Stirling is castle situated in the ceentral
region of Scotland.
Stirling Castle was
built overlooking the River Forth at a strategically important junction of routes by both land
and water, where there was the additional advantage of a high volcanic outcrop as a natural
setting for the royal castle required to defend these routes.
Although it might be expected that such an important position
would have been occupied since prehistory, no physical evidence of this has survived. The first
references to a castle are from the reign of Alexander I (1107–1124), who is known to
have built a chapel there. Since he died at Stirling, almost certainly within the castle, it is
probable that by then Stirling was an established royal residence.
The Castle played a major
role in the periodic hostilities with England and, in 1174, was one of those handed over to
Henry II (1154–1189) to pay for the release of William the Lion (1165–1214). It changed hands
several times during the Wars of Independence, and its custody was the cause of the Battle of
Bannockburn in 1314. No structures, either surviving or located through excavation, can be
identified with this most stirring period of its history. The earliest extant structure is
likely to be the North Gate, the core of which probably dates from a campaign of
Castle reached its apogee during the reigns of James IV (1488–1513),
James V (1513–1542) and James VI (1576–1625). The first of these did most to raise Stirling
castle from being simply a strong castle to a royal residence of European stature.
His own residence, consisting of hall, chamber and closets above
vaulted basements, was built to the designs of Walter Merlzioun around 1496. It was placed on
the highest point of the rock, where it both dominated the castle and commanded magnificent
views over the royal park in the valley below.
Facing it across a newly formed courtyard was the Great Hall,
which was nearing completion in around 1500, but which may, according to tradition, have been
started by his father, James III (1460–1488). This hall was planned on an impressive scale that
was to be unequalled in Scotland, and its Late Gothic architectural detailing is of a high
order. The full range of the King’s ambitions for
Stirling castle is shown by his foundation of
the Chapel Royal in 1501. This was apparently set along the north side of the square. The
impressive defences known as the Forework, placed across the main line of
approach to the castle from the south, also neared completion at about the same time. Its tall,
four-towered central gate-house flanked by drum towers, and the rectangular towers terminating
the wall to either end, were evidently intended to be as much a statement of James IV’s
kingship as of the strength of the castle.
James V’s two French marriages were probably the reason for the
building in the 1540s of the quadrangular palace block on the fourth side of the square, which
was already defined on three sides by his father’s buildings.
The design of its extraordinary early classical façades was
certainly influenced by the King’s French masons, including Moses Martin and Nicolas Roy, but
the slightly ungainly massing of sculpture within and around the shallow cusped and arched
recesses between the broad pilasters that articulate the walls must ultimately be attributable
to Scottish masons.
Internally the twin apartments, consisting of a sequence of
outer and inner halls, bedchamber and closets, are particularly valuable survivors of royal
planning of the mid-16th century. It was probably James V’s widow, Mary of Guise (1515–1560),
who strengthened the defences of the castle in the disturbed years before the Reformation and
in the absence of the young Mary Queen of Scots (1542–1567) in France.
During the more settled conditions of James VI’s reign the last
major royal building was created within the castle, the Chapel Royal, which was built, partly
overlapping the likely site of the earlier chapel, to provide a setting for the baptism of
Prince Henry in 1594. Its restrained classicism, with paired lights beneath round-headed arches
and a triumphal arch motif to the entrance, provides a pleasing foil to the exuberance of the
palace that faces it.
In 1603, however, James left Scotland to take up the English
crown; from then only spasmodic royal interest was to be shown in the castle, and it was
progressively adapted to serve purely as a garrison. In 1689 parts of the Forework were
truncated for the mounting of artillery, and between 1708 and 1714 Mary of Guise’s artillery
spur was incorporated in a somewhat unadventurous complex of outer defences during one of the
periodic Jacobite alarms.
Within the castle the buildings of the royal residence were
subdivided and remodeled for military use, culminating in the partitioning of the Great Hall to
serve as barracks about 1800.
Stirling Castle Map&Location
Address: Stirling Castle Castle Wynd, Stirling FK8 1EJ, United
Kingdom. Get help with directions using the map provided bellow:
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