In Scotland there’s plenty of castles to visit – and Stirling Castle is one of the best for visiting. It’s certainly popular, with the car park being full before we’d even left. So we were pleased we headed there early and then onto Blair Drummond Safari Park in the afternoon.
Stirling Castle is at the top of a hill above the city, so while you can get public transport there will be the hill to walk up at the end. Parking is limited (with very tight spaces) – we paid £4 (maximum of 4 hours).
We’d paid for tickets in advance, but you can pay on arrival. You want to arrive early before the coach tours, or later well after opening time, otherwise you can get caught up in them entering as we did. They were oblivious of any other people visiting, so it’s definitely worth picking your times if possible.
The castle was key to Scotland’s kingdom having initially been recorded as in the early 1100s. Over the years it changed hands multiple times during the Wars of Independence and the struggle between Scotland and England. It was also the childhood home of some of the most famous kigs and queens in British and Scottish history, like Mary Queen of Scots, and James VI and !. Late it became an important military base and the home of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, hence the regimental museum on site.
To visit Stirling Castle there’s plenty to see, although we did find it hard to work out entrances, and how we could find our way around into the different buildings and areas. The map we had wasn’t brilliant, areas looked closed, and it would have been good to have better signs pointing more directly to where things were. There were a few staff members floating around who were pointing people in the right direction.
An ‘order’ of visiting would maybe have been useful to know the best route. For example, we’d seen people looking like they were walking on the castle walls but we couldn’t work out if they were up on them, and how they got up there.
After checking out the very foggy view over to the National Wallace Monument and across the city, and looking at the cannons, we headed into the Royal Palace apartments.
This was where we could see the refurbishment of how it might have looked around the 1540s. We saw the King’s and Queen’s bedchambers, and the rooms where they would meet the courtiers. It was all very sparse and empty, but it was a lot lighter than I expected.
We also got to see beautiful tapestries on the walls, and the strange Stirling heads displays. Some were beautiful, others more like gargoyles. These are a collection of metre wide carvings of faces of kings, queens, Roman emperors and biblical and classical figures. I enjoyed playing guess the person before reading the names.
We found the Great Hall entrance after a couple of false starts, going first into the kitchens. There was a film playing which N wanted to stop and watch about the seasons of food in the castle. The displays you could go right up to them, and there was someone fixing one of the models which was interesting to see.
The Great Hall is a huge cavernous space used for banquets and feasting. We sat at the table in the wooden thrones to look down the hall.
The Chapel Royal was a similar large hall – it didn’t really feel like an old traditional stone church we’d be used to, with all the wood. It was built for James VI for his son’s baptism. When we were there, there was also some kind of vintage clothing display which was interesting. But it was a bit random – we must have missed the reason why it was there, or what the link was.
We wandered around some areas of the castle but decided against going in any more areas. N was ready to move on by that point. So there was a quick look over the Queen Anne Gardens. He refused to go down into them which was a shame as I’d not realised there was the Palace Vaults down there, with lots of interactive displays.
We were at Stirling Castle close to a couple of hours, so the 4 hours car parking sounds about right if you’re going to do everything and stop for some food in the cafe.
A final photo at the statues of Robert the Bruce and the Argyll and highlanders memorial statues before we headed off to our next stop.
Another castle ticked off our visit list.
Have you ever visited Stirling Castle?