A tour of Stirling Castle

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The Queen Anne Garden just west of the main entrance to the castle.
The Queen Anne Garden just west of the main entrance to the castle.

Between Glasgow and Edinburgh is the city of Stirling and the home of Stirling Castle.  As one of Scotland’s most recognizable stone fortresses, Stirling Castle holds a special place in the country’s history.

Stirling Castle occupies a stony outcropping overlooking the Firth of Forth, a massive river estuary to the east. Only a stone’s throw away on the River Forth is the Stirling Bridge, where the famous battle of the same name took place where William Wallace defeated the British in the Wars of Scottish Independence. The castle was a means of protection for the bridge, one of the few crossings over the Forth.

Stirling Castle has also served as a palace for Scottish royalty over the years, with a number of rooms and chambers designed as residences.

A view of Stirling Bridge from the castle.
A view of Stirling Bridge from the castle.

Part of my two-week visit in Scotland included a stop at Stirling Castle. We took the train from Glasgow to Stirling and after a brisk walk in the morning sun, arrived at the castle’s entrance. Taking a self-guided tour, we could spend as long as we liked admiring the architecture, furnishings, and other artifacts of this citadel’s storied history.

The Royal Palace is partitioned into two sets of apartments: one for the king and the other for the queen. Each had their own rooms for sleeping, relaxing, and receiving visitors. Each of the rooms are furnished with recreations of what might have existed in the mid-1500s. Sumptuous tapestries decorated the walls, providing additional warmth and colour, including the “Hunt of the Unicorn.”

Exiting the Royal Palace we entered the inner close and toured the King’s Old Building, completed around 1497, which is home to the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders Museum. This museum hosts a number of exhibits relating to Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders and their service in battles throughout history.

Tapestries in the restored Great Hall
Tapestries in the restored Great Hall

Across the King’s Old Building is the Great Hall. Completed in 1503 for James IV, the hall was recently restored to as much of its original appearance as possible. Huge banquets and celebrations were held underneath its immense and intricate wooden hammerbeam roof.

To keep such a large fortress well fed, even in times of siege, required great kitchens. Recreated with replicas of meals served, the kitchens were much darker, dirtier and busier than most of us can imagine. Whether it was the finest meats for the regent, or a loaf of bread for the chamber staff, it was cooked, cut and served from here.

Outside from the kitchens is the Grand Battery, where cannons stood guard to protect the eastern flank of the castle. While long silent, just the sight of these guns would be enough to give most invaders second thoughts.

Our time at the castle, however brief, was fulfilling and eye opening at the history of Scotland, its struggles and its traditions.

Like most historic sites in Scotland, Stirling Castle opens at 9:30 am and closes around 6:00 pm in the Summer; closing earlier in Winter. Paid admission is required to enter and tickets are available at the castle’s gate.

View the rest of the photos from Stirling Castle on Gallery.

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