Stirling Castle is built high on a basalt outcrop above what was in medieval times the main crossing point across the Forth and the surrounding marshes, a strategic position which made the castle one of the most important fortresses in Scotland.
The rock had probably been used defensively since the Iron Age, but the first record of a castle comes from the early 12th century when Alexander I had a castle chapel dedicated and endowed. The castle's most famous period in history was during the late 13th and early 14th century when it played a prominent part in the conflict between England and Scotland. The castle fell into the hands of the English on several occasions and the famous Scottish victories at the Battle of Stirling Bridge in 1297 and the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314 were made to regain control of Stirling Castle. It is not possible to see what this earlier castle would have looked like because all traces have been lost under later building work. Most of what can now be seen at the castle dates from the early 16th century onwards.
During the reign of the Stewarts the castle was turned into an impressive royal residence. King James IV built the King's Old Building and the Great Hall, and his son, James V, built the magnificent Palace of Stirling to house his French queen, Mary of Guise. The young King James VI spent much of his childhood at the castle and his contribution to the development of the castle was to rebuild the Chapel Royal. On the death of Queen Elizabeth, James succeeded to the English throne and moved south to make his home in England. This marked the end of Stirling's role as a royal residence.
The defences of the castle were strengthened to counter a potential Jacobite threat, and these defences were put to the test in 1746 when Prince Charles Edward Stewart (Bonnie Prince Charlie) unsuccessfully laid siege to the castle. This was the last military action the castle saw, but it remained in use by the army until 1964. Since then there has been an effort to strip away many of the more recent modifications and restore much of the castle to its earlier splendour.
- At the top of Castle Wynd in the middle of Stirling's historic old town
- Stirling Castle, Castle Esplanade, Stirling, FK8 1EJ
- Historic Scotland. Open to the public. Entrance fee
- For further information visit www.historic-scotland.gov.uk
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