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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User Reviews

Dean Stoker (14 months ago)
Man what a castle. Loved it. It's a massive site with lots to explore. Lots of history & the views are amazing. Like Edinburgh Castle without the crush. Worth becoming a member of Historic Scotland as you can get in for free as we did. Would definitely recommend.
Neil Cowan (14 months ago)
Absolutely brilliant experience! Fully intact castle with so much to look around. From interactive touch screen displays to secret rooms and corridors Stirling castle doesn't disappoint! Stunning displays especially in the Royal palace are a must see. The history on offer here is second to none!
Pastyfacedclown (14 months ago)
Visited with my visually impaired mum on Tuesday and we were completely blown away by our experience. We are historic Scotland members, and this wasn’t our first visit to the castle, but it’s been years since we last visited. The man who welcomed us at the ticket office (unfortunately didn’t get his name) was extremely helpful and offered us each an audio tour, except my mums one was specifically for visually impaired people. It was fantastic. It offered directions to specific areas, then proceeded to describe in great detail what was around us. It also pointed out items/details that could be touched. It’s not often my mum points out small details to me! We were extremely impressed with both audio tours, and my mum especially, thouroughly appreciated hers. Also, a quick shout out to the man in costume in the palace. He could not have been friendlier or more helpful if he tried! Our only complaint is that we ran out of time, and missed a few areas thanks to how in-depth the audio descriptive tour was. Guess we’ll just have to go back
James Grant (14 months ago)
I not only enjoyed the castle, but the land around it. Very very nice. The visitor center is worth a visit, and had a nice lunch there as well. Visited for the day on October on a clear day and it was stunning. Not our first visit but would definitely recommend a day out here.
Amy Stein (14 months ago)
Fantastic Castle. The Tapestry exhibit is fascinating and the tapestries are incredible. The kitchen exhibits are amazing. Worth the trip. In the Footsteps of John Muir, An Exhibit by Scottish Photographer Ken Paterson was wonderful. The photos were truly brilliant.
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