This year, 2017, is Scotland’s year of History, Heritage and Archaeology. What better time to take a tour of Scottish castles? One of the first on my itinerary was only about an hour’s drive to the east of Glasgow. I visited Stirling Castle, immensely royal and historically significant. Massive walls, gates, and towers stand upon a high hill, Castle Hill, overlooking the lands below and the River Forth.
This entrance is just the beginning of an impressive fortress which was first built in the late 12th Century. Constructing castles and fortresses to defend against invading foes seems to have played a big part in the history of Scotland. There was always some threat, be it a Norse invasion, the English to the south, or just bitter rivalry with another clan. At least, that’s my take on things.
The Main Buildings
While certainly taken by the romantic notions associated with a castle, I was also intrigued by the architecture. The largest buildings within Stirling’s walls are the Great Hall and the Royal Palace. Both date back to around the 1500s.
The Great Hall shown above is the only building displaying the golden color of the king. I believe I read that this isn’t stone but something called harling. It reminds me of the stucco of Southern California. As expected, inside is a huge royal banquet hall.
More to my liking was the Royal Palace with its royal apartments. As I wandered through the King’s Hall or the Queen’s Bedchamber, I was met by costumed docents who entertained visitors as they explained the lifestyle of the 15th century. These folks were very convincing.
This castle was a royal castle used by the Stewart kings of Scotland. (If it helps any, this was around the time of Henry VIII and Elizabeth I in England.) Mary Queen of Scots was just an infant when she inherited the Scottish throne; she spent much of her childhood at Stirling Castle.
The Lay of the Land
As I said above. Stirling is built upon a high hill, all the better for defense. From the battlements, one can look down at the attacking forces, or in my case at the Old Cemetery. In the photo below is the cemetery with the Church of the Holy Rude in the background.
Because of Castle Hill, the walking can be a bit tricky. The cobbles and paving stones can easily cause a fall. Be prepared to walk up a few hills.
I didn’t have nearly enough time to wait for people to get out of my shots. More tour buses were arriving as the day wore on! I’ve concluded that having some people in the photos helps to get a sense of scale.
As we were about to leave the car park, a dangerous place filled with vehicles., I stopped for one more shot of Castle Hill.
Just one more thing. I can’t write about Stirling Castle without mentioning Robert the Bruce. I won’t get into the details of why the English king (Edward II) had control of Stirling Castle. Just accept that. Nonetheless, an army of Scot resisters led by Robert the Bruce had Stirling under siege. The English king sent an army to help the beleaguered castle. This army met the Scots at the Battle of Bannockburn. The rest is history. Scotland gained her freedom that day, June 24, 1314.
And so, outside the walls of Stirling is a statue to Robert the Bruce.
I thoroughly enjoyed my time at Stirling. I suggest spending the day there. They have a wonderful cafe on site. There are also gift shops. I never had a chance to visit those; who knows what treasures they have for sale.
As for additional photos, you’ll find more of my images from Stirling Castle by clicking here.