, although some parts,
including the French Spur at the east end, date back to the regency of
Mary of Guise
Mary of Guise in the 1550s. The French Spur was originally an
ear-shaped bastion known as an orillon, and contained gun emplacements
which protected the main spur. This projecting spur was fronted by an
earth ramp called a talus, and was entered via a drawbridge over a
ditch. Excavations in the 1970s showed that much of the original
stonework remains within the 18th-century defences.
Following the attempted Jacobite invasion of 1708, improvements to the
castle's defences were ordered as a matter of priority. A scheme of
new defences was proposed by Theodore Dury, although this was
criticised by one Captain Obryan, who put forward his own, much more
expensive, scheme. In the end a compromise was built, and was complete
by 1714. The main front wall was extended outwards, to form
Guardhouse Square. This had the effect of creating two defensive
walls, both of which were fronted by ditches defended by covered
firing galleries known as caponiers. One of the caponiers survives
and is accessible from Guardhouse Square by a narrow staircase.
To the rear of the walls, chambers called casemates were built to
strengthen the wall, and to provide gun emplacements. The French Spur
was modified slightly to allow more cannons to be mounted. The
buildings within Guardhouse Square date from the 19th century.
Outside the castle is the early 19th-century Esplanade, used as a
parade ground, and now as a car park and performance space.
The Forework, entry to the main part of the castle
The gatehouse providing entry from the outer defences to the castle
proper was erected by King James IV, and was probably completed around
1506. It originally formed part of a Forework, extending as a
curtain wall across the whole width of
Castle Hill. At the centre is
the gatehouse itself, which now stands to less than half its original
height. The round towers at the outer corners rose to conical roofs,
with battlements carried around the tops of the towers. These were
flanked by more round towers, of which only traces now remain, and
mirrored by further rounds at the rear of the gatehouse. The overall
design, as drawn by
John Slezer in 1693, shows French influence, and
has parallels with the forework erected at Linlithgow Palace.
Like the Linlithgow structure, the Forework was probably intended more
for show, evoking the "age of chivalry", than for defence, as it would
have offered little protection against contemporary artillery. The
entrance was via a central passage, flanked by two separate pedestrian
passages. This triple arrangement was unusual in its time, and
Classical triumphal arches have been suggested as an influence.
The gatehouse was dismantled gradually, and was consolidated in its
present form in 1810. At each end of the crenellated curtain wall was
a rectangular tower. The west tower, known as the Prince's Tower,
probably after Henry, Prince of Scotland, survives to its full height,
and is now attached to the later palace. At the east end, the
Elphinstone Tower contained a kitchen and possibly an officer's
lodging. It was cut down to form a gun battery, probably in the
early 18th century when the Outer Defences were rebuilt.
Within the Forework is a courtyard known as the Outer Close. To the
south-east are Georgian military buildings; the late 18th-century Main
Guard House, and the early 19th-century Fort Major's House. The
early North Gate, giving access to the Nether Bailey, contained the
original castle kitchens, which were probably linked to the Great
Hall. The Great Kitchen which is now visible was constructed later,
against the east wall of the castle. However, in 1689 these rooms were
infilled to provide gun emplacements. Excavations in the 1920s
ascertained the extent of the surviving rooms, and the vaults were
reconstructed in 1929. The small building above the North Gate is
traditionally said to have been a mint, known in Scots as the Cunzie
Hoose or "coining house". To the west of the Outer Close, the main
parts of the castle are arranged around the quadrangular Inner Close:
the Royal Palace to the south, the King's Old Building on the west,
the Chapel Royal to the north, and the Great Hall to the east.
King's Old Building
The arms of the
Earl of Douglas
Earl of Douglas stained glass in the King's Old
The oldest part of the Inner Close is the King's Old Building, on the
western side, which was complete by around 1497. It was begun as a
new residential range by James IV, and originally comprised an
L-shaped building. The principal rooms were on the first floor, over
cellars, and included two chambers with wide open views to the west,
although the interiors have been much altered. The projecting
stair tower has an octagonal upper section, which was copied for a
second, later stair tower on the same building. In 1855, the north end
of the building burned down, and was rebuilt in a Baronial style by
the architect and historian Robert William Billings. At the
south-west end of the range is a linking building, once used as
kitchens, which is on a different alignment to both the King's Old
Building and the adjacent Royal Palace. It has been suggested that
this is an earlier 15th-century structure, dating from the reign of
James I. Excavations within this building in 1998 revealed
burials, suggesting that this may have been the site of a church or
The Great Hall following restoration...
... and the interior, facing north
On the east side of the Inner Close is the Great Hall, or Parliament
Hall. This was built by James IV following on from the completion of
the King's Old Building in 1497, and was being plastered by 1503.
Described as "the grandest secular building erected in
Scotland in the
late Middle Ages", it represents the first example of
Renaissance-influenced royal architecture in that country. It was
worked on by a number of English craftsmen, and incorporates some
English design ideas, being comparable to Edward IV's hall at
Eltham Palace, built in the late 1470s. It includes Renaissance
details, such as the intersecting tracery on the windows, within a
conventional medieval plan. Inside are five fireplaces, and large
side windows lighting the dais end, where the king would be seated. It
is 42 by 14.25 metres (137.8 by 46.8 ft) across, making it
the largest such hall in Scotland.
The original hammerbeam roof was removed in 1800, along with the
decorative crenellated parapet, when the hall was subdivided to form
barracks. Two floors and five cross-walls were inserted, and the
windows were altered accordingly. As early as 1893, calls were
being made for the restoration of the Great Hall, but it was not
until the army left in 1965 that the opportunity arose. It was agreed
that a historically correct restoration could be achieved, and
works began which were only completed in 1999. The hammerbeam roof and
parapet were replaced, windows reinstated, and the outer walls were
East facade of the Royal Palace with Renaissance-period statues
The Royal Palace viewed from the Queen Anne Garden
To the left of the gatehouse, and forming the south side of the Inner
Close, is the Royal Palace. The first
Renaissance palace in the
British Isles, this was the work of King James V. With its
Renaissance architecture, and exuberant late-gothic
detail, it is one of the most architecturally impressive buildings in
Scotland, covered with unique carved stonework. It was begun in the
1530s, and was largely complete by the time of James' death in
December 1542. The Master of Works, until his execution in 1540, was
Sir James Hamilton of Finnart, who also financed part of the work, in
return for land and favours from the king. Further work was
carried out during the regency of Mary of Guise, and the upper floor
was converted to provide an apartment for the castle governor in the
The architecture is French-inspired, but the decoration is German in
inspiration, and sources for the statues have been found in the
work of the German engraver Hans Burgkmair. The statues include a
line of soldiers on the south parapet, and a series of full-size
figures around the principal floor. These principal figures include a
portrait of James V, the Devil, St Michael, and representations of
Venus and several planetary deities. Their arrangement on the north,
east and south faces of the Palace has been interpreted in relation to
the quarters of the heavens. The 19th-century architectural
historian R. W. Billings described the statues as "the fruits of an
imagination luxuriant but revolting". The west façade is
undecorated and incomplete, and the Privy Council of
Scotland noted in
1625 that the building was "schote over the craig."
Internally, the Palace comprises two apartments, one each for the king
and queen. Each has a hall, presence chamber, and bedchamber, with
various small rooms known as closets. The
continued inside, although little has survived the building's military
use, excepting the carved stone fireplaces. The ceiling of the King's
Presence Chamber was originally decorated with a series of carved oak
portrait roundels known as the
Stirling Heads, described as "among the
finest examples of Scottish
Renaissance wood-carving now extant."
The carvings were taken down following a ceiling collapse in 1777, and
of an estimated 56 original heads, 38 survive. Most were given to the
Smith Institute in Stirling, and these are now preserved in the
castle, and three more are in the National Museum of Scotland,
Edinburgh. Another two are on display in the Thieves Pot, a
preserved 16th-century jail within the Thistles Shopping Centre. Some
of the portraits are believed to be of kings, queens, or courtiers,
and others are thought to show classical or Biblical figures. As
with the exterior carving, similarities to German sources have been
noted, and in particular to a ceiling in Wawel, Poland. A £12
million project to recreate the grandeur of the Royal Palace,
re-opened to the public during the weekend of the 5th and 6 June
2011. The work which has taken a decade of research and
craftsmanship, restored six royal apartments, to how they would have
looked in the 1540s, when this was the childhood home of Mary Queen of
Scots as well as the ongoing restoration of the seven hand-woven
tapestries; four of which have been completed with the last one due to
be finished in 2013.
Part of the restored ceiling of the King's Presence Chamber,
...Mary of Guise...
...a Roman Emperor...
Stirling Head, James V
The Chapel Royal...
... and the interior
The collegiate chapel established by James IV in 1501 lay between the
King's Old Building and the Great Hall, but was further south than the
present building. This was the chapel in which Queen Mary was crowned
in 1543. However, when James VI's first son, Prince Henry was born in
1594, it was decided to rebuild the chapel as a suitable venue for the
The new building was erected within a year, north of the old site to
improve access to the hall. There was some doubt if the chapel,
which John Colville called the "great temple of Solomon," could be
finished in time. The chapel, with its Italianate arched windows,
was the work of the Royal Master of Works William Schaw. The
interior was decorated by the painter Valentine Jenkin prior to the
visit of Charles I in 1633. The chapel too was later modified for
military use, housing a dining room. The wall paintings were
rediscovered in the 1930s, and restoration began after the Second
Beyond the North Gate, the Nether Bailey occupies the northern end of
Castle Hill. Surrounded by defensive walls, the area contains a
19th-century guard house and gunpowder stores, and the modern tapestry
studio. There was formerly access to the Nether Bailey from
Ballengeich to the west, until the postern was blocked in response to
the threat of Jacobite rebellion.
There are two gardens within the castle, the southern one including a
bowling green. Below the castle's west wall is the King's Knot, a
16th-century formal garden, now only visible as earthworks, but once
including hedges and knot-patterned parterres. The gardens were
built on the site of a medieval jousting arena known as the Round
Table, in imitation of the legendary court of King Arthur.
Castle gardens in front of the Prince's Tower
The castle esplanade, or parade ground, has been used as an open-air
concert venue for several noted acts, some of whom have used Stirling
Castle and the surrounding scenery to film "in concert" DVDs. These
acts include R.E.M., Ocean Colour Scene, Bob Dylan, Wet Wet Wet, and
Runrig. The esplanade also hosts the city's
Hogmanay celebrations. The
Regimental Museum and Home Headquarters of the Argyll and Sutherland
Highlanders are located in the King's Old Building.
The castle is open to the public year-round.
Castle is a
popular place for tourists, and according to figures released by the
Association of Leading Visitor Attractions, nearly 460,000 people
visited in 2015.
An illustration of
Castle features on the reverse side of a
current series of £20 notes issued by the Clydesdale Bank, with
Robert the Bruce on horseback in the foreground.
Due to its similar appearance to Colditz
Castle in Saxony, Germany,
the castle was used to film the exterior shots for the 1970s TV series
Colditz, a drama about the many attempts of Allied POWs to escape from
the castle during its use as a military prison in the Second World
War.[better source needed]
The green lady of
Castle is said to be the ghost of one of
Mary, Queen of Scots
Mary, Queen of Scots servants. Mary herself has been said to be the
identity of the ghost of a pink
lady.[better source needed]
Castles in Great Britain and Ireland
List of castles in Scotland
^ Fawcett, p.14
^ Fawcett, p.15
^ a b c Fawcett, p.16
^ Gifford & Walker, p.42–43
Stirling was called "Snowdoun" by
William Worcester in the 15th
century, and the name was later used in poetry by
David Lyndsay and
Sir Walter Scott, among others. See Scott, Walter (1825). The Lady of
the Lake (14th ed.). Archibald Constable & Co. pp. 292 and
^ a b Stair-Kerr, p.2–3
^ Stair-Kerr, p.4
^ Farmer, David Hugh. "Modwenna". Oxford Dictionary of Saints.
Retrieved 16 February 2009.
^ a b Fawcett, p.17
^ Fawcett, p.18
^ Stair-Kerr, p.16
^ a b Fawcett, p.19
^ Fawcett, p.20
^ a b Tabraham, p.49
^ a b Fawcett, p.23
^ Stair-Kerr, pp.31–33
^ a b Fawcett, p.24
^ Anderson, Rev. John (1911). Balfour Paul, Sir James, ed. The Scots
Peerage. 8. Edinburgh: David Douglas. p. 256.
^ Jeffries, Jennie Forsyth (1920). A History Of The Forsyth Family.
Indianapolis: W. B. Burford. pp. 27–29. OCLC 3657003.
Archived from the original on 15 September 2010.
^ Fawcett, p.25
^ a b Fawcett, p.26
^ Fawcett, p.29
^ Detailed research on the 1540 palace from "Historic
^ Fawcett, p.33
^ Fawcett, p.35
^ Fawcett, pp.46–47
^ a b Gifford & Walker, p.45
^ Bawcutt, Priscilla Bawcutt (1998). The Poems of William Dunbar:
Volume 2, Notes and Commentary. Glasgow: Association for Scottish
Literary Studies. pp. 295–296.
^ Paul, Sir James Balfour, ed. (1901). Accounts of the Lord High
Treasurer of Scotland. III. Edinburgh: HM General Register House.
^ Fawcett, pp.53–54
^ Black, Adam; Black, Charles (1861). Black's Picturesque Tourist of
Scotland (15th ed.). Adam & Charles Black.
^ Fawcett, p.56
^ Fawcett, pp.65–66
^ a b Fawcett, p.68
^ Lynch, Michael, 'Queen Mary's Triumph: the Baptismal Celebrations at
Stirling in 1566,' in Scottish Historical Review, vol.69, 1, no.187
(April 1990), pp.1–21
^ Strickland, Agnes, ed., Letters of Mary Stewart, vol.3, (1843),
pp.16–17, Le Croc to the Bishop of Glasgow, 23 Dec 1566.
^ Fawcett, p.70
^ Hewitt, George,
Scotland under Morton, John Donald (2003), p.57
^ Fawcett, p.72
^ a b Fawcett, p.79
^ Fawcett, p.77
^ Stair-Kerr, p.118
^ a b c Fawcett, p.81
^ Stair-Kerr, p.131
^ Stair-Kerr, p.132
^ a b "Training Depots". Regiments.org. Archived from the original on
10 February 2006. Retrieved 16 October 2016. CS1 maint: BOT:
original-url status unknown (link)
^ "Ancient unicorn tapestries recreated at
Stirling Castle". BBC. 23
June 2015. Retrieved 28 October 2016.
^ "Armed Forces: location". UK Parliament. Retrieved 14 May
^ "Museum". Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders. Retrieved 29 October
^ a b Fawcett, p.66
^ a b c Fawcett, p.88
^ Fawcett, p.92
^ Fawcett, p.104
^ a b c d Fawcett, p.50
^ Fawcett, pp.100, 104
^ Fawcett, p.44
^ a b Dunbar (1999), p.41
^ Fawcett, pp.36–37
^ Fawcett, p.107
^ a b c Fawcett, p.39
^ Dunbar (1999), p.47
^ a b Cruden, p.146
^ Fawcett, p.41
^ Fawcett, p.103
^ Fawcett, p.109
^ Fawcett, p.110
^ Shire, p.74
^ Dunbar (1999), pp.50, 221
^ McKean, p.90
^ Shire, pp.76–79
^ Billings, p.3
^ Masson, David, ed., Register of the Privy Council of Scotland, vol.
13, Edinburgh, p. 708.
^ Dunbar (1975), p. 21.
^ King, (2007), p. 56.
^ Dunbar (1975), p. 2.
^ Dunbar (1975), p. 26.
^ a b "Doors open after £12m
Castle Royal Palace revamp".
BBC News (Scotland). 6 April 2011. Retrieved 13 April 2011.
^ a b "Magnificent Tapestries arrive in Stirling's Royal Palace".
Historic Scotland. 20 May 2011. Retrieved 13 April 2011.
^ Fawcett, p. 73.
^ Campbell, Ian; Mackenzie, Aonghus (2011). "The 'Great Temple of
Stirling Castle". Architectural History. 54: 110.
JSTOR 41418349 – via (subscription required).
^ Markham John Thorpe ed., Calendar State Papers Scotland, vol.2,
London (1858), p.654, 17 July 1594: Cameron, Annie, ed., CSP Scotland,
vol.11, (1936), p.377: Laing, David, ed., Letters of John Colville,
Edinburgh (1858), p.107
^ Glendinning & McKechnie, p. 68.
^ Fawcett, pp. 79, 109.
^ "King's Knot: Site History". An Inventory of Gardens and Designed
Landscapes in Scotland. Historic Scotland. Retrieved 18 April
^ Visits Made in 2015 to Visitor Attractions in Membership with ALVA,
ALVA – Association of Leading Visitor Attractions, archived
from the original on 13 April 2015, retrieved 20 May 2016
^ "Current Banknotes : Clydesdale Bank". The Committee of
Scottish Clearing Bankers. Retrieved 30 October 2008.
^ "Colditz (TV Series 1972–1974)". IMDb. Retrieved 11 October
^ "Halloween happenings in your area". BBC News. 22 October
Castle on a small group tour of Scotland".
visitdunkeld.com. Retrieved 11 October 2015.
Anonymous (1817). Lacunar Strevelinense, A Collection of Heads in
Stirling Castle. William Blackwood.
Billings, Robert Williams (1852). Baronial and Ecclesiastical
Antiquities of Scotland. 4. Oliver & Boyd.
Cruden, Stewart (1981). The Scottish Castle. Spurbooks.
Dunbar, John (1975). The
Stirling Heads. RCAHMS/HMSO.
Dunbar, John (1999). Scottish Royal Palaces. Tuckwell Press.
Fawcett, Richard (1995).
Stirling Castle. B.T. Batsford/Historic
Scotland. ISBN 0-7134-7623-0.
Gifford, John; Walker, Frank Arneil (2002). Central Scotland.
Buildings of Scotland. Yale. ISBN 0-300-09594-5.
Glendinning, Miles; MacKechnie, Aonghus (2004). Scottish Architecture.
Thames & Hudson. ISBN 0-500-20374-1.
Harrison, John G. (2007). "The Royal Court and the Community of
Stirling" (PDF). The Forth Naturalist and Historian. 30:
Harrison, John G. (2011). Rebirth of a Palace: The Royal Court at
Stirling Castle. Historic Scotland. ISBN 978-1-84917-055-0.
King, Elspeth (2007). "The
Stirling Heads and The
(PDF). The Forth Naturalist and Historian. 30: 51–60.
McKean, Charles (2004). The Scottish Chateau (2nd ed.). Sutton
Publishing. ISBN 0-7509-3527-8.
Shire, Helena M (1996). "The King in his House". In Williams, Janet
Hadley. Stewart Style 1513–1542. Tuckwell Press. pp. 62–96.
Stair-Kerr, Eric (1928).
Stirling Castle, its place in Scots history
(2nd ed.). Eneas Mackay.
Tabraham, Chris (1997). Scotland's Castles. BT Batsford/Historic
Scotland. ISBN 0-7134-7965-5.
Wikimedia Commons has media related to
Castle – site information from Historic Environment
Castle – Historic Scotland's website
Stirling Palace – research in 2008 by Historic Scotland
2010 youtube video showing re-instatement decoration in the Queen's
audience chamber of
2011 youtube video Historic
Scotland artistic overview of the Stirling
2010 youtube video Historic
Scotland overview of the
project narrated by archaeologist Peter Yeoman
The Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders
Stirling Online, early images of
Video view of
Castle on ScotlandonTV
Castle in Black & White
360° tour can be found here.
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