Wednesday, November 09, 2011

I have been to.. Stirling Castle

Unlike some of my more single minded fellow hobby'ists I've never quite managed to shake the underlying view that others see us as monumentally boring (), so when I dragged my Dad off to Bannockburn last year I was reasonably pleased that he seemed to find it interesting, but I wasn't off a view to push my luck with further suggested trips...

He seems however, to have got a mild dose of the bug and for my trip to Scotland this time - quite unprompted - he suggested we visit Stirling Castle... never one to look a gift horse in the mouth I immediately jumped at the opportunity!

So it was that on a dry but grey Tuesday we found ourselves standing outside the castle (following), which is built on a large hill in the town of the same name - three sides of the hill are almost cliff like, but the approach to the castle is via a road through the town and across a large'ish flat area (used to be a parade ground in earlier years)

The following provides a key to the pictures (click on any of them for a bigger view):

The following shows the "front" of the castle (1.) - like most military buildings the castle was subject to huge amounts of change throughout it's life, and this wall is one of the more modern parts of the castle having been built by Queen Anne in the early 1700's, and is basically just an 'add on' to the earlier, square, main section - fascinating how these buildings never stood still but were always being modified, and added to...

Either way, with near vertical walls on the other three sides, this was the "weak" point of this particular castle as the approach is via the town, this may explain the addition of these later additional breastworks... 

Throughout its life the castle was besieged at least eight times, and maybe as many as sixteen (depending on your sources) changed hands several times between English and Scottish during the Wars of Scottish Independence; between 1571 and 1585 it was besieged three times by Scots factions during the reign of James VI. In 1651, Oliver Cromwell captured the castle during his Scottish campaign (and it's possible to see the marks his canon balls have left in walls facing towards the town), and the final siege took place in 1746 during the final Jacobite Rising.

Robert the Bruce which you can see in the map right at the bottom of the map picture (2.)..

A view (3.) from the castle walls down to all that remains of the ornate, formal gardens - known as the Kings Knot - to get to the castle we drove past this on the road you can see in the distance, and from ground level I was thinking it was some kind of massive earthwork or redoubt...  the truth is more mundane...

...and for this picture (following) I turned round and took a picture of the earlier castle (4.) - the gatehouse in the distance would have been the main entrance before the ravel-lined section was added by Queen Anne

The wall does however provide a fine view of a number of significant historical sites - in the following, just beyond the two small white cottages on the left is what is now a golf course, but back in the day was the site for the Battle of Sauchieburn ( June 11, 1488) a battle that I was hitherto totally unaware of, but involving almost 50,000 men, and which resulted in the death of Scottish King James III by his son who then became James IV...  in the left middle distance (and you'll have to click on the picture for a bigger view) is what looks like a white two story building on top of a hill - just beyond that is Bannockburn...   this gives you the hint of how important Stirling was in those days - it was the seat of power of the Scottish kings and guarded the sole, usable, route across the Forth, to travel between north and south Scotland you passed this castle.... no wonder so many battles were fought virtually in its shadow....

The Royal Palace of James V (5. in the map) has only just been opened following a massive renovation - it has been decorated as it would have looked in the 1540's - the roof is covered with two foot square carved, and then painted heads, giving this 3D effect that is startling to say the least..

Hugely colourful - I think we all assume that everything back then would have been shades of brown and grey when in truth, the opposite was very much the case for those who could afford it... also hugely impressive...  the following is the Queens Waiting Room

...another shot (6.) of the original gatehouse, or Forework, which was erected by King James IV, probably completed around 1506.

A view looking towards the front of the castle (7.), and including two of the batteries - the nearer one is The Grand Battery the one in the distance is known as the French Spur (8.) - all the batteries in the "new" part of the castle date from the 18th century, but the French Spur may have first been developed in the 1550s and just modified later to allow more cannons to be mounted...

...another view of the Grand Battery - guns were fired for the first and last time from this battery in January 1746 at the forces of Bonny Prince Charlie who for lack of adequate siege artillery withdrew....   this battery looks towards the Wallace Monument...

Every way you look from this castle there are battlefields, and this wall is no different - the bridge in the middle distance is the newer Stirling bridge [click here], the site of the battle (First War of Scottish Independence - 11th September 1297; the forces of Andrew Moray and William ("Braveheart") Wallace defeated the combined English forces of John de Warenne, 6th Earl of Surrey and Hugh de Cressingham), is just to the left...

The Great Hall (below - 11.) was built by James IV and completed in about 1503.  Absolutely huge! 42 by 14 metres (138 by 47 ft) across, and it was the largest such hall in Scotland. I especially like the roof which is made of a latticework of huge beams - known as a hammerbeam roof [click here]. The whole building has just been renovated, and the orangey colour on the walls is lime-wash, so is authentic for the time..

The Jacobite wars were the last time the castle ever saw real military service, & from 1800 onwards it was taken over  by the War Office, and used primarily as the barracks, and recruiting station for the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders (formed in 1881 by the amalgamation of the 91st Princess Louise's Argyll-shire Regiment and the 93rd Sutherland Highlanders Regiment).

Their regimental museum (12.) is still in the castle, and I had a very interesting hour looking round the various exhibits, but have to say it wasn't one of the best regimental museums I've had the opportunity to visit...  it was a little"tired" and seemed to me in need of a bit of an overhaul to bring the exhibits up to scratch...  still recommended though.....

Brilliant day, and a beautiful castle - recommended!


By way of an addendum - how about this for a pub??  This is the "Guildford Arms" in Edinburgh [click here] and my oasis of choice when shopping with the current Mrs Steve the Wargamer in Princes Street...  love the ceiling...

...but it's the ambience, and the choice of ten real ales that wins it... here's to the next pint there soon...


  1. A beautiful place from the look of your photographs. Maybe we can get there one day ourselves.

    Best Regards,


  2. What a magnificent castle and with a bit of historical background as well, lovely pictures and great post.

  3. Thanks for the tour. Nicely presented pics and narrative.

  4. The areas you mention as being under renovation recently were indeed under renovation when I visited, nice to see what I missed! A spectacular place, to be sure. Thanks for sharing.

  5. A magnificent spectacle. Definitely worth a look.

  6. Excellent post, I'd love a trip to Stirling castle, its on my "to do" list, great info too, Thanks Steve!!!!

  7. Fantastic post. Really enjoyed the read and the photos.Thanks.

  8. I've driven past Stirling Castle so many times I've lost count. Unfortunately it's always been with work and the folks I've been would have seen me as monumentally boring should I have suggested a slight detour. The castle is actually more impressive when coming from the north and seeing it then from travelling from the south. It stands tall and proud above the landscape and because of the lack of buildings and the straightness of the road to the north it is much more visible. Excellent write up and deserving a visit.

  9. Cheers guys - and as many other have said - very definitely worth visiting if you get the chance..

    Scott Mac - I think I saw a board saying they'd only finished the renovations in June so you're spot on..

    Grimsby - agreed - the view from the non-town sides is particularly spectacular... no one could have taken it....

  10. Another castle worth a visit is Bo'ness on the banks of the Forth

    If you are up in Scotland in May why not come along to Carronade in Falkirk - it's on the 5th

  11. Great post! Good reading and nice photos. Makes me want to go there!