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A Visit to Stirling Castle

by StirlingCastle 26. March 2015 09:47

Spring is my favourite time of year and what better way to celebrate it than by checking out a superb family friendly Historic Scotland site? Together with my foam sword clad warrior daughters (and the two wee pals they had brought along) we set out on the first day of spring for an assault on Stirling Castle, arguably the most dramatic castle in the land and a personal favourite of mine.



Stirling Castle has that wow factor however you approach it. Whichever road you choose it looms high above the old battlefields on the banks of the Forth, battlefields that have played such a crucial role in the story of Scotland. My daughters got more and more excited as the castle loomed larger and larger in front of us on the approach from Loch Lomond.


Delving inside we nipped in to pick up a ‘member get member’ membership for our friends who were chumming us along. This is a brilliant scheme that knocks quite a bit of cash off if you introduce other people to Historic Scotland. Mum and dad were happy to make a saving and their kids loved the wee book that comes with membership listing all the sites, which they immediately started planning trips to!


We moved on up through the sturdy old gates of this seminal castle and a blast of spring sunshine greeted us on the large swathe of grass just to the left of the main gate. The kids didn’t hesitate and raced off to swirl around under the grand shadow of the bulk of Stirling Castle competing in races over to the ramparts and back.


Making the most of the spring weather we delved down to the northern reaches of the castle, where we took a walk along the ramparts staring out towards the Ochil Hills in search of enemy armies. My eldest was interested in the Battle of Sheriffmuir that raged over in those hills in 1715. She’s developed quite a fascination with Bonnie Prince Charlie and was intrigued to hear that had the Jacobites carried the day at Sheriffmuir and been able to advance into Stirling Scottish and indeed British history could have been very different.


We were lucky to time our visit to coincide with the last week of the Great Tapestry of Scotland being displayed in the Great Hall. The largest medieval hall in Scotland is a dramatic work of art in itself. It has been brilliantly renovated and is now back to its opulent Renaissance best. It was built to show the power and right to rule of the Scottish monarchs and it certainly does that.


It was time for lunch now and we marched down to the Unicorn Café. I’ve become quite a fan of the cafes at Historic Scotland sites and this one shone - with the highlight the rather unusual haggis, neeps and tatties pie, which was delicious! The kids tucked into the little boxed lunches, which they’ve become big fans of too. There was time for a quick energy boosting cake before it was back out to explore Stirling Castle. There is so much to do here it can easily swallow up a whole day.


For most kids the highlights of a visit to this castle are usually the Castle Exhibition and the Palace Vaults and it’s easy to see why. At the former you can mess around with a virtual reality skeleton and play historic snakes and ladders. The latter is even more fun with a volley of rooms such as the Musician’s Vault, where the kids made music, and the Tailor’s Vault, where they loved throwing on period garb. The Jester’s Vault meanwhile allowed the wee ones to mess around with a playful jester.


I like the fact that they go the extra mile at Stirling Castle. Summer sees all manner of weird and wonderful extra attractions, but even on this first day of spring there was a ‘Stitch in Time’ in the majestic setting of the Queen’s Apartments. Here we joined the royal embroiderer (who was draped in period costume). The kids loved sitting down with this regal lady hearing the tales of the unicorn in the tapestries that hung all around us and also the Harry Potter connection! They also loved getting the chance to do some embroidery for themselves and got to take away their creations.



Our visit culminated in the King’s Apartments, where a right royal looking chap awaited in period costume, complete with a fierce looking sword. He posed for pictures on a brace of thrones with the wee ones and got them laughing and smiling. It is little touches like this that really help to bring a historic site to life for little minds and imaginations.


We left glad that we had kicked off spring with a visit to this superb castle. If you’ve never been or just not been for a while then why not head along to see what’s on offer? Whether you are seven or 70 I reckon Stirling Castle has plenty stored up within its mighty old walls to please everyone.


Robin McKelvie
This post originally appeared on 
The Chain Mail

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Recipe for Love

by StirlingCastle 13. February 2015 08:34

With Valentine’s Day quickly approaching many of our thoughts will turn to the one you love. The phrase “the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach” springs to mind, so what is the food of love?

In the 1600s the food of love was the same as today; oysters, various different types of seafood and little lozenges or pastries with romantic verses upon them. Today, it’s seafood and of course chocolate!

Seafood and particularly oysters were associated with Aphrodite and are often seen as an aphrodisiac.  As for chocolate, well it wasn’t available in Scotland until well in to the 1600s, but we all love it now don’t we?!

We are very lucky that Scotland’s larder provides us with an excellent selection of seafood. Here are some wonderful recipes adapted from 16th and 17th century cookbooks for you to try today or serve on Valentine’s Day.

Pan Fried Scottish Salmon


2 x Salmon Fillets
30g Butter
60g Onion
½ glass White Wine
¼ pint Double Cream
Salt & Pepper to season

1. Pan fry the Salmon fillets in butter
2. Set them aside once cooked
2. In the pan cook the finely chopped onion without colouring
3. Deglaze the pan with white wine and reduce by half
4. Add the double cream to the white wine mixture
5. Pour the white wine sauce over the salmon
6. Serve with sautéed potatoes and green beans


Chocolate and Ginger Tart


1 pack Shortcrust Pastry (approx. 12 Oz)
240g Dark Chocolate
½ pint Double Cream
60g Crystallised Ginger – more or less if you like or dislike ginger - it’ll warm your heart!

1. Roll out the pastry to line an 8 inch dish
2. Bake blind for approximately 10 minutes at 180 degrees
3. Whilst the pastry is baking melt the chocolate and cream together in a pan, stirring until thick and smooth
4. Sprinkle the chopped ginger onto the cooked pastry case
5. Pour the chocolate and cream mix into the pastry case and refrigerate
6. Serve with ice cream - or even more ice cream!

Whatever your choice of food on Valentine’s Day, be it romantic candle lit dinner, burger and fries or a bag a popcorn at the movies, make sure you share it with the one you love!

Sandy Easson 
Stirling Castle Steward

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The Great Tapestry of Scotland: Our People’s History

by StirlingCastle 30. January 2015 09:43

Having spent the last few weeks immersed in The Great Tapestry of Scotland, learning all there is to know about the project as we prepared for its arrival at the castle, I could regale you all day long with statistics. For example did you know that, at 143 metres, it is the world’s longest embroidered tapestry? Or that the 160 panels took around 500 hours each to stitch and involved over 1000 men, women and children from across the nation making it Scotland’s largest community arts project?  However there was one thing I didn’t know and hadn’t planned for when I finally came face to face with the tapestry; how powerful it is in the flesh and the emotions it would evoke.


As I spent the morning interviewing colleagues from Historic Scotland and members of the Great Tapestry Project Team the same themes and phrases kept cropping up in conversation: the people’s history, the distinctive way it tells a story, the extraordinary detail involved, but overwhelmingly, its capacity to arouse a great range of emotions.  A few people even welled up as they recounted their favourite panel and what it meant to them.

As I took the time to walk the room and view the panels I understood immediately what had been described to me.  I expected to meet some familiar characters along the way who have impacted my work here at the castle from Wallace and Bruce to James V and Mary Queen of Scots.  But as I looked at my surroundings, sunlight streaming through the stained glass windows of the majestic Great Hall, I realised that the stories depicted in the panels actually happened right here in the castle and I got goose bumps. That’s what makes the castle such a special and apt setting for the exhibition; visitors will get to see Scotland’s history in a place where so much of it took place.

I was also unprepared for the extent of modern history represented in the tapestry including production at Ravenscraig, Dolly the sheep and Archie Gemmill’s goal in the 1978 world cup campaign.  As one of the Tapestry Team pointed out to me, there is something that everyone can relate to, something that is important to them and their own history. And that is what makes The Great Tapestry of Scotland such a unique experience;  it recounts the true story of Scotland’s history created by the people for the people.

I cannot encourage you strongly enough to come along and see this amazing exhibition which so richly deserves its title.

The Great Tapestry of Scotland is open to the public from 31 January until 8 March and is included in castle admission price. 

Further information on the Great Tapestry of Scotland exhibit. 

Nicola McCrae
Marketing Executive, Stirling Castle

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