03.10.2011 - 03.10.2011 14 °C
Took to the road again today as I slowly work my way down to the bottom of the country towards Edinburgh. My stop today was at Stirling. Stirling is home to the aptly named Stirling Castle, Holy Rude Church (Holy Rod—it is thought that part of the true cross once resided in this church!), the National Wallace Monument and is right next to the battlefield where the battle of Bannockburn took place. Stirling is a veritable historical melting pot and therefore a must for this history buff!
I arrived in the town just before 11am and spent the remainder of my day up at Stirling Castle. A castle has been set atop this hill for well over a thousand years! In fact, it is highly likely that the Roman’s built a fort up on this hill as it has a terrific view over the valley and it is probable that early Scots in the area would have used the hill as a look out so people have lived in this area for thousands of years!
The castle was once the home to the Scottish Kings and Queens. Notably James IV- James VI (James I of England) all lived at Stirling Castle. It was as important as Edinburgh Castle was ‘back in the day’. The castle was for many hundreds of years used by the military as a barracks and was only turned over to the national trust about fifty years ago. Over the past fifty years the castle has undergone a major transformation and now has been renovated and refurbished just as it would have been during the reign of James V. It is probably one of the most impressive castles I’ve entered purely for the fact that everything has been lovingly recreated to give you a real feel for what a mediaeval castle would have felt like when it was actually in use by the King’s and Queens of Scotland.
I was probably most impressed by the state rooms in the castle. The historians who have worked on the castle have gone to the trouble to recreate the tapestries that were known to reside on the walls. To see one of these magnificent tapestries in full colour is pretty special. I’ve seen quite a number of tapestries and have always been disappointed by how colourless and often threadbare they are (but really what do you expect when they are hundreds of year’s old!). The ones at Stirling have been created using the same techniques (this includes using the same pigments as dyes) as would have been available during the middle ages, which means for the first time I’ve seen tapestries as they were meant to be seen. WOW is all I can say!
The other impressive exhibition is the Stirling Heads. James V had his main receiving hall’s roof decorated in carved wooden heads showing his ancestry and lineage. Some of these heads survive through until today and are on display. These oak heads were carved well over five hundred years ago and still retain their original lustre and clean lines. Its incredible to think that oak carvings can survive this long undamaged! Re-creations have been placed in the room where the heads use to reside complete with full paintwork.. the interior is definitely something to be admired!
I’m pleased to report that Stirling castle has both secret passage ways and ghosts! I got to see one of the passage ways today. It is a spiral stair case that leads from the King’s bed chamber up stairs to another small bedroom. It is thought that it was used by King James V to allow him to visit his mistress.. I’m guessing it probably wasn’t so secret back in the day! No such luck with the resident ghosts! Apparently there are two that haunt one of the old barracks and both are old soldiers. As this is an area of the palace that isn’t open to the public I can’t corroborate the ghost story…. My palace excursion ended with another shower of rain only this time a rainbow appeared (again no luck on the gold) making the view over to the Wallace monument something pretty special. I’m off to see the Wallace Monument first thing tomorrow morning!