Published: July 10th 2011July 5th 2011
This morning we returned to Stirling Castle - some 13 years after our first visit in 1997. The last time that we visited they were restoring the Great Hall and it was shrouded in scaffolding which somewhat spoiled the image of the castle perching on its bluff. We have always wanted to return to get a better impression of what the castle looks like when it's not obscured by restoration works.
We almost drove up to Stirling in 2009, but when we checked the web site we discovered that, while the Great Hall has been reopened, the State Apartments were closed due to refurbishments being undertaken!! After checking the web site on Saturday we were pretty confident that most of the site would be accessible today.
We decided to walk up to the castle via Gower Hill - a bit of a gruesome route which took us past the beheading stone!! When we arrived at the castle gates there wasn't much of a queue for tickets - which was good because we had decided not to purchase Fast Track tickets online when we were on the web site. We opted to buy the three day Historic Scotland Explorer Pass
that entitles us to visit as many sites as we can fit into three days within five days of today, our day of purchase. Surely we can find another castle or two (hundred) to visit??!!
With a guided tour scheduled to commence at 11.00am we went into the castle grounds to find the meeting place. One of the castle's enthusiastic guides, Ross, took us for a very interesting walk around all of the site's main features. He was also able to tell us that the castle is closed tomorrow for no less a personage than THE QUEEN. Apparently Queen Elizabeth II will be at Stirling Castle tomorrow to officially open the State Apartments!!
Having gained a good overview of the site from our guided tour we spent a bit more time returning to the parts that interested us the most and going into some of the buildings that we had not entered during the tour, for example the Royal Palace (to see the newly refurbished State Apartments, the Stirling Heads Gallery, the Regimental Museum and the Great Kitchens.
We almost forgot to head out to the Tapestry Studio. I know it sounds boring, but it was really
interesting to see them working on the reproduction of one of the Hunt of the Unicorn tapestries. It has been an 11 year project to reproduce the seven tapestries in the series. We were able to see them putting the finishing touches to the sixth tapestry that is due to be cut off the loom next week. Honestly, I thought eight hours a day at a computer was tedious until I saw these people hunched over the tapestry loom!! The finished tapestries are hung on the walls of the Queen's Apartment in the Royal Palace.
After spending most of the day at the castle we joined the 4.15pm tour of Argyll's Lodging, the town house of Archibald Campbell, which can only be accessed as part of a guided tour from the castle. The ticket to the castle includes entry to Argyll's Lodging, but not many people seem to take advantage of it. Perhaps the 12.15pm and 2.15pm tours were more popular?
The lodgings were very interesting - we have found that the homes that have not been castles or palaces have provided an entirely different perspective on the lives that people led in times gone by. Of particular
interest to us were the playing cards - since we do like a game of cards - we were shown an old German deck that consisted of four 'suits': books, wine jugs, cups, and ink pads!!
From Argyll's Lodging we wandered down the hill wondering whether to have dinner while we were in town - rather than walk back to our B&B and then walk back into town for dinner. As we were pondering this, we walked past a hairdressing salon that was still open at 6.00pm. With Bernie seriously in need of a good clipping we went in to see if any of the staff could run the No.2 comb over his head and face. Not straight away we were told, but if you can come back in half an hour we should be able to fit you in.
We filled in half an hour sussing out a likely restaurant for dinner - I had a yearning for lasagne - and then had a drink, before heading back to the hairdresser. It seemed like it was apprentice night at the salon. We think all the customers there were getting discounted cuts as they were prepared to have
their hair cut by a trainee under supervision?? So Bernie was clipped by a terrified young girl as she received coaching on how to use the clippers from (we think) the salon owner/manager. And the best bit is ... when we went to pay, the owner/manager wouldn't take any payment because she said she appreciated Bernie providing an opportunity to show one of the girls how to use the clippers.
We walked around to our chosen restaurant, the Filling Station, for dinner which was HEAPS better than last night's meal. I had my lasagne, which was pretty good and Bernie had some delicious fajitas before we walked back to our B&B after being out all day.
There are more photos below