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Stirling Castle

Scotland's Grandest

Guarding the main north-south and east-west routes across Scotland, Stirling Castle stands at a supremely important strategic crossroads.

High on a volcanic outcrop, it played a major part in the Scottish struggle against English domination.

Time and time again, it was besieged once again; involving, amongst others, great names like William Wallace and Robert the Bruce.

Stirling Castle
Robert the Bruce It was here too that James II murdered the Earl of Douglas and had his body tossed from a window, and the castle was also the childhood home of the ill-fated Mary Queen of Scots.

Architecturally, it offers an array of riches: the vast Great Hall dating from the end of the Middle Ages, the early Renaissance splendours of the Palace with its carved heads, and the Chapel Royal built for the baptism of Prince Henry in 1594.

New interpretive displays and a new restaurant with four specially-designed hangings have added to the enjoyment of visiting this, the grandest of Scottish castles.

Stirling Castle
Here's an interesting extract from a book published in 1880...

Extract starts:-

But to return to the castle proper. A strong battery, with a tire of guns, pointing to the bridge over the Forth, was erected during the regency of Mary of Lorrain. It is called the French battery, probably from having been constructed by French engineers. The last addition to the fortifications was made under Queen Anne. They had formerly reached no further than the old gate, where the flag-staff now stands. In that reign they were considerably enlarged towards the town: and bomb-proof barracks, with other conveniences for a siege, were erected. From the unfinished state in which some parts have been left, it would seem as if the whole plan had not been executed.

South-west of the castle lies what is called the King's Park, where the court hunted deer. It extends to the south side of the late race-ground, and at the east end lay the royal gardens. The wall is still to be seen running along the base of the basaltic columns which here front the south and west. It is not yet a century since it was first traversed by a public road, the old Dumbarton road having hitherto gone by Cambusbarron. This field, together with Gowling, or Gowlan, Hill, and other parcels of ground around the garrison, formed, at one time, a small jurisdiction called the Constabulary of the Castle: but they now belong to the burgh.

In the gardens is a mound of earth, in the form of a table, known as "The Knott," where, according to tradition, the court sometimes held fÍtes champÍtres. Berbour, in his account of the battle of Bannockburn, make mention of the same, which was then at the foot of the castle. He says, that, when Edward of England was told bt Mowbery, the governor, that he could not expect safety by being admitted into the fortress, "he took the way beneath the castle by the round table." It is, undoubtedly, of great antiquity, and must have been in that place long before the gardens were formed. Here, probably, the pastime, called "The Knights of the Round Table," was enjoyed, a sport of which several of the Scottish monarchs, particularly James IV., are said to have been fond. Around the gardens, in Nimmo's day, were the vestiges of a canal, on which the royal family and court aired in barges; but a public road from north to south now traverses the Park here.

In the Castle-hill is a hollow, called "The Valley," comprehending about an acre, having the appearance of an artificial work for tournaments, with other feats of chivalry. Here, the first historical flying experiment was made in Scotland, by an Italian friar, whom James IV. Had made an Abbot of Tungland. The man, from his scientific attainments, and supposed success in alchemy, was a great favourite of the king's. Imagining that he had discovered a method of flying through the air, he appointed a day for the šerial ascension, and invited the king and his court to witness the feat. At the appointed time, the Italian, carrying an enormous pair of wings, ascended one of the battlements of the castle, and, spreading out his plumes, vaulted into the air. Unfortunately for the abbot's reputation, the experiment was a complete failure. Amid the laughter and derision of the whole assembly, the would be šeronaut came tumbling headlong down; and, although he luckily saved his neck, his thigh-bone was broken. Of course the poor experimentalist had an excuse for his non-success. It was attributed to the fact that his wings included some feathers from common dung-hill fowls, instead of having been all from eagles and other noble birds. Close to this valley on the south, is a small pyramidal rock, called "The Ladies' Hill," where the fair ones of the court took their station to witness these "feats."

Extract ends.

Stirling Castle. Click for larger image!
Copyright Donald Buchanan


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