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

A Visit to Stirling Castle

by StirlingCastle 7. October 2014 03:41

Today we have a guest post by travel writer Robin McKelvie, who recently took some young visitors for a trip to the castle. Here's how they got on.

 

 

Ask most people to name a Scottish city with a rugged castle sitting spectacularly atop a towering volcano at its heart and the chances are that they will think of Edinburgh. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge fan of Edinburgh’s world famous castle, but up the M9 in Stirling another remarkable fortification awaits in one of Scotland’s newest cities, as I found out when I took my young family to Stirling Castle for the first time.

 

Fun for All the Family

 

Stirling Castle for me manages to be all things to all people. I swept around learning more about its military history, both medieval and more modern in the form of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, who were garrisoned here until 1964. My wife enjoyed learning more about the magnificent Unicorn tapestries as well as watching enthralled as the workers in the Tapestry Studio worked on the next panel.

 

This was the first time I’d been with kids and it couldn’t have worked better for my two wee girls, as well as the couple of their pals and the brace of cousins we’d brought along to really road test Stirling Castle for families. We spent five hours here, but we discovered you really could easily spend all day.

 

 

A Fairytale Castle for Kids to Explore

 

Stirling Castle is every bit the fairytale castle perched on top of a craggy hill that Disney executives are so fond of. Our little minds spent the day wrapped in dreams of kings, queens and brave knights as they made their way around exploring the nooks and crannies of this massive attraction.

 

Just after entering their first temptation was the Queen Anne Garden. They raced around the lawn in front of the ramparts as the grown-ups took a little breather and admired the view out to the Trossachs. It feels like every time you peer out over the ramparts at Stirling Castle there seems to be an epic view stretching before you and that’s because there is.

 

Retreating inside to avoid a wee shower we found ourselves in the Castle Exhibition, which not only told much of the history of the castle and of various periods of Stuart dynasty intrigue, but also harboured an interactive skeleton that had the kids’ minds boggling.

 

 

Heading into the Vaults

 

It was time to head off now to an even more hands-on experience in the Palace Vaults. They are split into five parts - Painter, Carver, Tailor, Musician and Jester - each with its own brand of visual trickery and hands on things for the wee ones to enjoy.

 

Our group quickly became kings, queens and courtiers enthusiastically throwing on period garb and showing off their new attire in the large mirrors. They giggled with other children, but at the same time learned to appreciate how people once dressed in a way that was far more vivid than any lesson in school.

 

 

Lunch with a Unicorn and Stirling Castle’s Great Hall

 

We popped into the Unicorn Café for lunch and were glad to find a lot more than just excellent sandwiches. The grown ups tucked into pan-fried salmon served with samphire and tomatoes, or breaded Scottish chicken with potato wedges. The kids enjoyed their little lunch boxes before we came together for home baking to finish.

 

Refreshed, we pushed on to the spectacularly refurbished Great Hall. This for me is the grandest medieval hall left standing in Scotland. Its sheer scale and grandeur speaks volumes for the power and the ambition of the Stuart dynasty. Visitors young and old alike find it hard to resist the temptation to sit at the head table in the thrones and live out their king and queen fantasies. Our circus of children were no exception.

 

The castle’s palace has been quite beautifully refurbished as part of a £12 million project. This renaissance gem is no more mere museum piece as its hallowed rooms today once again echo with life. On our visit a troop of actors were on hand in each to tell their own stories and add colour to the history. My wee daughters were fascinated by the actors, especially the jester with his ‘funny guitar’.

 

 

A Final Family Flourish

 

We ended our visit with the kids embarking on one of the History Hunters Children’s Tours. Handily these tours, which run every day during the summer holidays and at weekends the rest of the year, are included in the admission price. They last for twenty minutes, which is just about the right time before wee ones have a chance to get bored. Not that being swept around a castle by a character in period costume could ever really be called boring!

 

Edinburgh Castle may be the mighty fortress most people think of when it comes to castles in the heart of Scottish cities. Stirling Castle, though, has plenty of charms of its own to offer and my troupe of children left with huge smiles on their faces and swirling dreams of ancient kings and queens alive in their keen minds.

 

Buy your tickets to Stirling Castle online

Read more visitor tips for Historic Scotland sites from Robin McKelvie on The Chain Mail

A win win situation!

by StirlingCastle 25. August 2014 09:00

We are delighted to have been shortlisted in the Best UK Heritage Attraction category of the 2014 British Travel Awards, the largest consumer-voted awards programme in the UK.



However we know first-hand that the competition will be stiff as the award has been won the last few years by our sister attraction, Edinburgh Castle!  Others nominated are Arundel Castle in West Sussex, the Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland and the National Maritime Museum in Cornwall.


The winner is voted for by the public and voting is now open until 30 September. Over a million votes were cast for last year’s awards, and the winners of the 2014 British Travel Awards will be announced at a ceremony on 26 November in London.



Liz Grant, Commercial Business Manager at Stirling Castle said: “I am delighted that Stirling Castle has been nominated for this prestigious award. An iconic site which has played a key role in Scotland’s history, it captivates visitors from around the world with its fascinating history and rich programme of events, exhibitions and historical re-enactments. I hope that visitors who’ve enjoyed their experience at Stirling Castle will get behind it and cast their votes.”


BTA’s chief executive Lorraine Barnes Burton said: “Stirling Castle is to be congratulated on reaching the voting stage of the prestigious British Travel Awards, the largest consumer voted awards programme in the UK. The BTAs winning accolade is the benchmark for excellence when it comes to finding out who really is the best in the business of travel for the UK consumer.


“There are more companies in the competition than ever before, and some great vote-incentive prizes for consumers. We will be promoting the voting period to over seven million potential voters via our media partnerships and direct email campaigns to previous voters and this year we are expecting a record number of votes, so good luck Stirling Castle.”


To vote (UK residents only) for Stirling Castle to win the Best UK Heritage Attraction Award at the 2014 British Travel Awards visit www.britishtravelawards.com

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Hop on over to Stirling

by StirlingCastle 8. August 2014 04:11

Destination Stirling has launched a trial hop-on, hop-off bus service linking Stirling’s key attractions including the Wallace Monument, Stirling Castle, Smith Art Gallery & Museum and the Battle of Bannockburn Experience. Running from Stirling train station the service is available to visitors 7 days a week until the 22 August.



Funded by Scottish Enterprise; Destination Stirling is a newly established industry-led destination organisation aimed at bringing tourism businesses together to drive forward the tourism agenda for Stirling. If successful this trial would pave the way for a sustainable future summer service. It’s hoped that this would also encourage more visitors to arrive by public transport with this service in place to circulate between the key attractions in the area. As well as attractions the service also links the city centre with local towns including Bridge of Allan and Bannockburn.


Destination Stirling has been working closely with existing operators First Bluebird to deliver the service. Stirling Council and the previous operator of the open top City Sightseeing Stirling Tour have also been closely involved and incredibly supportive. As part of this project there is also a focus on increasing the awareness of existing public transport routes to various attractions in and around Stirling.



Geoff Morrison, Destination Manager at Destination Stirling, says “Stirling has an outstanding tourism product and enormous potential for growth in the years ahead. This service offers clear benefits to both our visitors and our attractions and in turn enhances our tourism offering.”


A spokesperson from First Bluebird says "We are delighted to be able to operate the Stirling Free Tourist Service on a trial basis. Supporting our local communities is very important to us and we have worked hard to get this service up and running in a short period of time. We hope that the service will be popular and be the foundation for a more comprehensive service."


Stirling Provost Mike Robbins says "This a crucial time in the development of Stirling. The events of 2014 provide local businesses with unrivalled opportunities and it’s essential we take every opportunity to enhance the overall visitor experience. This new service is a fantastic addition to Stirling and it will be exciting to see it develop further.”


Since its launch last weekend the service has already been well received by visitors. The uptake and feedback throughout the trial period will be used to develop a case for a future sustainable service.


There is more information on the Destination Stirling website

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