Stirling Castle as it stands today took from between the mid-to late 1400s until the dawn of the 1600s to complete, due to various damages and additions sustained in its lively history. However, it may have stood, in one form or another, as early as the year 1000. The site of Queen Mary of Scots’ coronation on September the 9th, 1543, Stirling Castle has hosted many of Scotland’s nobility, and was a very important stronghold for Scottish rebellions, coronations and other achievements. Use this guide to plan a visit to Stirling Castle to see its fantastic architecture and gardens, incredible views, and fascinating history for yourself.
Location: Stirling, Scotland, United Kingdom
Address: Castle Esplanade
Stirling FK8 1EJ, United Kingdom
Hours: 9:30am – 5pm Daily
Admission Price: £1-£15 Variable
(see here for details)
King James V resided at Stirling Castle, and his daughter, Mary Queen of Scots, was later crowned Queen of Scots at the palace. Mary became queen of Scotland at only six days old, and in order to create peace between Scotland and neighboring England, to whose throne young Mary also held a very strong claim, she was supposed to marry King Henry VIII’s son, Edward VI. However, this plan was broken by people who decided that the infant, when she was old enough, should marry a French prince instead for religious and traditional reasons, and she was taken to Stirling Castle for the first time to break off the union before she could even walk.
Mary Queen of Scots wasn’t the only prominent Scottish historical figure to spend time at the Palace of Stirling Castle. Many names familiar to fans of Scottish history, like William Wallace (where he defeated the English in 1297), Robert the Bruce, Bonnie Prince Charlie, and others spent time here or fought in battle nearby. Until the early 1600s, nearly every Scottish monarch either lived or was crowned at Stirling Castle, often both. The main building of the castle, the Royal Palace, was built in 1540 by King James V, and various additions were added by Scottish kings to suit their foreign brides sensibilities.
Since most Scottish royals lived in or spent significant amounts of time at Stirling Castle, it is one of the best preserved, oldest, and most exquisite expressions of Scottish sophistication, blended with many other fashionable European influences, brought over by newlywed brides from places like France, England, or Spain. Much of the castle is decorated in reds and yellows, including the gardens, which is a nod to the Stewart Royal Family’s crest and colors. Today, Stirling Castle serves as a testament to the indomitable Scottish spirit, and the country’s incredible rich and complex history.
No visit to Stirling Castle would be complete without climbing to the castle’s rampart to overlook the castle’s two gardens. The King’s Knot was a complex and ornate garden built in the 1600s, which now stands a massive raised square visible from a great distance. At the peak of its popularity in the mid 1600s, it would have contained a labyrinth of hedges, imported roses and other beautiful flowers, and may have even contained an elaborate series of fountains and duck ponds.
The second garden, which is easily accessible in the castle’s courtyard, The Queen Anne Garden, was built sometime in the early 1400s and used for relaxation by the nobility, and even had a bowling green. Queen Anne’s Garden now contains a biodiverse assortment of flowers and native plants to attract pollinators and support bees such as roses, zinnias, daisies, pansies, and many others. Many of the flowers in the garden are red and yellow, like the castle’s decor.
Visitors to Stirling Castle are welcome to walk around nearly the entire castle, including the kitchens, the former dungeons, the Royal Palace, the gardens, the Great Hall, and even the former bedchambers of nobility. The views of Stirling, and even Edinburgh in the distance on a clear day, are impressive enough to warrant a visit to Stirling Castle on their own merit.
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