Guest Post, Shop, Stirling Castle

23 April 2019

An Author and Three Knitted Dolls Walk into a Castle…

For World Book Night, Megan Murray, author of the children’s Scottish History series Maggie and The Magic Bookcase® sent us her highlights of a day of exploring at Stirling Castle.

One of my favourite parts of being an author is adventuring with the “Woolly Clan.” These are knitted doll versions of the three main characters from Maggie and the Magic Bookcase. There’s ten-year-old Maggie, her Granda and Granda’s always-up-to-something Westie, Wally.

I’ve visited Stirling Castle a few times before and have always been enchanted by the amazing historic landscape in which it sits. The castle has so much to offer, and it was tough for the Clan and I to pick our highlights. We easily spent a whole day exploring. Here are our Top Five favourite spots in the castle…

Ramparts, Cannons and Amazing Views

Because we managed to pick an absolutely stunning day for our visit, we explored the outside of the castle in lots of detail. This made for a nice change – our outings usually involve lots of layers and wellies!

The Woolly Clan and I particularly enjoyed the views from the “Ladies Lookout” rampart, which looks out over the amazing earthworks known as the King’s Knot.

The view from the Outer Close, which holds an impressive collection of cannons, is just as cool. From here you can see a number of other famous places Stirling has to offer, including The Wallace Monument on Abbey Craig and Stirling Old Bridge.

A cannon on the ramparts of a castle

Nooks and Crannies

Maggie, Granda and Wally really enjoyed exploring all the castle’s nooks and crannies. The worn stairs gave everyone a real sense of the history of the place. Imagine how many people have trodden on the steps over the years!

Dating from the 1380s, the North Gate is the oldest part of the castle still standing. You can almost hear the clip-clop of horses’ hooves in the echoing stone corridor.

The Nether Bailey wall-walk is also not to be missed, to catch some more of those beautiful views out over Stirling.

Worn stone steps with knitted versions of Maggie, grandpa and Wally placed on them

The Great Hall

It was hard to tear ourselves away from the views outside, but we were all excited to explore the inside too.

We loved the Great Hall, James IV’s most ambitious and grandest addition to the castle. We could picture all the courtly occasions that this room held. The huge room would have been buzzing with voices, music, bustling servants and the decadent smells of a feast.

The amazing “hammerbeam” roof is a real highlight. The original roof was removed in the 1700s, but carefully replaced in the restoration of the hall in the 1990s. Pause for a minute while you’re there to look up and take it all in.

Megan Murray with three kitted characters, sitting in a throne at the head table of the Great Hall at Stirling Castle.

The Bedchambers

We were very excited to find the Queen’s lodgings of the castle fully-furnished and set out as it would have been for Mary of Guise, James V’s French widow.

This was perhaps our favourite area in the castle because it put us in touch with the lives of the historic inhabitants. It’s easy to think of them only as monarchs, chess pieces even, presiding over “big” moments in our history. In the living quarters, we were strongly reminded of the human aspect of the castle. It was a place where these famous names lived: sleeping, writing letters, relaxing, and chatting.

Pomp and Circumstance

The Chapel Royal is one of Stirling’s most beautiful areas and we really enjoyed its quiet atmosphere and slanting sunbeams. It was built in 1594 for the baptism of James VI’s first-born son, Prince Henry and it really is a building fit for an occasion of this importance.

See if you can spot the amazing “trompe l’oeil” window of the west gable while you’re there. A painting technique gives a 3D effect to the finished product, making it look like a real window to match the one of the east gable.

Megan Murray posing with a copy of her book in the Stirling Castle Bookshop

Check it out!

A big team “thank you!” to all the staff at the castle, who are so knowledgeable and full of fun. Maggie, Granda, Wally and I had a ball at Stirling Castle!

Megan’s first book in the series, Maggie and the Magic Bookcase: The Prehistoric Prologue series, is available at the Stirling Castle gift shop. You can also purchase it online. Megan also wrote a HES blog about her experience of being a self-published children’s author for the Year of the Young People 2018.

Do have a favourite part of the castle? Share your stories and images with us on social media using #StirlingCastle.