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Stirling Castle is located in Stirling and is one of Scotland’s largest castles. Situated 250 feet (about 76 meters) up on Castle Hill, the castle was originally constructed of wood and rebuilt in stone in the late 13th century. Today, the majority of buildings that remain date back to the 15th century and there are a few structures from the 13th and 14th centuries. The castle was captured and recaptured eight times between 1296 and 1342 during the Wars of Independence. The facility is open to the public all year round and is one of the most popular tourist sites in the country.
The North Gate is the oldest surviving section of the castle and was built in 1381 during the reign of Robert II, or better known as Robert the Bruce. A few odd quirks of the castle’s history include a full-sized ship that was carried into the Great Hall during a banquet for the baptism of Prince Henry in 1594. The world’s oldest football was found at the castle. It was discovered wedged up in the palace rafters and dates back to 1540. Mary Queen of Scots spent her childhood at Stirling Castle.
The palace is quadrangular in shape with a central courtyard known as the Lion’s Den. King James V actually kept a lion at the castle and some say that this is where the creature was housed. The lion is the heraldic symbol for the King of Scots. Medieval vaults lie beneath the castle and interactive displays inform visitors about the lives of the people who lived at the court over the centuries. Displays are continually revised and there is an exhibition that allows visitors to view the skeletons of an actual medieval knight and his lady that were found under a royal chapel.
Stirling Castle is thought to be one of the best examples of architecture of that period in Europe. Visitor are able to walk into the Royal Palace and step back in time to the 1500s and imagine life in the royal court, as well as view the King’s and Queen’s lodgings as they may have appeared in the 16th century. The Great Hall dates back to the end of the Middle Ages.
The castle has many areas and buildings to explore and a good place to start is the short audio-visual tour. This is located beneath the 1714 fortifications that border the Queen Anne Gardens. There are tour guides available and the entire tour can take up to a few hours to complete.