Stirling Castle

26 June 2020

A (virtual) family field trip

Join Amy from our Learning Team as she plans a virtual trip for the whole family. Get some top tips – from the comfort of your sofa.

Children in historic fancy dress running out of the gates of Stirling Castle

Approaching a wet June weekend, the thought of a lockdown Saturday spent cooped up spurred us into action. As nowhere was open and we couldn’t travel too far from home, we decided to take a trip from within our own walls. To Stirling Castle, no less.

A firm favourite

A child's drawing of Stirling Castle on a glass door

Stirling Castle has been a firm family favourite since we visited last year, so getting the kids on board was no problem. They contributed loads of ideas in the lead-up to our virtual visit and enjoyed the anticipation of our family ‘day out’. “I’m so looking forward to this!” proclaimed my 8-year-old. “It’s in my area of expertise!” Watching the entire Horrible Histories back catalogue during lockdown has been an excellent confidence booster.

The day started well – over breakfast we reviewed a map to plan the best route and my youngest used her plate to drive us there (in our PJs – there are some surprising upsides to virtual visits). At the kids’ request, Ed Sheeran’s Castle on the Hill was selected as our driving music. I may or may not have sung along, loudly.

‘Hallway Bowling’ and ‘Ceiling Selfies’

Aerial photo of Stirling Castle taken by a drone

When we arrived, we treated ourselves to the grand tour – watching a fabulous flyover video (getting closer to the amazing rooftops than we ever could on foot) and exploring 360 degree photos. One of these was of the Queen Anne Gardens, which we learned had been turned into a bowling green in the 1620s. The kids immediately decided to do some hallway bowling, which kept them entertained for quite some time!

My 8-year-old loved exploring the 360 degree photos so much that we introduced him to the 3D Stirling Heads models and statues on SketchFab. “Let’s go into his beard!” is a phrase I never thought I’d hear anyone say about James V. He got the relevance of the Stirling Heads straight away, comparing it to covering his bedroom with magazine pages of favourite footballers.

Childrens' drawings on a paper plate replicating the Stirling Castle heads

We then decided to make our own ‘ceiling selfies’. Cue a massive house search for paper plates and mirrors/phones to take a good look at our faces. The kids enjoyed giggling at their parents’ attempts at self-portraits. “It’s really good, but it doesn’t look like you,” was probably the politest comment offered from the smallest family members to the biggest.

Tell the neighbours!

Our next activity was playing That Job is History – exclusive to Historic Scotland, and free to download. It’s a brilliant game of creative thinking and smooth talking, where you pitch for a job like ‘gong farmer’ (poo shoveller) using the three skills cards you’ve drawn. We went big on our turns, using props and ridiculous accents. Even the round interviewer acted the part! How my other half got the job as lady in waiting with a keen sense of smell, the ability to see in the dark, and being a fast runner still amazes me.

A close up of cards used in the game That Job Is History

During lunch, talk turned to battle. We’d watched a BBC Bitesize clip and sieges were a big talking point.

“What would be on your stockpiling list if you were in a siege?” I asked the kids.

From recent lockdown experiences the word ‘flour’ was in my thoughts! I’m still not sure what to make of their answer: “Ketchup or jam so you could pretend you were dead and then escape.”

A lengthy game of siege communications ensued, dens were built and Christmas-present radios were given a new lease of life.

When the siege play dried up and sibling squabbles took over, we turned to another craft activity – jousting helmets! I was delighted to have been vindicated of my hoarding of silver tissue paper for the last 8 years. They were fun to create with lots of play value.

An adult and two children wearing homemade jousting helmets

As my 6-year-old dug out our third hand hobby horse and donned her helmet she enthused “we should definitely tell our neighbours to do this!”

Finishing with a feast

I then managed to read out parts of the ‘Homeschooling at Stirling Castle’ blog, comparing it to our own home learning situation. We also had a good chat about the fact most medieval children didn’t get the chance to learn to read or write. The kids were horrified that James VI started lessons before breakfast and impressed he could read three languages by their age.

A walkway on the battlements of Stirling Castle

Our big day out came to a satisfying conclusion with an epic feast for dinner. We wore our finest clothes, piled our favourite foods high, and had a ‘medieval party’ playlist on full blast.

“We’ve had such a castle-y day” said my youngest. “Can we do it again next weekend?”

I’m in.

Are you planning own virtual family trip to Stirling Castle? Here’s a full list of tools you can use to plan your Big Day In:

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