STIRLING CASTLE, FK8 1EJ
Postcode: FK8 1EJ
Lat/Long: 56.1240N 3.9485W
Notes: The castle has a pay car park directly outside but is quite expensive. Cheaper car parking is available down the (admittedly quite steep) hill into the town. The castle is well sign-posted.
WHAT IS THERE TO SEE?
An extremely well presented castle with components from the medieval period to WWII. The regimental museum of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders is within the castle.
1. In 1304, Stirling castle was besieged by Edward I and with no hope of relief sued for surrender terms. The English king, who had ordered the construction of a huge trebuchet called “Warwolf”, refused to accept until he had witnessed his impressive creation in action.
2. Following his defeat at Bannockburn Edward II was refused entry into Stirling Castle by the English Governor who didn’t want to see the King fall into Scottish hands. Edward rode furiously for Dunbar where he escaped by ship leaving his horses abandoned at the gates of the castle.
Great Hall. Stirling Castle boasts a particular fine and well restored Great Hall. The paint scheme is striking and gives an impression of what many of our great castles looked like in their heyday.
Stirling Castle Layout. Much of the castle visible today dates from the seventeenth century onwards with the medieval fortifications buried beneath later additions.
Built atop of a volcanic rock at the primary crossing point into northern Scotland, Stirling Castle played a central role during the Wars of Independence. Also seeing action during the War of Three Kingdoms and the Jacobite rebellions, its history is intertwined with Scotland’s story.
HISTORY OF STIRLING CASTLE
Situated at the only medieval bridging point to northern Scotland it is likely the first fortification on Stirling rock was a hillfort. It is also probable that a Roman fort or marching camp was briefly established there as the Romans advanced into the Scottish Highlands in the latter part of the first century AD. However, it is not until the eleventh century that it is certain a castle did exist on the rock and by no later than 1110 it was in Royal hands. The extent of the fortification is unknown but it was deemed a suitable enough prize to be handed over to the English in 1174 as part settlement for the ransom of the Scottish King William the Lion following his capture at the second Battle of Alnwick. However, despite the handover to the English, it was not occupied by them at this time.
In 1296 the castle came to the forefront of political affairs when Edward I of England, seeking to place a puppet King on the Scottish throne, started the Wars of Scottish Independence. The castle was captured by Edward's forces and over the next 50 years would change hands seven times. The first occasion was following the Battle of Stirling Bridge (1297) when William Wallace ambushed the forces of the English commander Hugh de Cressingham, Earl of Surrey as they crossed the narrow medieval bridge crossing the River Forth. Cutting his losses Surrey ordered the bridge burnt and withdrew from the fight leaving the castle to the Scots. The achievement proved fleeting though; with a reformed English army Edward I routed Wallace at the Battle of Falkirk (1298) and retook the castle.
The most dramatic seizure of the castle came in 1314 when, after the catastrophic English defeat at the Battle of Bannockburn (1314), Stirling Castle was handed over to the Scots. The area prospered as the fighting moved from Scotland into Northern England; Robert I sought to bring the English to terms but, whilst they refused to negotiate, the weak and ineffective Government of Edward II was incapable of stopping him. Even after Roger Mortimer, Earl of March had overthrown Edward II, the preference was to avoid substantive conflict. This changed when Edward III, having himself engineered the downfall of the Earl of March, invaded and successfully routed Scottish forces at the Battle of Halidon Hill (1333). By 1336 the castle was back in English hands but now Edward’s interests had shifted to France, the Medieval superpower, whose defeat would bring significantly greater revenue and glory for the English monarch; the northern campaign was neglected and Scottish forces were able to re-take Stirling in 1342.
Thereafter Stirling Castle acted as a Royal Palace and centre of administration for three hundred years with significant upgrades and alterations being made by the various Scottish monarchs. Both Mary Queen of Scots and her son, the future James VI (and I of England), were crowed in the castle although once James had succeeded to the English throne the use of Stirling severely declined.
The War of Three Kingdoms saw military action at Stirling Castle. Although Scotland had allied itself to Parliament and had handed over the King to Cromwell’s forces, the country had not consented to the execution of Charles I. Accordingly after the King’s beheading in January 1649 they proclaimed his son, Charles II, as king ultimately prompting an invasion from England by General Monck. He besieged and took Stirling Castle in 1651; the final time the castle would fall in a siege.
The final military engagement for Stirling Castle occurred during the Jacobite rebellions. Conflict and division arising from the overthrow of James VII (II of England) in the Glorious Revolution led to a number of rebellions from 1689 to 1746. As the threat increased Stirling Castle was augmented between 1708-14 with the addition of the functional but squat outer defences and the installation of significant artillery pieces. As the last major Jacobite force, under the command of Prince Charles Stuart (Bonnie Prince Charles), passed under the castle they were engaged by gunfire from the new batteries. When they returned north, having failed to achieve their aims in England, the Jacobites besieged Stirling but the castle’s batteries destroyed the Jacobite artillery positions forcing them to abandon the attempt and continue retreat northwards.
Originally these towers were twice as high with a further turrets.on each side.