Did You Know?
Trapped on the bridge
At the Battle of Stirling Bridge in 1297, an army led by William Wallace and Andrew Murray overwhelmed a much larger English force, trapping them on the bridge across the River Forth. The old timber bridge was rebuilt in stone a short distance downstream in the 1500s.
The most important victory in Scotland’s military history was fought within sight of Stirling Castle. The Battle of Bannockburn took place on Midsummer’s Day 1314. The castle had been held by the English for 10 years and was under siege by the Scots. King Edward II of England led a 17,000-strong army to relieve the siege. King Robert the Bruce’s army of 8,000 men drove the English army into boggy ground by the Bannock Burn and inflicted a massacre.
The aftermath of Bannockburn changed Stirling Castle forever. After King Robert’s victory, the castle was surrendered to the Scots. Bruce ordered his men to smash its defences, in a bid to prevent the castle from being held against him again.
Wars of Independence
Stirling Castle changed hands eight times between 1296 and 1342. This period is known as the Wars of Independence. It began when Edward I of England invaded Scotland and ended when his grandson Edward III was finally driven out.
The North Gate is Stirling’s oldest surviving building. It was built in 1381, during the reign of Robert II. Traditionally, the North Gate is referred to as ‘the mint’. Coins were certainly struck at Stirling, but we don’t know whether the North Gate was ever used as a mint.
A brutal murder
A brutal royal murder took place at Stirling Castle. In February 1452. William, 8th Earl of Douglas was assassinated at Stirling Castle by James II and his courtiers. Legend says that he was stabbed 26 times. His corpse is said to have been thrown from a window down into the area now known as the Douglas Gardens.
Scotland’s first recorded attempt at flight took place at Stirling Castle in September 1507. John Damian, an Italian alchemist at the court of James IV, attempted to fly from the castle’s walls with the aid of feathered wings. He failed completely, landing in a dunghill and breaking his thigh.
A lion's den
Some say a lion was kept at Stirling Castle. James V’s Palace is built around an open rectangular courtyard known as the Lion’s Den. James did own at least one lion (heraldic symbol of the king of Scots) and it has been suggested that the Lion’s Den was where it was housed.
Mary Queen of Scots was crowned at Stirling Castle. The ceremony took place in September 1543 in the old Chapel Royal (no longer standing). The queen was only nine months old and cried throughout the ceremony.
Mary is said to have fallen in love at Stirling. In April 1565, her cousin Henry Stewart, Lord Darnley, fell ill. He was confined to his rooms at the castle. Mary helped nurse him back to health, and reputedly became infatuated with the handsome young man. They married in July the same year.
A ship-shape banquet
A full-sized ship was brought into the Great Hall during a banquet in 1594. The occasion being celebrated was the baptism of Prince Henry, eldest son of James VI. The ship was used to serve the fish course.
Footie at the castle
The world’s oldest surviving football was discovered at Stirling Castle. It was found lodged in the rafters of the Palace. It was made around 1540, from a pig’s bladder and a leather skin. It is now held by the Smith Art Gallery and Museum in Stirling.
Mel Gibson visited Stirling Castle in 1995. The Hollywood actor, who starred in and directed the film Braveheart, was here to attend the film’s premiere party.