Fodor's Expert Review Stirling Castle

Stirling Castle/Palace Fodor's Choice

Its magnificent strategic position on a steep-sided crag made Stirling Castle the grandest prize in the Scots Wars of Independence during the late 13th and early 14th centuries. Robert the Bruce's victory at Bannockburn won both the castle and freedom from English subjugation for almost four centuries. Take time to visit the Castle Exhibition beyond the lower gate to get an overview of its evolution as a stronghold and palace.

The daughter of King Robert I (Robert the Bruce), Marjory, married Walter Fitzallan, the high steward of Scotland. Their descendants included the Stewart dynasty of Scottish monarchs (Mary, Queen of Scots, was a Stewart, though she preferred the French spelling, Stuart). The Stewarts were responsible for many of the works that survive within the castle walls. They made Stirling Castle their court and power base, creating fine Renaissance-style buildings within the walls that were never completely destroyed, despite reconstruction for military purposes.

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Its magnificent strategic position on a steep-sided crag made Stirling Castle the grandest prize in the Scots Wars of Independence during the late 13th and early 14th centuries. Robert the Bruce's victory at Bannockburn won both the castle and freedom from English subjugation for almost four centuries. Take time to visit the Castle Exhibition beyond the lower gate to get an overview of its evolution as a stronghold and palace.

The daughter of King Robert I (Robert the Bruce), Marjory, married Walter Fitzallan, the high steward of Scotland. Their descendants included the Stewart dynasty of Scottish monarchs (Mary, Queen of Scots, was a Stewart, though she preferred the French spelling, Stuart). The Stewarts were responsible for many of the works that survive within the castle walls. They made Stirling Castle their court and power base, creating fine Renaissance-style buildings within the walls that were never completely destroyed, despite reconstruction for military purposes.

Today, you enter the castle through its outer defenses, which consist of a great curtained wall and batteries from 1708. From this lower square the most conspicuous feature is the Palace, built by King James V (1512–42) between 1538 and 1542. The decorative figures festooning the ornate outer walls show the influence of French masons. An orientation center in the basement, designed especially for children, lets you try out the clothes and musical instruments of the time. Across a terrace are the Royal Apartments, which re-create the furnishings and tapestries found here during the reign of James V and his French queen, Mary of Guise. The queen's bedchamber contains copies of the beautiful tapestries in which the hunt for the white unicorn is clearly an allegory for the persecution of Christ. Overlooking the upper courtyard is the Great Hall, built on the orders of King James IV (1473–1513) in 1503 and used for extravagant banquets. Before the Union of Parliaments in 1707, when the Scottish aristocracy sold out to England, the building had also been used as one of the seats of the Scottish Parliament.

Among the later works built for regiments stationed here, the Regimental Museum stands out; it's a 19th-century baronial revival on the site of an earlier building. Nearby, the Chapel Royal is unfurnished. The oldest building on the site is the Mint, or Coonzie Hoose, perhaps dating as far back as the 14th century. Below it is an arched passageway leading to the westernmost ramparts, the Nether Bailey, with a view of the carselands (valley plain) of the Forth Valley.

To the castle's south lies the hump of the Touch and the Gargunnock Hills, which diverted potential direct routes from Glasgow and the south. For centuries all roads into the Highlands across the narrow waist of Scotland led through Stirling. If you look carefully northward, you can still see the Old Stirling Bridge, the site of William Wallace's most famous victory.

When visiting, it's smart to book your tickets—and accompanying timeslot—online before you arrive.

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Castle/Palace Historical Fodor's Choice Family

Quick Facts

Castlehill
Stirling, Stirling  FK8 1EJ, Scotland

01786-450000

www.stirlingcastle.gov.uk

Sight Details:
Rate Includes: £16

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