Stirling Castle Palace

By | Category: Photorial, Travel destinations

For over 900 years there has been a castle in Stirling and probably much earlier than that. What began as just a fortification became in the sixteenth century a renaissance location as James V decided to create palace in the French style of the day. He didn’t live long enough to fully enjoy it but his second wife, Mary of Guise, and his daughter did. His daughter was Mary, Queen of Scots who was born her in 1542.

some of the Stirling Heads

It was just over two years ago that the £12 million restoration of the palace was finished and re-opened to the public. And when the first visitors entered, they saw, for the first time in hundreds of years, how the palace might have looked in the time of Mary. The colours were bold and striking; any dullness caused by stark stone that was immediately lost to the eye by the brilliance of the furnishings. Not that there was much furniture that would have been in the castle in the sixteenth century.

two of the heads from classical times

The colour and quality was reflected in the tapestries, the wall hangings, the ceilings and the sculpture.

Perhaps the most famous feature of the Palace are the Stirling Heads, wooden carvings that depicted past Scottish monarchs, figures from antiquity and important connections and worthies of the time. But there is also a poet and a jester amongst the group as well!

and a head from the sixteenth century

Thirty-four heads have been preserved but most of the paint has disappeared and the visitor sees on flecks of paint on the otherwise wooden heads. But a complete reconstruction shows their splendour.

The heads are to be found in the six royal apartments which were part of the refurbishment.

and one of the original wooden carvings

The queen’s
apartments’ have authentic furnishings, including a four poster bed, luxurious wall hangings and huge, hand-woven tapestries. The kings have less adornment – apart from the Heads – possibly because James V died before he could have them fitted to his taste.

the hunt for the unicorn tapestry

The restoration revealed a lot about how the palace would have looked after its completion. What it hasn’t explained is the finding in palace rafters of a football, probably the earliest in the world. Now in the Smith Art Gallery and Museum in Stirling, did the king or his courtiers while away the hours by having a knockabout in the great hall?

where the football was found!

Unsurprisingly, visitor numbers grew after the re-opening had taken place. Next year as celebrations for remembering the Battle of Bannockburn take place in the nearby visitor centre, numbers will probably increase again as people visit both attractions along with the Wallace Memorial outside the city. But even on a busy weekend, there was still plenty of opportunity to marvel at the heads and the rest of the restoration and time to ask the “guides” dressed in period costume to explain details or have photographs taken.

ask a guide?


away from the ceilings and the tapestries, the furnishings may be sparse


not all rooms are so sumptuous


a sixteenth century lady


not a Scottish monarch or a courtier. Henry VIII -uncle of James V?

For more on Stirling Castle, click here

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