Thursday, 3 July 2008


At one time or another I've been to most of the major places in Scotland. Aberdeen and Stirling were two exceptions until last month when GB brought me through Stirling - only Aberdeen to go.

Stirling Castle is one of the largest and most important castles, both historically and architecturally, in Scotland. It has featured in lots of books I've read, most notably in Nigel Tranter's historical novels. The Castle sits atop the Castle Hill, a volcanic crag, which forms part of the Stirling Sill geological formation. It is surrounded on three sides by steep cliffs, giving it a strong defensive position. Its strategic location, guarding the crossing of the River Forth, has made it an important fortification from the earliest times. The Castle is a Scheduled Ancient Monument, and is managed by Historic Scotland. To the left of the gatehouse, and forming the south side of the principal or upper court, is the Palace block. This was begun by James IV, but is mainly the work of King James V. With its combination of renaissance and late gothic detail, it is one of the most architecturally impressive buildings in Scotland, covered with fine stonework.

Most of the principal buildings of the Castle date from the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. A few structures of the fourteenth century remain, while the outer defences fronting the town date from the early eighteenth century. In the 13th Century Edward I's Scottish campaign included a siege on Stirling Castle. Historians recorded that this was where Warwolf, the largest trebuchet believed built, was first used, with devastating effect. There have been several other sieges of Stirling Castle since the Wars of Scottish Independence, the last being in 1746, when Bonnie Prince Charlie and his Jacobites unsuccessfully tried to take the castle. Several Scottish Kings and Queens have been crowned at Stirling, including Mary, Queen of Scots, in 1543.

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