Of all the castles of Scotland, Stirling Castle stands out for its imposing location and storied history. In an area of great strategic importance, Stirling Castle was an important fortification and the site of many sieges and battles.
Stirling Scotland is about 40 miles northwest of Edinburgh, at the lower crossing of the Firth of Forth, the traditional boundary between the Scottish Lowlands and Highlands. As such, Stirling was one of the most important castles of Scotland. Stirling Castle stands on Castle Hill, a large volcanic rocky outcropping surrounded by steep cliffs on three sides, making it ideal for defense.
Stirling Castle history dates at least as far back as the Middle Ages. Settlements have been found in the area from the seventh century, and it is supposed that Roman troops also saw the site as one of strategic importance.
In the late thirteenth and early fourteenthcenturies, Stirling Scotland was at the epicenter of the events shown in Mel Gibson’s movie Braveheart. William Wallace’s forces defeated the English at the Battle of Sterling Bridge in 1296. A few years later, King Edward I of England laid siege to Stirling Castle in April 1304 after defeating William Wallace’s troops at the Battle of Falkirk. A garrison of just 30 men held out for four months before succumbing to Edward’s troops. The Battle of Bannockburn in 1314 (depicted in the closing scenes of Braveheart), which ensured Scotland’s independence until James VI of Scotland succeeded to the English throne in 1601, was fought just miles from Stirling Castle. James VI’s mother, Mary Queen of Scots, lived here for the first few years of her troubled life. (Mary also lived in the most famous castle of France: Chenonceau Castle in the Loire Valley.)
In all, there have been over a dozen battles and sieges in Stirling Castle history. During the English Civil War, the Battle of Stirling was fought between forces loyal to the king and those loyal to the Scottish Parliament. The most recent battle was in 1746, when Bonnie Prince Charlie laid siege to the fortification during the last Jacobite rebellion.
Stirling Castle’s rich history makes it one of the most important European castles, both historically and architecturally. Most of the construction in Stirling Castle history took place in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, during the reigns of James IV and James V, who used the castle as their primary residence. They left an impressive legacy of Renaissance and Gothic architecture, making Stirling Castle one of the architectural gems of Scotland, surpassing Brodick Castle, Glamis Castle, and other famous castles of Scotland.
The year 1800 saw the beginning of another epoch in Stirling Castle history, when the building became the army barracks and headquarters of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, one of the most famous regiments in the British Army. The army stopped using the castle as a barracks in 1964, but it is still the regiment’s headquarters and a tour of the castle includes a visit to the regimental museum.
Stirling Scotland is about 30 miles from Glasgow and 40 miles from Edinburgh. It is easily accessible by car or train. Stirling Castle is open daily, year-round. Admission for adults is about $20 each.