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Stirling Castle – Scotland, U.K

Rising high on a rocky crag, this magnificent castle was prominent in Scottish history for centuries and remains one of the finest examples of Renaissance architecture in Britain.

Legend has I t that King Arthur wrested the original castle from the Saxons, but there is no historical evidence of a castle at this location before 1124. the present building dates from the 15th and 16th centuries and was last defended in 1746 against the Jacobites, who were mainly Catholic Highlanders wishing to restore the Stuart monarchy to the throne. Between 1881 and 1964, the castle was used as a depot for recruits into the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, although it serves no military function today.

THE BATTLE OF BANNOCKBURN

Stirling Castle was strategically vital to Scotland’s military resistance to the English, and was frequently under siege as result. In 1296, Edward I of England led a devastating invasion that defeated the Scots, but William Wallace organized a revolt, recapturing the castle in 1297, only to lose it again the following year. On June 23, 1314, Scotland, led by Robert the Bruce, won back its independence at the Battle of Bannockburn. However, the wars with England continued for another 300 years, The castle’s last military use was against an attack by the Jacobite army in 1746, after which the English army set up barracks here until 1964.

THE GREAT HALL

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This splendid royal hall, the largest ever built in Scotland, was erected by James IV between 1501 and 1504 to host lavish state events and banquets. When the focus of the monarchy shifted to London after the Union of the Crowns in 1603 – when King James VI of Scotland become King James I of England – the Great Hall was no longer required for state occasions. Changes were made to the hall in the 118th century to reinforce the castle’s defenses and to create space for military barracks. After more than 30 years’ work, the Great Hall, restored as closely as possible to its original condition, was reopened by Queen Elizabeth II on November 30, 1999.

THE KING’S OLD BUILDING

Built ofr James IV around 1496 as his private residence in the castle, the King’s Old building stands on the highest point of the volcanic castle rock and commands long, wide views. Following the completion of the Palace in the 1540s, the King’s Old Building was no longer the ruling monarch’s residence and so was put to a variety of uses. Additional floors and walls were added in the 1790s to provide accommodation for a military garrison. It was also rebuilt after fire damage in the mid-19th century. The building now serves as the regimental home and museum of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders and contains a collection of memorabilia that includes medals, uniforms and weapons.

Prince’s Tower
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Built in the 16th century, this was traditionally the nursery of the Scottish kings.

Elphinstone Tower

In 1689, this defensive tower was reduced to half its original size to provide the base for a gun platform.

King’s Old Building

The Regimental Museum of the Arygll and Sutherland Highlanders is housed here.

Chapel Royal

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Seventeen-century frescoes by Valentine Jenkins adorn this rectangular chapel, which was built in 1594.

Great Hall

The royal hall has been carefully restored to appear as it would have in the early 1500s.

Grand Battery

Seven guns stand on this parapet overlooking the town of Stirling. They were built in 1708 during a strengthening of the defenses.

Palace

The otherwise sparse interiors of the royal apartments contain the Stirling Heads. These Renaissance-era roundels depict 38 figures, thought to be contemporary members of the royal court.

French Spur

In the mid-16th century, a new line of defenses, including this artillery spur, was constructed to protected the castle against enemies equipped with modern weaponry.

Robert the Bruce Statue

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This modern statue in the esplana de shows Robert the Bruce sheathing his sword after the Scottish victory at the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314.

THIS EARL OF DOUGLAS

The eight Earl of Douglas was suspected of treachery and murder in 1452 by James II, who threw his tortured body out of a window into the gardens. These are now known as the Douglas Gardens.

STIRLING BATTLES

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At the highest navigable point of the Forth, and holding the pass to the Highlands, Stirling occupied a key position in Scotland’s struggles for independence. Seven battlefields can be seen from the castle; the Wallace Monument at Abbey Craig recalls William Wallace’s defeat of the English at Stirling Bridge in 1297, foreshadowing Robert the Bruce’s victory in 1314.

KEY DATES

1296: Edward I captures Stirling Castle.
1297: The castle yields to the Scots after the Battle of Stirling Bridge.
1314: Robert the Bruce defeats the English at the Battle of Bannockburn.
1496: James IV begins extensive construction.
1501: Work begins on the Great Hall.
1503: Building work starts on the forework.
1855: The King’s Old Building is badly damaged by fire.
1964: The army leaves the castle barracks.

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