One of the best castles I’ve visited so far.
Back to travel posts now, starting with Stirling castle in the UK, which was honestly one of the most impressive and well organised castles I’ve ever visited. It’s located close to Loch Lomond and known as one of Scotland‘s grandest castles, both for its architecture and historical importance.
Stirling castle sits atop a huge volcanic rock at the meeting point between the Scottish Highlands and Lowlands above the river Forth and is surrounded by cliffs on three sides, so it’s no wonder that it was at the centre of tons of historic turbulence due to its defensive position. The first written record of it is from the 11th century, but most of the current castle buildings date back to the 15th and 16th century and you can tell that there was a whole Renaissance court at Stirling kept by the Stewart kings, which used it both as a palace and a fortress. Due to its location, the castle was besieged and changed hands at least 8 times, particularly during the Scottish Wars for Independence and it was home to many popular historical figures, including Mary, Queen of Scots (you know that one that was dressed in denim in the recent movie?).
I don’t want to go into the castle history too much, because there’s a wonderful historical exhibition where you can learn everything that I was really impressed with, so it should appeal to non-history buffs too. Even if you don’t want to read everything about the history or take a tour, a walk through the castle should be enough to impress you as everything is super lavish and there are costumed castle staff around to set the mood.
Impressions of Stirling castle
There are also several epic things hiding within Stirling:
- The Great Hall: The hall at Stirling castle is the largest banqueting hall built in Scotland and was used for feasting and dancing. In fact, king James VI celebrated the baptism of his son in 1594 by serving the fish course on a giant model wooden ship, complete with cannons and everything. And they wondered why peasant uprisings were a thing?
- The unicorns: Did you know that Scotland’s national animal is the unicorn? It was first used in the royal coat of arms by William I in the 12th century and two of the royal tapestries at Stirling include unicorns. The lost Stirling tapestries of king James V have been recreated at Stirling castle in a huge 14 year project and they are truly worth seeing in person, because the level of detail is crazy.
- The Great Kitchens: There’s a really cool recreation of what the kitchen life would look like at Stirling, complete with cats, dogs and rats.
Obviously the other parts of the castle are interesting too and a walk up the battlements offers a gorgeous view of the surrounding scenery. In fact, it was at the nearby church of the Holy Rude that I took some of my favourite photos from the UK, because the lighting was just right:
All in all, Stirling castle is phenomenal and a must see. I rarely say something is essential to visit on your trip through a country, because we all have different travelling tastes and interests, but much like the Battlefield of Culloden, this castle is at the heart of Scottish history and it would be a shame to miss it. It can be easily reached by public transport from both Glasgow and Edinburgh and you should plan at least half a day to explore it all.