When we found out earlier this year that we had been shortlisted for the Best UK Heritage Attraction we were naturally delighted. To be chosen from thousands of properties across the country is humbling let alone to be the only Scottish contender in the category to make the top five.
But then the realisation of being the runner up twice now and the stiff competition reminded us we were going to have to work harder than ever to get votes. So with the clock ticking down on our chance to lift the crown we thought we’d outline 10 things that make Stirling Castle sparkle and why we should be crowned the winner.
Whether you are a son or daughter of the rock or from some far flung corner of the planet, no matter what language you speak you will understand the warmth with which you are welcomed to Stirling Castle. Our staff make the experience memorable and their willingness to go the extra mile is not lost on the hundreds of thousands of people that visit us each year.
Walk through the door of the renaissance palace and step back in time to the Royal Stewart Court. Experience the grandeur of the royal apartments and meet the characters of the household who will fill you in on who’s who and what’s what. Get hands on with history in the Palace Vaults where you can dress in period costume, play medieval instruments or learn how to make the king laugh.
From its stunning King’s Gold exterior to the magnificent hammerbeam roof and beautiful stained glass windows that flood the room with a spectrum of light, the Great Hall is one of the best preserved buildings in Europe. It was the scene of many great celebrations, none grander than the baptism of Prince Henry where the phrase “to push the boat out” was coined after the fish course was served on a replica ship featuring firing cannons and live mermaids.
From the ambitious building programme of James IV in 1500s to the 2011 refurbishment of the Royal Palace, the castle is infamous for its stunning architecture, art and beauty. We are still at the forefront of devising techniques that make the buildings fit for modern use whilst maintaining their historic features and integrity. We work closely with a myriad of artists who have created the impressive art you can see today from the Unicorn Tapestries to the lavish furnishings, paintings and carvings.
A highlight of any visit to the castle is the stunning views of the beautiful Stirling countryside from the Wallace monument and Bannockburn to the impressive King’s Knot which can all be accessed via the castle’s wall walk. The beautiful Queen Anne Garden is also a favourite with visitors. A peaceful retreat where you can enjoy the gorgeous flowers and shade yourself under the 200 year old twin beech tree.
What makes Stirling Castle so unique is that it played an integral part in the nation’s history. From the wars of independence that made legends of Wallace and Bruce to the coronation of Mary Queen of Scots, the castle’s walls and cobbles are steeped in history. A favourite legend is that of the Guid Man O Ballengeigh which tells of James V dressing as a commoner and sneaking out of the castle to mingle with the people of the city and enjoying the experience greatly.
When James VI moved his court to London in 1603, the castle fell in to a state of disrepair with the Great Hall even used as stables. However when the army took up residence in the late 1600s, it ensured the security of the buildings which served as a barracks and accommodation for married officers. In 1964 we began the process of becoming a visitor attraction but the Regimental Museum remains and is a fascinating insight in to our military history where visitors can see a narwhal tusk, Willie Lawrie’s bagpipes and a very rare Victoria Cross.
Housed in the Northgate, now the oldest building in the castle, the Great kitchens allow visitors to experience life in the royal kitchen from the food consumed and prepared on a daily basis to magnificent feasts. Find out what dishes were considered fit for a King and explore the medieval recipes from swan to peacock.
A great introduction to the castle and a very insightful peek into our history from the formation of castle rock, through the line of succession to the secrets of the Stirling skeletons uncovered during the palace renovation. With interactive exhibits to remarkable objects including the castle key to the toy soldiers.
The current Chapel Royal was built in 1594 in just seven months for the baptism of Prince Henry but was redecorated in 1628 by Valentine Jenkin in preparation for Charles I coronation visit to Scotland. His painted frieze has survived and feature Scottish royal regalia. Today visitors can also read the King James Bible which was authorised by James VI in 1604.
If you have enjoyed any of these highlights or others during your visit we would be very grateful if you would take a moment to vote for us
Voting Closes on 30th September.