Read our regular staff blog and get a behind-the-scenes-view of life and work at Stirling Castle.

A Celebration of Burns

by StirlingCastle 20. January 2016 09:30

As one of the most important places in Scotland’s history, Stirling Castle has drawn countless visitors over the centuries. One of the most celebrated is that of Robert Burns, when he visited as part of his tour to the highlands in the late summer of 1787.


At the end of August that year, Burns travelled out of Edinburgh in the company of a schoolmaster friend, Willie Nicol. Heading eastwards, the pair stopped off at Linlithgow Palace, where the poet was intrigued to see the room where Mary, Queen of Scots, had been born.  As the travelling companions approached Stirling, they made a point of visiting another key site in the nation’s history, the field of Bannockburn. There Burns recorded that he saw the hole where ‘glorious Bruce’ set his standard. While at Bannockburn, Burns also saw the house in which King James III was said to have been slain following the battle of Sauchieburn in June 1488.




On the afternoon of Sunday 26 August 1787, Burns arrived in Stirling. He and Nicol lodged in Wingate’s Inn (now the Golden Lion Hotel in Stirling’s King Street). The two friends ambled up the hill to the old town to see Stirling Castle that evening, where Burns recorded that he had admired the ‘glorious prospect’ of the River Forth winding its way through the carse of Stirling.


The following evening Burns and Nicol dined with a group of Stirling men, among whom was Lieutenant Forrester of the castle’s garrison whom Burns described as ‘a merry, swearing kind of a man, with the dash of the sodger’.  On the morning of Tuesday 28 August, Burns breakfasted with Forrester, possibly within the castle. Later that day the poet and his travelling companion, Nicol, left Stirling to resume their journey into the highlands.


Burns’ visit to Stirling in August 1787 is perhaps best remembered today due to the poet’s composition of a short stanza that has become known as the ‘Stirling Lines’. Which he inscribed with a diamond stylus on a window pane at his lodgings in Wingate’s Inn. The ‘Stirling Lines’ emphasise Burns’ patriotic and Jacobite sentiments. They also bear testimony to a fact with which all visitors to Stirling Castle would agree – here, in Stirling, the Royal Stewarts did, once, in glory reign!


You can hear more about Burns’ visit to the castle by joining our special tours this weekend as we celebrate Scotland’s beloved bard here.


Here Stewarts once in triumph reign'd,
And laws for Scotland's weal ordain'd;
But now unroof'd their Palace stands,
Their sceptre's fall'n to other hands;
Fallen indeed, and to the earth,
Whence grovelling reptiles take their birth.
The injur'd STEWART-line are gone,
A Race outlandish fill their throne;
An idiot race, to honor lost;
Who know them best despise them most.



Ross Blevins
Senior Guide
Stirling Castle

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A Year to Remember for Stirling Castle - 2015 Highlights

by StirlingCastle 17. December 2015 10:02

It was always going to be hard to top 2014 with all the buzz of Year of Homecoming, the Commonwealth Games and Ryder Cup but the last 12 months have brought many poignant moments that will go down in the castle’s history.


In January The Great Tapestry of Scotland visited the castle as part of its national tour.  The brainchild of author Alexander McCall Smith, the 160 panels of intricate stitching illustrate a people’s history of Scotland from the turbulence of the last ice age to the present day. Some of the panels even depicted the castle and Stirling.


The 14 year project to recreate the lost tapestries of James V was completed in June as the final tapestry in the series ‘The Mystic Hunt of the Unicorn’ was hung in the Royal Palace. A very bittersweet occasion which marked the culmination of the biggest tapestry project undertaken in the UK in the last 100 years. This extraordinary venture had become an integral part of castle life and the visitor experience and we continue to celebrate its legacy in our new exhibition “Weaving the Unicorn”. Located in the former Tapestry Studio, the exhibition tells the story of the tapestries and the weavers and will continue to run throughout 2016.


2015 was also the Year of Food & Drink when we celebrated Scotland’s rich larder.
Our Unicorn Café received Visit Scotland’s Taste our Best award which ensures commitment to “serving quality Scottish produce prepared with care and delivered with passion”.  In May we married the food theme with another grand celebration, Mary of Guise’s 500th birthday as visitors were invited to join in the Queen’s Feast. The event saw the castle come to life with the hustle and bustle of the courtiers as they prepared for this great banquet.




In July we explored our French Connection further as we continued to celebrate Mary of Guise, a formidable and much-loved character in the castle’s history. The Chapel Royal was transformed with art exhibitions from Iona Leishman and Douai Artists International, whilst in the Nether Bailey visitors enjoyed a fascinating exhibition all about ‘The Other Mary’, wife of James V and mother of Mary Queen of Scots.


Summer also saw a cultural renaissance with performances from Magnetic Opera, The Scottish Chamber Orchestra and our first outdoor theatre in many years from Chapterhouse Theatre Company who presented Pride & Prejudice in the beautiful Queen Anne Gardens. A rich and diverse programme combined with stunning locations proved popular with the castle’s visitors. 


Autumn brought us Jacobites in the form of our Rebels & Redcoats event. Timed to mark the 300th anniversary of the Battle of Sherrifmuir, the event gave visitors the chance to meet the Jacobite rebels and Redcoat soldiers who clashed at the battle.




The year ended on a high note when we hosted Outlander author, Diana Gabaldon, and local historian and TV presenter Neil Oliver who joined forces to launch the Scottish Book Trust’s “Book Week Scotland”.  The event sold out in record time and created huge buzz.  It’s great to see that Scotland’s history, fact or fictional,  is still capturing people’s attention and imagination.



But our top highlight of this year has been welcoming visitors from across the world, from sons & daughters of the rock to those from far flung corners, who shared in these special moments and great events with us.  We look forward to seeing even more of you in 2016, Year of Innovation, Architecture & Design.  Thank you all for your continued support.


For information on our 2016 programme sign up to our newsletter.

Twelve Days of Christmas gift guide

by StirlingCastle 14. December 2015 06:11

Our Clan & Christmas shop is brimming with unique gifts from books and toys to decorations and festive food but we’re most proud to be supporting both established Scottish brands and emerging local businesses.  Below we’ve selected twelve products, one for each day of Christmas, that may inspire those of you with some shopping still to do.




Scots Rubber Ducks
On the 1st day of xmas…go quackers for our Scottish rubber duckies!
Liven up bath time with our Scottish themed rubber ducks including Mary Queen of Scots, Robert the Bruce, William Wallace and our Scots Piper.  Perfect for kids of all ages!  Available in our shops and online store.



Dark Matter Rum
On the 2nd day of xmas...get to the dark of the matter with @darkmatterrum.
From the family-run Dark Matter Distillery in Banchory, the only one in Scotland producing its own rum, this molasses based drink features full-bodied notes of long pepper, fresh ginger, green peppercorns and allspice.



A Highland Christmas
on the 3rd day of xmas…all that glitters is not gold. Copper is this year’s festive trend!  One of this year’s biggest Christmas trends is copper.  Inspired by TV shows like Games of Thrones and Outlander, our Highland Christmas range includes an array of gifts from decorations to homeware and clothing which feature faux fur and warm earthy tones.



Poporopo Gourmet Popcorn
On the 4th day of xmas…combine two classic flavours for one great taste with @poporopo_corn! This Stirling-based company are the first Gourmet popcorn company in Scotland.  Combining great quality with great flavours, their new 2015 Christmas tins feature Chocolate Orange and Apple & Cinnamon flavours!  How can you possibly resist? 



Walkers Christmas Shortbread tins
on the 5th day of xmas…Wibble wobble with these jolly shortbread tins from @Shortbread.  Tuck in to walkers world-famous short bread this festive season. These santa and snowman Christmas tins wobble when provoked! Give your first footers the best this Hogmanay and keep the kids occupied for hours.



Harris Tweed
On the 6th day of xmas…backpacking has never been as glamorous with this classic @HarrisTweed bag. This much loved brand has been going from strength to strength, working with up and coming designers to create new products and bring new designs to a younger market.  We have an array of gifts featuring both contemporary fabrics as well as the classic tweeds from wall clocks and hand bags to gloves and hip flasks.



The Wee Kitchen Company Chilli Jams 
On the 7th day of xmas…spice up your life with these delicious chilli jams from the Wee Kitchen Company.  This Stirling-based, family-run company really know how to produce winning combinations including red pepper, pineapple, ginger & lime and caramelised red onion chilli jams.  A taste explosion that will have you coming back again and again.



Bowzo’s Dog Collars
On the 8th day of xmas…our bowzo’s dog collars are not just for xmas but suitable for year-round wear.  Fashioned from Harris Tweed these cute handmade collars come with detachable bow and are available in a range of colours and sizes to suit dogs of all breeds.  We also have Harris Tweed dog jackets in store.  Perfect for the best-dressed dogs in town.



Eden Mill Gin
On the 9th day of xmas…fall in love this festive season with @edenmill gins
Made in St Andrews these gins are produced in a combined craft brewery and distillery, unique in Scotland.  Their Love gin recipe incorporates five core botanicals resulting in a stunning pink colour and citrus flavour while the Oak blend is a throwback to the era of exporting gin in large wooden barrels.



Enchanted Forest Colouring book 
On the 10th day of xmas…have a colourful time with one of the biggest trends of the season with @johannabasford.  The Enchanted Forest is the second colouring book from Johanna who graduated from Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art & Design in Dundee.  As well as drawings to complete, there are hidden objects to find on the way taking you on a journey from the entrance to the forest to the castle through mazes and across the tree tops.  At the end of the book, use the symbols to unlock the castle door and reveal the hidden secret within.  Much of Johanna’s work reflects the flora and fauna that surrounded her growing up  in rural Scotland.



Whisky Sauce Company
on the 11th day of xmas…heat up your holiday dishes with these delicious sauces from @WhiskySauceCo. Born out of a passion for good food and a love of whisky, Scotch whisky sauces are made from 100% natural ingredients. This Dundee based business have over two decades experience in making quality food with the finest Scottish ingredients and have some great recipes on their website.



Magnum Cream Liqueur
On the 12th day of xmas…raise a glass of good cheer with Magnum Cream Liqueur.
Created from a blend of the finest vatted Highland Scotch whisky and real Dutch cream this rich liqueur has hints of caramel, chocolate and rich toffee. Packaged in a re-usable stainless steel flask with screwtop and handles it not only tastes great but looks great too.



Our Clan & Christmas Shop is located on the castle’s esplanade is free to visit. It is open daily from 9.30am until 5pm with late night opening till 8pm on Wednesday 16th & 23rd December. Free parking for up to 1 hour. You can find out more here.


If you can’t make it along to the castle check out our new online shop too.

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