Stirling is like a Scottish historical theme park. The very streets of the place are teeming with history, from the station (which appears in a Glasgow Boys painting in Kelvingrove) up past the Tolbooth, Old Town Jail, Mar’s Wark and the Church of the Holy Rood towards Argyll’s Lodging and the Castle itself. The car park was busy as I walked up, including with a right few coaches. I got my membership card scanned and into the Castle I went, straight into the garden which I’ve always liked for a lot of reasons, not least the views over the ramparts and of the Palace. The introductory exhibition gave me a few ideas for future visits in this series, mentions of Alexander III taking me either to Haddington where he was born or Kinghorn where he fell off a cliff and snuffed it, talk of Balliol possibly to Sweetheart Abbey or whichever of Oxford and Cambridge has a Balliol College. Robert the Bruce got an early mention and I could go to Dunfermline or Melrose where various parts of his body are buried.
The Great Hall has a handsome hammerbeam ceiling and I like to spend a few minutes there each time I visit. The harling on the exterior of the Great Hall is very similar to that which lines Dunbar Town House, another possible connection for a future visit. I didn’t bother with the Stirling Heads this time, though I got to the Palace with its unicorn tapestries and folk dressed up talking about their weekend plans. I was mainly happy to be outside and look around at the views, of hills and peaks with snow, a mixture of clouds over a vista right across central Scotland, to the Ochils, Wallace Monument, Pentlands and Falkirk, amongst many other places. I also enjoyed exploring the little nooks and niches, surprising in such a big castle like Stirling. Big castles don’t do small so often.
At the northern end is an area with some old artillery stores and a tapestry studio. Also there is a small rocky outcrop. Stirling is one of at least three castles in Scotland which sit on a rock, Dumbarton, Edinburgh and Dirleton being some others. There’s others, Cardoness in Dumfries and Galloway being another, but Stirling is probably one of the best known, second only to Edinburgh. Luckily being prominent in Scottish history means that a lot of places have a connection to Stirling, for their topography, scenery or even just their history. One good adventure to Stirling down, another soon awaits.
This is the third of the Loose Ends series here on Walking Talking. The second was Linlithgow Palace, which appeared here two weeks ago.