Stirling Castle is the grandest of Scotland’s castles and one of the most popular visitor attractions in the country.
250 feet above the plain on an extinct volcano, Stirling became the strategic military key to the kingdom during the 13th and 14th-century Wars of Independence and was the favorite royal residence of many of the Stuart Monarchs.
Many important events from Scotland’s past took place at Stirling Castle, including the violent murder of the eighth Earl of Douglas by James II in 1452.
Stirling Castle played an important role in the life of Mary Queen of Scots. She spent her childhood in the castle and Mary’s coronation took place at the Chapel Royal in 1543.
There are excellent historical displays, a recreation of the 16th-century kitchens with sensory and interactive exhibits and the Regimental Museum of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders which details their eventful history from 1794 to the present.
A good place to begin is with the short audio-visual introduction to the castle and its history.
This display is situated under the 1714 fortifications which border the Queen Anne Gardens. Next, follow one of the tour guides for a concise history of the castle and to get an idea of the places you want to take a closer look at.
Make sure you allow plenty of time to see the castle properly. You could get around the main areas in a couple of hours but make the most of your visit and take your time.
Walk around the castle wall and investigate. Regular visitors who are familiar with the castle will find something new each time they go. Spend a day if you can, particularly if you intend to see Argyll’s Lodging and the Old Town as well.
The vast Great Hall, which dates from the end of the Middle Ages, has been restored to its medieval glory and was formally opened by the Queen on St Andrews Day, 1999. Built by James IV in 1503, it was converted to a four story military barracks in the 19th Century. The Hall has been restored with a new oak hammer-beam roof, restored wall walks, leadlight windows, and interior galleries.
When the scaffolding came down, the color and finish of the hall was the subject of some fierce controversy.
Many believed that the building had been over-decorated and resembled an art deco cinema.
It was eventually accepted that this is how the original building would have looked and it is now widely admired for its magnificence on the Stirling skyline.
The first fortification on the site dates to the 11th century.
Much of the castle which exists today, including the Palace and Chapel Royal is magnificent Renaissance architecture with a strong French influence.
The Chapel Royal, built by James VI for the baptism of Prince Henry in 1594, has been refurbished and features a seventeenth-century fresco of elaborate scrolls and patterns.
The Royal Palace at Stirling Castle
The Royal Palace at Stirling Castle 1540-42, is the finest Renaissance building in Scotland.
A three-story building with an ornate facade of tall windows and niches which contain a selection of grotesque carved figures and Renaissance sculptures.
Over the Centuries, the Palace Block was stripped for military use and the Royal Chambers converted to mess rooms and officers’ quarters.
The King’s Presence Chamber originally included an ornate ceiling of over 100 carved oak heads ( the Stirling Heads ).
Many of the heads have been lost or destroyed but some survive to let us imagine how the original ceiling would have looked.
In Summer 2011, Work to restore the rich Renaissance decoration of the Kings’ and Queens’ apartments were completed.
Stirling Castle is widely regarded as having the finest examples of architecture from that period in Europe.
The Royal Palace allows visitors to step into the astonishing richness of royal life in the 1500s, presenting the King’s and Queen’s Lodgings as they might have appeared in the mid 16th century.
*This article was originally published at www.instirling.com