Stirling Castle is one of the largest and most important castles, both historically and architecturally, in Scotland. The castle is a great symbol of Scottish Independence and a source of enduring national pride. Its strategic location, guarding what was, until the 1890s, the farthest downstream crossing of the River Forth, has made it an important fortification from the earliest times. Stirling Castle is a Scheduled Ancient Monument, and is now a tourist attraction managed by Historic Scotland.

The legacy of Stirling’s long history is complex. It is first mentioned around 1110, in Alexander I’s reign; he died here in 1124. Throughout the Wars of Independence with England (1296–1356), Stirling was hotly fought over, changing hands frequently. Bloody battles were fought in its shadow – Wallace’s great victory over Edward I at Stirling Bridge (1297), and Bruce’s decisive encounter with Edward II at Bannockburn (1314). Bruce then destroyed the castle to prevent it falling into enemy hands again.

Stirling was the favoured residence of most of Scotland’s later medieval monarchs. Most contributed to its impressive architecture. In James IV’s reign (1488–1513), Scotland was increasingly receptive to Classical ideas spreading across Europe from Renaissance Italy. James spent much time and money making the castle fit for a European monarch, chiefly to impress his queen, Margaret Tudor, daughter of Henry VII of England.

His legacy was continued by his son, James V, equally determined to impress his second bride, Queen Mary of Guise. Their daughter, Mary Queen of Scots, was crowned here in 1543, and Mary Queen of Scots’ own son, the future James VI, was baptised here in 1566. The celebrations culminated in a fireworks display on the Esplanade, the first recorded use in Scotland.

At the castle's heart lies the Inner Close, around which are ranged the most important buildings – the King’s Old Building (built for James IV in 1496), the Great Hall (James IV around 1503), the Palace (James V around 1540) and the Chapel Royal (James VI in 1594). Around the Outer Close are the Great Kitchens (early 16th century) and later Army buildings. The Nether Bailey occupyies the lowest part of the castle rock. It houses 19th-century powder magazines.

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Founded: 12th century
Category: Castles and fortifications in United Kingdom

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4.6/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

Andrew Ryland (9 months ago)
The location, on top of a hill overlooking the Forth, is spectacular. The restoration work of the queen's rooms is wonderful. I loved the look and feel. There are guides in period costumes giving helpful commentary. They also provide help where to go next. The visit is not regimented, but each section of the castle is a one way route, which spills you back outside. You can take each section in your own time. A good two hour visit. The toilets are pleasant and the Unicorn cafe serves a good selection of tasty food. Well worth a visit. For children there has been some effort to create activities to keep them engaged. We were there on a rainy day... I would think it would be far more impressive on a sunny day.
Lauren Cassidy (10 months ago)
What a fantastic day out we have had today!! I thoroughly recommend, one of the most amazing, well preserved castles we have explored! Even though it rained for some of the time we were there, it did not spoil our day. Lots of fun and the cafe make delicious toasties too! Worth every penny!
Shauna Godhard (11 months ago)
Love Stirling Castle. Every time we visit Stirling we have to visit the castle. Staff are helpful, polite, friendly and very knowledgeable. We had a lovely long chat with the gentleman in the armory. Well worth a visit. Also it's good to book your parking at the castle ?. It's a long hill otherwise x
Ana Perrone (12 months ago)
This castle is my second favorite from this summer’s trip. Second only to Edinburgh castle because of size really. So much history there and so well preserved. The people working there are fully in character so you do fell like you are back in time and the garden is full of colorful flowers which is very rare for these types of places. The parking staff is the sweetest! Everything about this visit was 5 stars!
Melody Overton (2 years ago)
Absolutely fantastic! Staff are very knowledgeable and friendly. The castle grounds itself are extremely well maintained and clean. There is a lot more to do, see and learn. I much preferred Stirling Castle to Edinburgh. It was the highlight of our month long stay in Scotland.
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