Friday, 8 July 2016

Stirling Castle

Today we took a 40-or-so minute train ride from Edinburgh to the town of Stirling. It has several tourist attractions, but the big one is Stirling Castle, where we spend most of our day (from about 10:30 to 4:30). Given the way we want to explore things thoroughly, we would have had to spend overnight in Stirling to fit everything in.

Stirling Castle sits on a volcanic crag that has had fortifications of one kind or another since pre-Roman times. Most of the current buildings date from the reign of James IV (late 15th century) or later, but there are a few remnants from earlier times. It was strategically located near Stirling Bridge, the easternmost point at which it was practical to build a bridge over the river Forth, so commanded a man route between the south and the highlands. Robert the Bruce defeated the English at Bannockburn two miles away; there is a statue of him just outside the entrance to the castle:
There were more modern things at the entrance to the castle too, including this colourful commercial van:
It is decorated as a highland cow (pronounced something like "heelan koo", but if I remember my departed grandmother's accent properly, the actual vowels don't exist in English), which looks something like a yak, and on the side it says "Bringing you all your Scotland information on the moo-ve."

The Royal Palace interior was restored to an approximation of what it looked like during the reign of James V, who built it for his wife Mary of Guise. We met this very informative guide in the Queen's Inner Chamber, who told us many things about the times. For example, women could own property in their own right, unlike England of the time.
She was playing the role of an embroiderer; the key on her right was for locking up valuable silks and even gemstones used in the fanciest embroidery.

The same room has replicas of the seven tapestries of the Hunt of the Unicorn; it took thirteen years to weave them, and would have taken another thirteen if they'd adopted the original thread density.

On our way back to the train station we passed the monument to William Wallace:
This doesn't give a proper sense of scale; it's huge. Here's a view from the Castle:
That's something like 3km away.

Edit: here is Margaret's blog about the same trip.