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Stirling Castle

Stirling is castle situated in the ceentral region of Scotland.

Stirling Castle History

Stirling Castle was built overlooking the River Forth at a strategically important junction of routes by both land and water, where there was the additional advantage of a high volcanic outcrop as a natural setting for the royal castle required to defend these routes.

Although it might be expected that such an important position would have been occupied since prehistory, no physical evidence of this has survived. The first references to a castle are from the reign of Alexander I (1107–1124), who is known to have built a chapel there. Since he died at Stirling, almost certainly within the castle, it is probable that by then Stirling was an established royal residence.

The Castle played a major role in the periodic hostilities with England and, in 1174, was one of those handed over to Henry II (1154–1189) to pay for the release of William the Lion (1165–1214). It changed hands several times during the Wars of Independence, and its custody was the cause of the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314. No structures, either surviving or located through excavation, can be identified with this most stirring period of its history. The earliest extant structure is likely to be the North Gate, the core of which probably dates from a campaign of 1381.

Architecturally Stirling Castle reached its apogee during the reigns of James IV (1488–1513), James V (1513–1542) and James VI (1576–1625). The first of these did most to raise Stirling castle from being simply a strong castle to a royal residence of European stature.

His own residence, consisting of hall, chamber and closets above vaulted basements, was built to the designs of Walter Merlzioun around 1496. It was placed on the highest point of the rock, where it both dominated the castle and commanded magnificent views over the royal park in the valley below.

Facing it across a newly formed courtyard was the Great Hall, which was nearing completion in around 1500, but which may, according to tradition, have been started by his father, James III (1460–1488). This hall was planned on an impressive scale that was to be unequalled in Scotland, and its Late Gothic architectural detailing is of a high order. The full range of the King’s ambitions for

Stirling castle is shown by his foundation of the Chapel Royal in 1501. This was apparently set along the north side of the square. The impressive defences known as the Forework, placed across the main line of approach to the castle from the south, also neared completion at about the same time. Its tall, four-towered central gate-house flanked by drum towers, and the rectangular towers terminating the wall to either end, were evidently intended to be as much a statement of James IV’s kingship as of the strength of the castle.

James V’s two French marriages were probably the reason for the building in the 1540s of the quadrangular palace block on the fourth side of the square, which was already defined on three sides by his father’s buildings.

The design of its extraordinary early classical fa├žades was certainly influenced by the King’s French masons, including Moses Martin and Nicolas Roy, but the slightly ungainly massing of sculpture within and around the shallow cusped and arched recesses between the broad pilasters that articulate the walls must ultimately be attributable to Scottish masons.

Internally the twin apartments, consisting of a sequence of outer and inner halls, bedchamber and closets, are particularly valuable survivors of royal planning of the mid-16th century. It was probably James V’s widow, Mary of Guise (1515–1560), who strengthened the defences of the castle in the disturbed years before the Reformation and in the absence of the young Mary Queen of Scots (1542–1567) in France.

During the more settled conditions of James VI’s reign the last major royal building was created within the castle, the Chapel Royal, which was built, partly overlapping the likely site of the earlier chapel, to provide a setting for the baptism of Prince Henry in 1594. Its restrained classicism, with paired lights beneath round-headed arches and a triumphal arch motif to the entrance, provides a pleasing foil to the exuberance of the palace that faces it.

In 1603, however, James left Scotland to take up the English crown; from then only spasmodic royal interest was to be shown in the castle, and it was progressively adapted to serve purely as a garrison. In 1689 parts of the Forework were truncated for the mounting of artillery, and between 1708 and 1714 Mary of Guise’s artillery spur was incorporated in a somewhat unadventurous complex of outer defences during one of the periodic Jacobite alarms.

Within the castle the buildings of the royal residence were subdivided and remodeled for military use, culminating in the partitioning of the Great Hall to serve as barracks about 1800.

Stirling Castle Map&Location

Address: Stirling Castle Castle Wynd, Stirling FK8 1EJ, United Kingdom. Get help with directions using the map provided bellow:


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Stirling Castle Photos

Photos source: geograph.org.uk
Click on the images to enlarge
Stirling Castle skyline
Stirling Castle entrance courtyard
Museum at Stirling Castle
The Great Hall at Stirling Castle
A corner of the Great Hall at Stirling Castle
The Hunt of the Unicorn - In the Queen's Chamber
Stirling Castle The French Spur
Stirling Castle South front
Stirling Castle grounds
The Abbey Craig from Stirling Castle
Photos source: geograph.org.uk
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