We concluded yesterday's segment of the Stirling Virtual Tour on Broad street, just before heading into one of the finest surviving examples in the world of a 17th century (1600's) town home. This home is known as Argyll's Ludging, named after Sir William Alexander, 1st Earl of Stirling. He was NOT part of the Stirling family, a fairly common mistake made by many researchers and genealogists, but part of the Alexander Clan. One of his descendants was known in America as Lord Stirling, and served both his young country and General George Washington fully and ably in the Revolutionary War.
This home was built in the early 1600's and has undergone numerous updates and changes during it's long life. It was purchased by the Earl of Stirling in 1629. He added to it significantly, then in the 1670's Archibald Campbell the 9th Earl of Argyll added the south and west wings, making the house look basically like it does today.The entrance to this house is spectacular, coming off the castle wynd to this courtyard. You can see the Earl's coat of arms in the wall in front of you.
LAIGH HALL (Lower Hall)
The lower floor was comprised of rooms for his senior attendants, a Lower Hall (Laigh Hall) where these people ate and attended to their business.
The oldest kitchen is in the Northeast corner of the house, in the 1670's a larger more modern kitchen was added to the house, extending it towards the street. This modern (??) update included features such as a much larger fireplace, and hooks setup in the ceiling for smoking meats. In one corner of the massive fireplace is a small cubbyhole where salt was kept from getting damp.
HIGH DINING ROOM
It was in this room where the bulk of the Earls guests were greeted, wined and dined, and entertainment provided. The walls were painted in 1675 by David MacBeth, and in that day and age the fireplace was brightly painted. The room is spectacular, the pictures really not doing justice to this wonderful example.
Here is the main living area for the Earl and his wife. There are massive draperies over the walls, this was done to cut down on drafts. It is very windy today, and from time to time you can still feel a draft of cold air blast through the house as you go through it. I can't imagine what it must have been like in the 1670's on a day like this!! Brrr! It was in these apartments that the Duke of Cumberland stayed in 1746 while crushing the Jacobite movement in Scotland.
17TH CENTURY BATHROOM
This tiny (and I do mean tiny) little alcove off the main bedroom functioned as a bathroom, a wooden chamber pot set inside. No person over about 5 foot 6 inches tall could get in there.
IMPORTANT TO STIRLING ANCESTORS
This house is important to Clan Stirling for a number of reasons. At least some of our ancestors were guests or conducted business both personal and state inside these walls. I suggest you find a quiet corner of the house, and feel the energy and emotion as the building helps take you back to a time and age so different than our own.
About five more minutes of walking, and you are on your way up to the castle. The Wallace monument is off to your right, and the Robert the Bruce statue is directly ahead of you.
No building or location in Scotland is more closely linked to the concept of Scottish Freedom and liberty than this spot on castle rock. The rock was volcanically created over 350 million years ago. The castle you see here was not the first, in fact at least two foundations lie below the current walls and tresses. The castle as you see it was constructed in the 1400 and 1500's while the Kings of Scotland called it home. Much of the work was advanced by James III, IV and V. As a family unit we are fortunate to bear the name of this area, and this icon of Scottish wisdom and thought. We should also remember it, particularly since our family has been involved in the leadership and liberty of this land for centuries. Our ancestors that came and fought in the war for independence in America did not learn those ideals and values there, they forged them here, nearby.
QUEEN ANNE GARDENS
Inside the outer defenses is a lovely garden for the Queen. During the 1950-1964 time frame soldiers of the British Army were garrisoned at the castle, and had garden bowling contests here.
The DOUGLAS GARDEN
Someday I'm going to have to come to Scotland in the summer to see just how beautiful this site is, today the wind is blowing so hard I can hardly stand still to take the picture.
THE GREAT HALL
This great hall was lousy for many years. The military had converted it to a barracks in standard military fashion, bricking up windows, destroying the hammer beam roof for a more modern one that leaked, and converting the inside to three floors to house 200 soldiers as a barracks. The building was gutted and built as it might have looked.
THE GREAT HALL
It's obvious that it looked something like it does today, but there are many features added to the rebuilt version that destroy a sense of history (like a bike parking area). It took 34 long years to finish this part of the castle, and it's an exciting development for the country. The tour guide I was with spoke several times of his dream to once again have state dinners and events of parliament here inside these walls.
INSIDE THE GREAT HALL
The roof is once again of a hammer beam variety, the Kings table and tapestries are spectacular. I was told the tapestries alone cost in excess of 3 million dollars. At the far end from the kings table is the entrance, a extremely wide door for the ladies dresses opened to an area set inside the oak partition so the guest could be trumpeted in by the trumpeters that would be standing along the balcony on the left side wall. The building is a different color than the rest of the castle, and stands out distinctly, even from several miles away.
In this chapel`Prince James was christened in 1546. I'm sure a number of the Stirlings were in attendance.
THE CHAPEL CHOIR
Today the hall is used for concerts, and other events. In fact the rock and roll group REM performed at the castle in 1999.
ANOTHER VIEW OF DOUGLAS GARDEN
The Douglas garden is on the northwest side of the castle, and faces towards Bridge of Allan, and LeCropt Parish, home of the Stirlings of Keir. In fact Keir house can be seen in the murky wind and rain, but I doubt will come out in these pictures. Too bad, this a spectacular spot. (More notes to come in summer next time!)
On the way out I stopped and talked with a couple of stone masons who were busily repairing some of the cobblestones in the inner close. It was interesting to learn how the stones are placed, that the rocks come from nearby, and to hear them discuss how proud they are to work on the castle. When I thanked them for their time they remarked in timeless Scottish Brogue - "Nay Botha!" The tour guide said I was the first visitor he'd had that seemed to be more interested in the stone masons than other parts of the castle.
INNER AND OUTER CLOSE
On the way out there are several more shots of the inner and outer close, and the Wallace Monument. I was struck by the Union Jack still flying at the head of the castle, something must be done about that someday....
OTHER SHOTS OF CASTLE
VIEW FROM LADIES KNOT
On the way out we walked up into the Holy Rude Cemetery to get some shots of the castle from Ladies Knot an outcrop of rock looking towards the castle. The sun had come out, but the wind is blowing so hard I can barely stand while taking the pictures.
When you come to Stirling, come to the castle. Plan on spending some time here, and bring lots of film. These shots are just a few of what is there, and we didn't visit many areas of the castle today. Find a quiet spot and sit down, think about what this spot has seen over the last 2000 years.