Woodinville, WA - December 10, 1997 One of the most interesting landmarks in all of Scotland is Stirling Castle. The castle sits on a crown of precipitous rock, overlooking a town built on a narrow ridge sloping eastward from the fortalice to the plain. This isolated carse of land and it's castle is surrounded by the adjacent Gowan hills, making this one of, if not the most beautiful mediaeval viewpoint in the world.
At the time of Edward I's invasion the Castle was reckoned to be the strongest in Scotland. What you can see today of the castle dates from the 15th century, while the history of this place goes back at least five centuries further.
From the earliest times the rugged security of Stirling Rock must have attracted Settlers to this place of refuge and point of vantage. Peat bogs used to surrounded the rock in ancient times, effectively accenting its isolation. This gave way to a structure which became a residence and refuge for kings, a prison for certain subjects through the histories, and a storehouse for munitions. This was one of the most strategic castles in all of Scotland, and one of the decisive battles of Scottish history was fought for the possession of it on the field of Bannockburn by Robert the Bruce.
Stirling from Torwood - 1672 The castle is first mentioned in history in the time of Alexander I, who, according to a document of the following reign, dedicated a chapel at Stirling. Alexander died at the Castle in 1124, and was succeeded by his brother David. David stayed frequently at Stirling, and it is likely he watched the beginnings of the nearby Abbey of Cambuskenneth, which he founded in 1147. The treaty of Falsaise in 1174 signed by William the Lion after the English captured him at Alnwick, mandated that a garrison of English soldiers would be sent here and to other Scottish castles of strategic importance. William the Lion returned from an expedition into Moray and died here in December of 1214.
During subsequent reigns the castle continued to be a favored resort, councils where held within its walls and new grounds were planned. Payments to the Sheriff of Stirling in 1263 (a Stirling ancestor!) included funds for feeding deer in winter, for the wages of a foxhunter to destroy vermin, and for strong wooden piling to enclose the new park. King Haakon of Norway attempted an invasion of the castle about this time, and the Exchequer Rolls record the services of those watching and guarding the castle while the King of Norway was around.
Wars of Independence
The period occupied by the struggle for the independence of Scotland begun by William Wallace and completed by Robert the Bruce is an outstanding section of the history of the Castle of Stirling. There was no fixed seat of government at that time, so the aim of the invader was to occupy the place of greatest strategic importance. Standing sentinel over the fords of the Forth and not far from the estuary, the Castle dominated the passage to the north of Scotland. Edward I captured the castle quite easily in 1296, but the following year the Scots under William Wallace dealt a severe blow to Edward by their victory at Stirling Bridge.
The outer courtyard of Stirling Castle around 1600, showing the Palace Block and the Great Hall.
Sir Marmaduke de Twenge found his position as keeper of the Castle unsafe, and he was forced to retire before the victorious Scots. The victory was short-lived however, as only a year later Edward retook the castle and began repairing the damage and destruction wrought on the castle by Wallace before he had to abandon the fortress.
EDWARD I besieges Stirling Castle, 1304
In 1304 the Castle was the last Scottish stronghold in patriots hands, and in April Edward began his siege. The king had spent the winter preparing; he had a large force of carpenters, ditchers, and other workmen who had been summoned from the Lothians. He had also constructed some of the most ingenious siege engines of attack up to that point in time. He had even forbade his knights to participate in tournaments without his special permission. Edward went so far as to command his son to procure lead to weight the siege engines by stripping the roofs of adjacent churches, leaving only the altars protected. For over three months the defenders held out, and their surrender was due to starvation rather than Edwards methods of attack. It is recorded that after he had dispatched the defenders to various English prisons he forbade any of his followers to enter the castle until it had been struck by "War-Wolf", a siege engine of novel construction. This assault was witnessed by the Queen and her ladies from a window specially constructed in a house in the town of Stirling.
For ten years the Castle remained a significant symbol of English authority, preventing travel and communication from the north and the south. In 1313 however, Edward Bruce, the brother of King Robert, blockaded the fortress until Sir Philip Mowbray the English governor proposed terms by which he agreed to surrender the Castle if it was not relieved before St. John's day, 24th June, 1314. Edward Bruce agreed to the terms, much to the alarm to his brother, who did not feel prepared to fight the English in a pitched battle.
If you go to Scotland Stirling Castle is one of the places you cannot miss if you really want to see and understand it's history and people. The castle and the town of Stirling are sometimes merely a wave through the glass for many tour buses on their way east from Glasgow to Edinburgh. Don't let the tour bus or tourist oriented gift shops and agencies take you past this incredible symbol of Scottish history, freedom and culture. You'll regret it if you don't. In 1996 during our first visit to Scotland my wife Cheri and I had to drop a hosted tour in Edinburgh, and go back to Stirling on our own. We've never regreted it!!