Around 1500, James IV embarked on a major building programme at Stirling, which included an impressive new Forework around the entrance.
A Processional Entrance
James was fascinated by the code of chivalry and the legends of King Arthur. His Forework was seen as a breathtaking processional entrance into the royal castle.
Double The Towers
Today the Forework is dominated by two circular towers on either side of the entrance. Originally, there were four towers – two on each side – and they rose to more than twice their present height. At their summits were steep conical turrets, stepped gables and gilded stone lions and unicorns.
Today the stonework is bare, but in the 1500s the walls were probably coated in ‘king’s gold’. This was a golden-yellow limewash – the colour now used on the restored Great Hall. Displayed above the central doorway were the royal arms of Scotland, the lion rampant, painted in bright colours.
The Wider Picture
A tall wall flanked the entrance gateway, defending the whole south face of the castle. At its corners stood two rectangular towers. The Prince’s Tower still stands at the west (left), now integrated into the Palace added by James V. Only the ground floor and basement survive of the Elphinstone Tower at the east (right). These towers were mini castles in their own right, fitted out with kitchens and providing residences for senior officials including the Constable who looked after the castle for the king.
In 1651, the castle was besieged and taken by General George Monck, Oliver Cromwell’s commander in Scotland. The Forework sustained some damage, and bullet marks can still be seen.