Every year is a good year when you work at Stirling Castle but in the grand scheme of things 2014 has definite stand out. Billed as the year of Homecoming Scotland, when we braced ourselves to “welcome the world” it had a lot to live up to and it certainly didn’t disappoint.
Things at the castle got underway in May with Road to Bannockburn which told the story of the events that led up to the epic battle in the 700th anniversary year. This set up Bannockburn Live which took place just down the road at the new Bannockburn Experience in June. The same weekend Stirling welcomed thousands to National Armed Forces Day with the castle providing a spectacular backdrop to the activities including a fabulous Red Arrows display.
As we caught our breath, the amazing summer of sport was upon us. The castle, where the oldest football in the world was discovered, hosted a VisitScotland photo shoot with Scottish goalkeeper Alan Rough to mark the start of the World Cup. A few weeks later we were delighted to welcome Team Scotland to the Castle where they announced their final selection and staged their final portrait before Glasgow 2014. The castle was also selected as one of the sites for the Queen’s Baton Relay as it travelled round the country. It was a pleasure to welcome athletes and spectators from across the globe to the castle and the atmosphere was so celebratory.
As the autumn leaves turned red and the eyes of the world fell on Gleneagles for the Ryder Cup, our focus turned to marking the anniversary of WW1. Along with the Regimental Museum we staged an event Stirling 1914 that looked at the castle’s role as a recruitment centre and of the fate of the young locals who went off to the front line and the families they left behind. This was cemented in November when the castle was chosen for the launch of the Scottish Poppy Appeal fronted by local resident and strictly contestant Judy Murray.
As autumn gave way to winter we geared up for a fantastic festive programme which included carols, medieval merriment and Christmas lunch. We also opened our first ever Christmas Shop on the castle’s esplanade which has been a great success with visitors to the castle as well as locals.
In December we celebrated a poignant moment in the castle’s history when the 13-year Unicorn Tapestry Project came to its conclusion. The final tapestry in the series, “Mystic” was cut off the loom completing the series of seven. It will be hung in the palace in 2015.
This year, the world discovered something that all of us at the castle have known for a long time, that we truly are one of the greatest small countries in the world with the biggest, warmest welcome you can imagine.
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year from all at Stirling Castle. We can’t wait to see you again in 2015 for more of the same!