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

Prepare to be Amaized

by StirlingCastle 30. June 2015 09:24

As part of the year of Food and Drink, June sees the spotlight on development, skills and innovation.

Based in Stirling, Scotland’s first gourmet popcorn company, Poporopo, has 4 set flavours, but also creates customised flavours to order. We recently spoke to Daman Bush from Poporopo and popped a few questions his way…

How did you come up with the different flavour combinations for your popcorn?

For us, popcorn is all about fun and experimentation. Chilli & Lime is adventurous, Sweet Ginger is homely and reminded us of being young kids, when life was all about fun - we wanted to bring back that childhood flavour for people. Peanut Butter was simply a challenge with delicious results, and our Isle of Skye Sea Salt Caramel was about beginning to work with other small Scottish producers who have the same love of good food as we do.

Is there any flavour combination that you haven’t made yet but would like to introduce to the range?

A real favourite flavour of ours is Whisky, so to bring a nice Malt Whisky flavour into our range would be amazing. We also have a coconut caramel with milk chocolate drizzle in development.

As a popcornisseur, what drinks would you recommend to go with each of the flavours in your range?

Chilli & Lime is a real adults popcorn and works perfect with a white wine or Indian Pale Ale. Sweet Ginger is best with a ginger beer for a full-on childhood taste. Peanut Butter works well with a vanilla milkshake, and Isle of Skye Sea Salt Caramel is a perfect all-rounder; ideal with a cloudy lemonade in the summer, or hot chocolate in the winter.

As part of the year of food and drink, this month focusses on the innovation and future of food. If you were asked to create an innovative flavour specifically for Stirling Castle, what would it be?

It would have to be Cranachan. This is a traditional Scottish desert enjoyed for many years, and brings together flavours that we love; such as malt whisky, honey and raspberries. These would work well with our traditional caramel.

Poporopo Amaizing Popcorn comes in 4 different, delicious flavours and is part of our food ranges at our Stirling Castle and Edinburgh Castle gift shops!

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Mystic Hunt for the Unicorn Unveiled

by StirlingCastle 22. June 2015 11:04

The final tapestry in the series ‘The Mystic Hunt of the Unicorn’ was unveiled in the Queen’s Inner Hall today (Tuesday, 23rd June), marking the culmination of the biggest tapestry project undertaken in the UK in the last 100 years. Ruth Jones, Associate Weaver explains more about this fantastic project.

James V built the Palace Apartments at Stirling Castle in 1540 as a home for his new French wife, Marie de Guise and his extensive art collection. Royal tapestry collections are known to have dazzled visiting ambassadors, visually representing power, wealth and the right to rule. We know from Royal Inventories housed in the National Archives in Edinburgh that James had over 100 tapestries, but not what happened to them. Dispersal of this glory has been the subject of fascinating conjecture by historians.

When Historic Scotland embarked on their project to restore the Royal Palace of Stirling Castle, patroness Helen Buchanan from the Quinque Foundation offered to help.  She stipulated that funds given were for the design and weaving of a new set of tapestries based on the recorded inventory of James V, which includes a reference to a ‘Historie of the Unicorne’. 


Helen Buchanan from the Quinque Foundation with the third of the Stirling Tapestries - The Unicorn is Killed and Brought to The Castle

This took the team to the United States, and to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, which is home to a set of seven 15th century Flemish tapestries ‘The Hunt of the Unicorn.’  The MET allowed them to trace newly digitized images of the famous Unicorn Tapestries as the basis for this educational endeavor.

West Dean Tapestry Studio was the educational and administrative partner chosen by Historic Scotland to recreate the tapestries. What started out as six weavers studying originals and weaving modern interpretations became an educational opportunity for many more weavers who came from around the UK and the world, replacing those first weavers and developing their own style of interpretation.

Progress shot of weaver working on 'The Mystic Hunt of the Unicorn' tapestry 

When I accepted the position of Associate Tapestry Weaver in 2012, the first thing that happened was I was introduced to the special circumstances of weaving on this Project. At West Dean College in West Sussex, I was trained to weave on the front side - a technique adopted from the beginning of the project as a way to allow weavers to learn more about medieval weaving, and to enable visitors to the public studio at Stirling Castle to watch the tapestry grow.

I arrived in Scotland on the shortest day of winter in 2012, and soon found that life in the Tapestry Studio was influenced by extreme weather conditions. This contact with the forces of nature seemed to inform progress on the tapestry, which was itself an allegory of the regenerative force in nature. Over two summers and three winters, the beautiful plants, animals and figures in the tapestry appeared, through the diligent work of a weaving team whose personal initials are immortalized as the last hem to be woven. This was folded back into a muslin lining that protects the tapestry from the slightly acidic conditions of the walls of the Queen’s Inner Hall.

Costumed performer as Mary of Guise inspecting 'The Unicorn at Bay' tapestry hanging in the Queen's Inner Hall in the Palace at Stirling Castle

The tapestry I worked on, the last tapestry to be woven, was based on two small fragments of a larger work in the Cloisters in New York that was badly damaged and cut over its 500-year history. From historical examples in other museums, a cartoon (from the Italian work ‘cartone’, meaning the working drawing sewn behind the warp threads for registration - a weaver will follow this like a road map) was conceived for this final work named after the fragments at the Met: ‘The Mystic Hunt of the Unicorn’. It will be seen for the first time this week in the Queen’s Inner Hall.

Detail of the tapestry with the ‘cartone’ used by weavers to help them see what to do next

I was given the honour of weaving the middle section of the tapestry. Humbled by this dream exposure to the intimate thoughts of top medieval tapestry artists, my job was to understand and interpret visual elements such as velvet, satin, human hands, faces, fur and the expressions of animals. Each day I grew closer to understanding those artists of 500 years ago.

Through this project, the public may now enjoy the fruits of all our study, and see for themselves how tapestry, with its modern threads, cotton warps, archival dyes and art school accolytes, can still inspire and sing from the walls as it did for the Royal Court of the 1500s.

The seven tapestries that tell the tale of ‘The Hunt for the Unicorn’ are now on display in The Queen’s Inner Hall of the Royal Palace at Stirling Castle.

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Shedding light on care and conservation

by StirlingCastle 15. June 2015 11:24

A special project was recently undertaken at the Museum of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, at Stirling Castle.

The Museum, which is governed by the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders Museum Trust, had a review carried out which highlighted the need for replacement lighting.

The purpose behind the project was to improve the lighting in places, reduce high levels of light in other areas, and in turn, lower the energy consumption overall.

Lower level lighting reduces glare on a collection of medals.

It was discovered during the project that previous, high lighting levels were producing excess heat, which in turn was detrimental for fragile items such as regimental flags. To counter this, lighting output was reduced significantly, and a more ambient atmosphere now awaits visitors.

Before and after. The muted lighting is less harmful to the flags on display.

Lighting the display cases proved to be challenging, as the text on the displays still had to be lit up enough for visitors to read without difficulty.  New LED strips and tubes were installed, which provides enough light to read by, while still reducing energy use.

The display cases now have more of a soft backlit effect.

To see more of the Museum’s collection, visit it at the King’s Old Building at Stirling Castle. It’ll brighten up your day!

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