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

Authors at the Castle

by StirlingCastle 24. November 2015 10:36
Last night Stirling Castle helped the Scottish Book Trust kick off by hosting an evening with Outlander author Diana Gabaldon and historian Neil Oliver.



Sitting at the head of the packed Great Hall, next to a Christmas tree and in front of the large fireplace, this was the perfect venue for an intimate chat between two extraordinary writers of historic fiction.


Right at the start Neil Oliver managed to capture our hearts when admitting that Stirling Castle is his favourite castle (although rumour has it he says that about every place he visits).


And Diana Gabaldon drew us in with her tales of her characters not only coming to life in her head, but on film.



As both of the authors’ novels are set in the past, an obvious question was how they manage to find the right balance between fact and fiction.

“You’re not trying to teach people with your novels, your trying to enthuse them about a time in history,” Neil Oliver said.

We captured Diana Gabaldon’s response on video:




One of the highlights of the evening was Neil Oliver announcing that he is more than halfway through writing his next book – the sequel to Master of Shadows - and hopes to have it published by September 2016!



At the end of the evening, the audience was able to pose their own questions which resulted in some fascinating answers. For example, did you know that Neil Oliver is especially intrigued by the Neolithic period, stone circles and the mysteries that surround them? That he doesn’t like to read feedback and comments about his work? Or that Diana Gabaldon’s children have never read her books nor watched the Outlander series?


It was a fantastic evening, and we’re sure the authors will agree that the Great Hall was the perfect location for this literary trip into the past.


Are you planning an event? Stirling Castle is a great venue for both small and large events, whether it’s a weddingmedieval banquet or corporate function. Get in touch to see how we can make your event a success.


Find out about all the other events taking place for Book Week Scotland on the Scottish Book Trust website.

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Ten Things about Mary

by StirlingCastle 16. November 2015 05:46
Born 500 years ago this week, Mary of Guise is chiefly remembered as the mother of Mary Queen of Scots. But this remarkable Frenchwoman played a prominent role in Scottish public life for well over 20 years, before her death at Edinburgh Castle.

Here are 10 facts you may not have known about her.

Mary knew Madeleine, daughter of King Francis I, and on 1 January 1537 attended her wedding to James V of Scotland. 
Madeleine died a few months later, when Mary had just been widowed. Francis swiftly suggested her as a second bride for James. 
Henry VIII – as James V’s powerful uncle he was also represented among the Stirling Heads

Eager to rupture this Scottish–French alliance, Henry proposed marriage to Mary himself. She declined, reportedly saying she had ‘a very little neck’ – a tart reference to Anne Boleyn, whom Henry had beheaded the previous year.

Her marriage to James V in May 1538 was carried out by proxy in Paris. The bride and groom were united in Fife and the union blessed at St Andrews Cathedral.

James V received 150,000 livres in the marriage contract. In return, Mary gained Stirling CastleThreave Castle, Dingwall Castle, Falkland Palace and several earldoms.

Mary Queen of Scots, the daughter Mary of Guise fought hard to protect.

From her two marriages, Mary had four sons and a daughter. Only the youngest, Mary Queen of Scots, grew to adulthood.

Based mainly at Stirling Castle, she spent the rest of her life defending the interests of her daughter, strengthening Scotland’s alliance with France. 

Henry VIII tried to arrange a marriage between his son Edward and the infant queen. Mary of Guise thwarted him, arranging her daughter’s marriage to the French heir to the throne. In 1548, she accompanied Mary to Dumbarton Castle for her departure to France, but remained in Scotland to look after business. From 1554, she was regent, officially governing Scotland on behalf of her daughter.
She brought French troops to help defend Scotland, and French engineers to improve defences at Edinburgh Castle, Stirling Castle and Leith.

John Knox was one of Mary of Guise’s fiercest critics.

The Protestant firebrand John Knox criticised female rulers in his famous treatise The Monstrous Regimen [rule] of Women (1558). His main targets were the Catholic Mary of Guise and Mary I of England.

Mary faced considerable opposition to her regency. By summer 1560, she had been undermined by Protestant rebels and effectively overthrown.

A plaque at Edinburgh Castle commemorates Mary of Guise, or Lorraine.

As her regime crumbled, Mary fell ill with painful swelling, probably caused by heart failure. This eventually affected her brain, robbing her of the power of speech.

A carved stone plaque commemorates her at Edinburgh Castle, where she died on 11 June 1560.

- - -

* The Other Mary is at Edinburgh Castle on 21 & 22 November, 11.15am, 12.15pm, 2pm and 3pm. Book tickets here.

* An exhibition, also called The Other Mary, can be seen at Stirling Castle until 30 November.

A Winter Warmer

by StirlingCastle 9. November 2015 04:25

In the winter we all look forward to some hearty food to keep us warm during the winter months.

This month in the Year of Food and Drink calendar we are going to take a closer look at the tasty foods the Scottish larder has to brighten up the dark winter days. This month at the Unicorn Café, one of the dishes we will be serving is stuffed baked potato Scottish style. Our in-house chef has given us the recipe, so we can also make it at home.  

Roasting Hot Stuffed Baked Potato & Mustard Butter & Curly Kale (serves 4


4 x Medium baking potatoes
160g Haggis
160g Turnip peeled and cut into 1 cm cubes
12 x Rashers of pancetta – preferable dry cured pork belly or streaky bacon
20ml Rapeseed oil
Sea salt flakes
160g Curly kale picked and washed
60ml Vegetable stock
30g Butter
30g Arran grain mustard


1. Washed and dried your baking potatoes, prick several times with the point of a sharp knife
2. Pour the rape seed oil in a bowl sprinkle in some sea salt, then rub on to the potatoes
3. Place on a tray in the oven 180 degrees for roughly 1.5 hours depending on potato size
4. When they are ready, they will be golden brown and when you squeeze then they will feel soft

5. Allow them to cool, slice through the potato long ways and scoop out leaving a potato skin shell, mash the scooped out potato and season with salt and pepper

6. Roll the mashed potato into 4 ball shapes

7. Boil the turnip, drain and mash, season with salt & pepper and allow to cool

8. After the turnip has cooled roll the turnip as you did with the potato
9. Roll the haggis into 4 balls as well
10. After you have rolled the haggis, turnip and potato, wrap the balls in the rashers of  pancetta
11. Place one of each of the balls in the baked potato shell
12. When the oven has reached 180 degrees, roast them in the oven for 20 minutes till piping hot and pancetta crisp.


13. In a saucepan add the vegetable stock, butter & Arran grain mustard and bring it to the boil

14. Add the curly kale and cook for 2 minutes

15. Serve the sauce with the stuffed baked potato

Happy cooking, share your photos with us at @stirlingcastle using the #HSEat


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