Stirling Castle

Stirling Castle from the west
©2022 Gazetteer for Scotland

Stirling Castle from the west

Often considered the greatest of Scotland's castles, Stirling Castle dominates the sky-line of the city, the lowest crossing point and the highest navigable point of the River Forth. The castle is therefore at the cross-roads of strategic and trade routes and has been called 'the key to Scotland'. Thus its possession has been a focus of considerable contention, with battles such as Stirling Bridge (1297) and Bannockburn (1314) fought nearby. Dating its original foundation is difficult because Robert the Bruce destroyed the castle after Bannockburn so that the English could not exploit it again. However, it was used by King Malcolm III in the 11th Century and its chapel, founded by King Alexander I, who died in the Castle, is mentioned in the year of his death, 1124. William the Lion also died in the castle (1214). After Bruce's destruction, Edward III of England rebuilt it in 1333, although the present castle dates mainly from the 15th and 16th centuries when it was the principal royal residence. King James III was born in the castle (1452). In the same year, King James II began his feud with the 'Black Douglases' by inviting William, the 8th Earl, to Stirling, killing him and throwing his body from a window. King James IV built the Great Hall (1500) and gatehouse (1510). King James V began the marvellous Renaissance Palace (1540). Mary, Queen of Scots, was crowned in the old chapel (1543) and narrowly escaped death by fire (1561). Her son, King James VI, was baptised there (1566) and built the Chapel Royal, for the baptism of his first son Prince Henry. King Charles I visited (1633) and King Charles II in 1650. General Monk laid siege to the castle (1651), but it quickly surrendered. Maintained and strengthened as a garrison fort from early in the 18th C., it held out during the 1715 and 1745 Jacobite Risings. Thereafter, the castle was used as a barracks but the army left in 1964, the only reminder being the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders Museum. Today the castle is in the care of Historic Environment Scotland, one of their flagship properties.

The castle served as a location for the television drama Colditz (1972) and numerous films, including Tunes of Glory (1960), Kidnapped (1971), The 39 Steps (2008) and Burke and Hare (2010).

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