Stirling Castle - The Great Hall and Chapel
Once we'd finished exploring the ancient castle kitchens we were back outside again. We crossed the outer close and headed up through an arch at the upper side of the square into the inner close to go and explore the famous Great Hall.
Once in the inner close we were surrounded by the Great Hall, The Chapel, the Kings House (the oldest accommodation at the castle) and the Palace. So we started with the Great Hall.
The Great Hall, Stirling Castle
The Great Hall was built by James IV of Scotland between 1501 and 1504 and is the largest and oldest medieval hall in the country, measuring 138ft by 47ft - larger even that that in Edinburgh Castle
It was built as a sign of opulence and was host to many banquets - the most famous of which perhaps was when a masted fishing vessel was trundled down the hall and from which the fish dinner was served to the amazed guests.
The hall has undergone several transformations over the years, the most dramatic perhaps is the harling and lime washing on the outside walls in 1999. The effect of the striking Kings Gold colour can be seen for miles - although it may be time to give it a fresh coat.
The Scottish Coat of Arms up until the Union of the Crowns in 1603 featured two unicorns
The hall as it is seen currently was refurbished back to as close to the 1504 appearance as practicable. However due to economy drapes hang on the walls where tapestries would have adorned the chamber. We were informed by the guide however, that the drapes feature a pattern used in the early 1500s.
Behind the royal table hangs the old Scottish Coat of Arms. This featured two unicorns until the union of the crowns with England in 1603. Thereafter the shared UK coat of arms of the amalgamated kingdoms featured a lion and a unicorn.
The unicorn had apparently been chosen as it was a sign of purity, innocence and power in Celtic mythology.
More detail and information about this fascinating building can be found here: www.undiscoveredscotland.co.uk/stirling/stirlingcastle/greathall.html?utm_content=cmp-true
The Chapel Royal, Stirling Castle
After a good look around the Great Hall we were back out in the open again in the upper close. Perpendicular to the line of the hall is the Chapel Royal - one of many chapels which have been built at the castle since its inception in the 1100s.
The current chapel was completed in 1594 in time for the christening Prince Henry, son of James VI of Scotland (and 1st fo England). Amazingly the fresco decorations which were painted to celebrate this occasion survive in the chapel to this day
Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders' Museum
Continuing round the Inner Close in an anticlockwise fashion the next building is the oldest surviving accommodation block in the castle - the Kings House. Nowadays it houses the exhibition / museum dedicated to the former Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders Regiment which formed in 1881 when the Argyllshire Highlanders joined with the Sutherland Highlanders. The regiment survived until 2006 when it amalgamated into the Royal Regiment of Scotland
There are many interesting artefacts in the museum covering many years of the regiments but the regimental rams head with built in snuff box stays in the mind!
After a good look around the museum we moved on to the next building - the Royal Palace - see part 4