Some people prefer Stirling Castle over Edinburgh Castle, and having seen both I can appreciate why.
The first record of Stirling Castle dates from the 12th century, but most of the buildings withing the walls date from the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. The Palace was used as an army barracks until 1965. Now traces of army occupation have been removed and the original Renaissance interiors are being recreated where possible.
Surrounding the Inner Close are a series of notable buildings. The Palace, dating from the 1530s and the work of James V, is the first Renaissance palace in the British Isles. It contained separate suites of rooms for the king and the queen. The interiors were recently recreated, including the notable ceiling with carved and brightly painted heads.
The Great Hall was built by James IV from 1497 onwards. It had a hammerbeam roof and decorated crenellated parapet (now recreated in a recent restoration)
The Chapel Royal was built for James VI, in around 1594, replacing an earlier chapel.
The King’s Old Building, on the western side of the Inner Close, was built around 1497 for James IV. Sections of the building may be older. Parts of it have been altered or rebuilt since. Today the range contains exhibition rooms and the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders regimental museum.
There are are also various vaults and outworks to look at. Below the castle and car park is Argyll’s Lodging, a town house of historic interest. Access is free with a castle ticket.
There are fine views from the castle ramparts. Look out for the remains of formal gardens on the flat land far below.
There is so much to see at the Castle that you should plan for at least a half-day visit. This is easily expanded to a whole day if you want to walk around the old town as well. The Palace and the Great Hall interior are the highlights.
If you arrive by car, parking on the Castle esplanade is convenient but at £4, not cheap.