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."