the Stirling City Guide
Stirling Castle Guide
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 favourite 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 in 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 it's 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.
Take the lovely scenic Stirling Castle Back Walk circular route around the old town walls and the Castle.
stirling castle facts
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 storey military barracks in the 19th Century. The Hall has been restored with a new oak hammerbeam roof, restored wall walks, leadlight windows and interior galleries. When the scaffolding came down, the colour 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 it's 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 King's Presence Chamber originally included an ornate cieling 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 cieling would have looked. In Summer 2011, Work to restore the rich Renaissance decoration of the Kings' and Queens' apartments was completed (see illustration opposite).
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.
A replica set of the Stirling Heads has been hand-carved by master craftsman John Donaldson and installed on the ceiling of the King’s Presence Chamber.
Regimental Museum of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders
The King's Old Buildings house the regimental Museum of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders. In the Crimea in 1854, the Sutherland Highlanders earned the nickname of the 'Thin Red Line', when they repelled repeated atacks from the Russian Cavalry. In 1854, the 91st Argyllshire Highlanders were amalgamated with the 93rd Sutherland Highlanders. They won six Victoria crosses at the Relief of Lucknow in 1857 and throughout the 20th century, were involved in conflicts all over the world.
The Museum traces the history of the 91st Argyllshire Highlanders and the 93rd Sutherland Highlanders up to the time of their amalgamation in 1881 when they became the 1st and 2nd Battalions of The Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders Regiment and thereafter to the present day.
Stirling Castle, Royal Palace of the Stuart Kings, has been the home of The Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders (Princess Louise’s) since 1881 and through the years, many objects of regimental interest have been handed in, including paintings, medals, silver, uniform and documents. However, it was not until 1988 that a museum was opened in the King’s Old Building of the Castle to display these objects and perhaps more importantly, to relate the illustrious history of the Regiment and the many personal stories of the officers, soldiers and their families.
The Museum receives modest Ministry of Defence funding, but is almost entirely maintained through public donations. The Museum is governed by The Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders Museum Trust, a charitable trust.
Stirling Castle Tours
Join with one of the guides and discover more about the colourful characters and momentous history that have shaped Stirling castle through the centuries. Guided tours are included in the ticket price to the castle.
Argyll's Lodging Tour
stirling castle opening times
Open all year seven days a week.
1 April - 30 September
1 October - 31 March
Stirling Castle will be closed on Christmas Day and Boxing day. We will be open from 11am to 5pm on January 1st and as normal from January 2nd.
Parking is available on the castle esplanade and includes disabled spaces.
Stirling Castle is rated a 5-star visitor attraction (Argyll’s Lodging a 4-star) by VisitScotland.
stirling castle tickets and admission
The Stirling Castle admission ticket also gives access to Argyll’s Lodging (access by guided tour only – enquire at Stirling Castle on 01786 450 000).
Adult (16-59) £13.00
argyll's lodging tour prices
Tickets can only be purchased in conjunction with a Stirling Castle admission ticket
Last ticket sold 45 minutes before closing (regimental museum closes 45 mins before castle).
stirling castle location
Stirling Castle is situated in the centre of Stirling and is well connected by road and rail to Glasgow and Edinburgh.
Telephone +44(0)1786 450000
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