Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Day 16: Stirling Castle

We never did get very good at getting up early in the morning. This day was no exception after the long drive the day before, and P had a bad cold which is unusual for him. We did a little looking around the resort in the morning, checking for internet access etc. There was wi fi in the bar area again, but unlike our previous place, there was a charge - if we were UK residents we could use it on our T-Mobile account at a reasonable price, but since we were not, the only option was to charge to our credit card at £5 for 30 minutes. And the charges for the telephone in our unit were so outrageous that even the receptionist advised using a call box instead! However, we had other options up our sleeves...

Despite the weather being unimpressive, with rain continuing intermittently, we headed off into Stirling around midday. We parked near the bottom of the city (it is Scotland's newest city, since 2002), checked out the tourist information centre, and looked at the nearby streets. This is King Street, where my greatgreatgrandfather had his first bakery:

and this is the location of the shop he moved to - however this building is dated 1887, which was after my greatgrandfather, who succeeded him in the business, had gone bankrupt and moved to New Zealand.

We then headed to Burger King, which P had found on the internet offered free wi fi access. Actually, it turned out that you need to make a purchase of at least 99p, and with that you get a code which gives 30 minutes free access. We spent about £3 for which we got burgers, 30 minutes internet, and vouchers for "buy one get one free" on the next few visits - a better deal all around than using the internet at the hotel. We were able to make phone calls, too, using Skype with headphones. I contacted a cousin and arranged that he would phone us that night at the hotel - much cheaper than the other way round.

We then decided to move the car, and drove up the hill where there was parking in front of the castle. Stirling Castle is located on a hill with steep cliffs on several sides, and a long sloping hill on the south side, which is where the town was laid out. It dominates the flat land around it for miles, and has spectacular views.

We started at the forework gatehouse:

and were just in time to catch the last tour of the day. What's more, the weather began to clear up - we had a bit of drizzle, but for most of the tour the sun shone.

There are gargoyles:

and cannons:

Stirling Castle was a royal residence for two centuries, and King James V was crowned here, at the age of two, in the Chapel Royal. After the Act of Union, it was no longer required as a royal residence, and it became an army barracks. The army didn't move out until 1964. At that point the restoration of the Great Hall was started, and completed in 1999, to look much as it had in the 1500's. Apparently this project was quite controversial. I have heard the finish described as "hideous yellow paint" - in fact it is lime wash, and the colour was known as "King's Gold". In the 1500s the whole castle would have been this colour, and it would have been a very striking sight for miles around. The lions etc on the top of the roof have gilded crowns.

There were seven tapestries in the Chapel Royal which are now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. A tapestry workshop at the castle is recreating these tapestries, and two have been completed so far. Unfortunately our tour didn't take in the tapestry workshop, and as it closed at five, just as our tour finished but an hour before the rest of the castle closed, we were unable to see the weavers at work.

Here are the tapestries:

The King's Knot (the remains of the royal gardens below the castle):

View to the west:

and to the north:

The west side of the castle showing the steep cliffs:

It can easily be seen from these views why Stirling Castle was of immense strategic importance in the past. The lands around Stirling and the River Forth were very marshy and uncrossable, and Stirling Bridge was the only route from the Highlands to the Lowlands, so there were quite a few important battles fought around here.

Robert the Bruce fought the Battle of Bannockburn nearby:

There is no way that I could remember all the information that our tour guide gave us - but no need to, there is a very good website on Stirling Castle here.


Anonymous said...

Hi Catherine

cool to see your photies from your big trip

mary g

paris parfait said...

So lovely! I have never seen all this - it's on our list for next year.

Shameless said...

I must go there! Funny how we need to scout around now for that crucial internet link. We will have it attached to our sleeves in years to come! :-)

chiefbiscuit said...

Isn't it just amazing to be where the history seeps from the stones? Thanks for the tour - must've been quite something to see your gr grandparents shop!

puresunshine said...

Catherine, lovely pictures. I have passed on ur blog link to a friend who is absolutely in love with this place. :) It was great to learn about the Stirling Castle. Quite reminded me of the Agra Fort in India. Though the scenic beauty here is much greater!

Crafty Green Poet said...

Lovely photos, we love Stirling too, its a perfect destination for a day trip from Edinburgh.