Stirling, view from the Wallace Monument

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Stirling, view from the Wallace Monument ( 640x480 )
Stirling Castle is one of the grandest in Scotland, one of the largest and most important both historically and architecturally. It is, as well, one of the most popular visitor attractions in the country managed by Historic Scotland. The castle stands 76 metres above the plain on an extinct volcano. It is surrounded on three sides by steep cliffs, giving it a strong defensive position.

This strategic position may have been the site of Picts’ fort and it definitelly was of Romans’. It was later replaced by a new castle commissioned by the Scottish King Alexander I. For a short period of time, between 1174 and 1189, it was garrisoned by English soldiers. During the 13th and 14th century Wars of Independence Stirling was the strategic military key to the kingdom. Mostly in this period Stirling Castle was sieged and it got to English hands several times. The very last siege of the castle was in 1746 when Bonnie Prince Charlie unsuccessfully tried to take the castle. Stirling Castle was the famous royal residence of many of the Stuart Monarchs. Many important events from Scotland's past took place at Stirling Castle, including the violent murder of the eighth Earl of Douglas by James II in 1452. It played an important role in the life of Mary Queen of Scots, too. She spent her childhood in the castle and Mary's coronation took place in the Chapel Royal in 1543. Several other Scottish kings and queens have been crowned here.

Most of the principal buildings of the castle date from the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. A few structures of the fourteenth century remain as well. The oldest buildings are King’s Old Building, the Great Hall, the Royal Palace, Chapel Royal and Nether Bailey. The outer defences fronting the town date from the early eighteenth century, although some parts, including the French Spur at the east end, are from the 16th century. There are two gardens within the castle. There are still efforts to restore the buildings inot their original state.

Stirling Castle has been the headquarters of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, although the regiment is no longer garrisoned there. The regimental museum is also located within the castle. The castle esplanade, or parade ground, has been used as an open-air concert venue for several noted acts. It also hosts the city’s hogmanay celebrations.

The castle is opened all year round except Christmas seven days a week. It is accessible for an admission. There is a gift shop, a book shop, a restaurant and a reasonable wheelchair access. Stirling Castle is rated a 5-star visitor attraction by VisitScotland.
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