Stirling Castle, Scotland, Part 4: Prince's Tower, Elphinstone Tower & The Battle of Stirling Bridge

Today we continue our tour of Stirling Castle. If you missed my previous posts, you can see them by clicking on the links: Part 1, the front, Part 2, The Palace and Stirling Heads, Part 3, Inside the Palace.

Stirling Castle was one of the most important castles in Scotland’s history for centuries because of its location and high position, overlooking the whole of the surrounding area. Edinburgh is to the south and the Highlands are to the north. Stirling overlooks the River Forth and therefore controlled who was allowed to cross it. Now, there are several routes north through Scotland. Hundreds of years ago, however, travel was much more challenging. Wide rivers were difficult to cross and bridges were few. Scotland also has many lochs and mountains that would’ve stood in the way of travelers back when there were very few roads.

Stirling’s strategic location was why so many monarchs lived here and made improvements to the castle over the centuries.

Prince's Tower attached to the Palace and Prince's Walk above the Queen Anne Garden.

The front portion of the curtain wall, built around 1500, would’ve reached from Prince’s Tower to Elphinstone Tower. Prince’s Tower is still almost as tall as it was when originally constructed as part of King James IV’s Forework, but Elphinstone Tower is now only a stub. James V had Prince’s Tower incorporated into the design of the Palace.

The fireplace inside the Prince's Tower
 Prince’s Tower, Cradle of the crown. In this room a sign is posted which says, “This tower, built as part of the Forework in about 1500, was traditionally the nursery of Scotland’s monarchs. James VI was taught here by the celebrated Protestant scholar George Buchanan. When James was an infant his mother Mary Queen of Scots complained that Stirling Castle was ‘incommodious, because, the situation being damp and cold, he was in danger of catching rheumatism.’ Scotland suffered repeated spells of uncertainty as seven successive monarchs, from James I onwards, started their reigns as children. Many were raised within the safety of Stirling Castle while noblemen jostled for power.”

Looking out the window in Prince’s Tower onto the Prince’s Walk and Queen Anne Garden. Tree ring dating of the timbers in the Prince's Tower confirmed the early 1500s construction. The tower was refurbished in 1593 by James VI in preparation for the birth of his first son, Prince Henry.

“Scratched into a window recess in the Prince’s Tower is what seems to be royal graffiti. James VI had the tower refitted for his son Henry, who may have scrawled: ‘God made Man and [Wom]an God made Man James 6’.

View from Prince's Walk. These massive stone vaults known as casemates were built to house troops in the event of a siege. The Castle Exhibition is housed here now. It is a museum with tons of information about how the castle was changed and improved by the various monarchs. Also the view to the south is impressive.

Elphinstone Tower: (Onsite information.) “This was home to the constable, who looked after the castle when the royal family was elsewhere. His kitchen was probably in the basement, where you can see volcanic dolerite jutting through the floor. The tower was shortened when converted into an artillery battery in 1689.”

Originally, this tower was just as tall as the Prince's Tower shown at the top, but now only the cellars remain. I must admit is it a slightly creepy place but I love visiting and exploring incredible old rooms.

Elphinstone Tower is said to be haunted and those who work at the castle prefer to avoid it. Strange events have been reported there, maybe because of the tragic history of the castle and the tower. Some believe the tower may have been used to imprison and torture people.

When we emerged from the cellars of the tower, this is the magnificent view we had.  It looks out over the area where The Battle of Stirling Bridge took place in 1297.
Click on the above photo to enlarge. 

When Alexander III, King of Scotland, died in 1286, this ended the peace between Scotland and England. Alexnder’s young granddaughter, Margaret, the Maid of Norway, was his obvious successor but she died in 1290 leaving no heir or successor. This left the throne open and many wanted to claim it. Edward I of England was supposed to sit in and decide who would be the best king for Scotland. He stayed at Stirling Castle in 1291, and decided John Balliol, Lord of Galloway, would be the best king for Scotland. Of course, he was someone Edward could easily control. Balliol was made king the next year. But in 1295, his followers signed a treaty with France against England. This infuriated Edward I and the Wars of Independence began, lasting for decades. In 1296, Edward attacked, removed John Balliol from power and took Stirling Castle. This was when Edward I earned the nickname ‘Hammer of the Scots.’

Another view from the Grand Battery.
But the Scots were determined to regain Stirling since it was the seat of power and this led to the Battle of Stirling Bridge the next year.  The Earl of Surrey was leading a large English force camped beneath Stirling Castle, still in English hands at that point. They soon discovered a large force of Scots led by William Wallace and Andrew Murray waiting on the other side of the river, at Abbey Craig (the rock cliff you can see in the photo next to the Wallace Monument.) When the English army crossed the bridge to engage them in battle, the Scots attacked. The English cavalry caught on the bridge were slain. Those who had already crossed the bridge were also trapped in a loop of the River Forth. Surrey abandoned the trapped soldiers and ordered that the timber bridge be destroyed. The Scots were victorious in this battle. But many more years of battles and sieges were to come, Stirling Castle switching hands multiple times.

The Wallace Monument. It sits on Abbey Craig, the forested cliff area where the Scots rushed down and attacked the English on the bridge.

Photo by Brenda B Taylor. Click to enlarge the photo.
Above is the view from the Wallace Monument toward Stirling Castle. A huge thanks to Brenda for sending it to me! The beige building is the great hall, which I'll talk about next time. If you look to the left of it, you will see the Grand Battery, along the crenelated wall, where I was standing when I took these photos.

Click on the above photo to enlarge it so you can read it.

Click on the above photo to enlarge it.

Cannons on the Grand Battery poised to blast anyone who dares attack.

Click on the above photo to enlarge it.

Stirling Old Bridge

Stirling Old Bridge was constructed around the year 1500. And it is downstream from where the earlier timber bridge was. (The one destroyed during the Battle of Stirling Bridge.) Evidence of that bridge was found in 1955 when a drought caused the river’s water level to drop. The stone piers could easily be seen at that point, but generally aren’t visible. This current bridge sits at what was the lowest bridging point over the River Forth for almost four centuries. During the Jacobite rebellion of 1745, the Southernmost arch was blown up by General Blackney to prevent the Highlanders from crossing. Another bridge, called Stirling New Bridge, was opened in 1833, just downstream. This one was designed by Robert Stevenson, grandfather of author, Robert Louis Stevenson.

I hope you enjoyed learning more about Stirling Castle and the area. I'm still not finished! I have more to show you next time. :)

Battle-hardened warrior Dirk MacLerie isn't who everyone thinks he is. He's Dirk MacKay, heir apparent to the MacKay chiefdom and Dunnakeil Castle on the far north coast of Scotland. When he returns home after a long absence, will his clan know him and will the duplicitous enemy who tried to murder him twelve years ago kill him in truth this time?

Lady Isobel MacKenzie is a beautiful young widow betrothed to yet another Highland chief by her brother's order. But when her future brother-in-law accosts her and threatens to kill her, she is forced to flee into a Highland snowstorm. When she runs into a rugged and imposing man she thought dead, she wonders if he will turn her over to her enemy or take her to safety.

Dirk remembers the enchanting, dark-eyed Isobel from when he was a lad, but now she is bound to another man by legal contract—an important detail she would prefer to forget. She wishes to choose her own husband and has her sights set on Dirk. But he would never steal another man's bride… would he? The tantalizing lady fires up his passions, testing his willpower and honor at every turn, even as some of his own treacherous clansmen plot his downfall.

Scotland, November 1618

Dirk MacKay urged his horse into a gallop along the narrow, muddy road that led from Draughon Castle toward Perth. Praying he wouldn't be too late to see his father alive one last time, he squinted against the cool, misty rain stinging his eyes.
The meager light of dawn hidden behind thick, leaden clouds provided little illumination. Greenish-brown hills dotted with grazing sheep and rolling beige grain fields sped by on either side of the road. Tulloch carried him closer to the thatched-roof stone crofters' cottages situated before a small wood of bare-limbed trees. A faint white mist hung over the massive River Tay, hidden amongst the bushes in the distance.
Dirk hoped he'd slipped away before his two friends knew what he was about. They would insist on going with him and he couldn't allow them to make such a sacrifice.
Lachlan was recently married and a newly titled earl and chief. He would be daft to accompany Dirk on a dangerous trek through the snowy Highlands to the edge of the earth, leaving his wife and clan to fend for themselves.
Although Robert "Rebbie" MacInnis, Earl of Rebbinglen, was a Highlander with naught to tie him down, Dirk wouldn't put his life in danger, either.
It wasn't simply the severe cold weather of the north that made Dirk worry over his friends' safety. A murderer lurked amongst his clansmen… a murderer who wanted Dirk dead, and wouldn't bat an eye at killing one of his friends, as well. He shook his head. Nay, he'd done the right thing by not asking Lachlan or Rebbie to risk their lives by traveling with him to Durness.
The three of them had been near inseparable for the past few years, but Dirk needed to handle this on his own. He'd been living in limbo for twelve years, and now it was time to return to his real life… to follow his destiny.
Behind him, quick, rhythmic hoof-beats pounded the road and spattered through puddles. A sharp whistle pierced the chill, wet air. Dirk glanced back to find a dark-haired, black-cloaked man following him.
"Damnation." How had he known? Dirk slowed his horse, then halted and turned to face his approaching friend. Tulloch, snorting at the interruption to his gleeful run, danced about beneath him. "Whoa, lad," Dirk said, trying to calm the horse.
When Rebbie drew up and stopped beside him, Dirk asked, "Where are you going?"
"A better question is where are you going? You left without a word. Luckily, I heard the floorboards creaking as you slipped past my chamber this morn. Does it have aught to do with that missive you received last evening?"
"I'm in no need of help," Dirk said, skirting the disconcerting question.
Rebbie's black brows lowered. "Even if you did need help, you're likely too proud to ask for it. What's happened to cause you to slip away..."
My Brave Highlander,  Vonda Sinclair


Roxy Boroughs said...

Amazing photos, as always. Enjoyed the excerpt.

Amy Jarecki said...

Loved learning about Stirling. Thanks for sharing your excerpt. My Brave Highlander looks like an intriguing read!

Paisley Kirkpatrick said...

In my weakened wintry mood, you go and put up these absolutely wonderful photos and the story to go along with them. Bless you, Vonda. I just loved them. The one through the window with the metal on the glass is one I've never seen. Gorgeous, gorgeous. I bet those princes didn't appreciate that view. Deep sigh - I wanta go back. I think I am going to go and sit on Santa's would be nice if Gerry was on duty that day. ;)

Anonymous said...

I've seen a lot of castles and this is one of the better ones. Thanks for the pictures and the history.

Vonda Sinclair said...

Thanks tons, Roxy! I'm so glad you liked both!

Amy, thanks for checking them out! I'm thrilled you liked the excerpt!

Vonda Sinclair said...

Paisley, isn't that a great view through that window? I loved it too. It's so neat to stand in the rooms where kings lived when they were little children. I would sit on Santa's lap too if he looked like Gerry! LOL

Ella, thanks! It is a huge castle with a rich history. A truly fascinating place.

Gerri Bowen said...

Wonderful photos, as always, Vonda. Thank you.

Vonda Sinclair said...

Thank you, Gerri! I'm happy you liked them!

Vanessa Holland said...

Wow, such amazing pictures. I would so love to go through those towers!

JC Page (Jennifer) said...

I am still in awe!! Will need to venture in your other readings next...missed the first ones I see. What a wonderful break to my evening. Can never thank you enough Vonda!! You always think of others :)

Vonda Sinclair said...

Thanks, Vanessa!! You would love the old towers!

JC, thanks so much!! I'm so glad you liked it! I hope you enjoy the other posts about Scotland too. I love sharing my pics and things I've learned. I want everyone to know how wonderful Scotland is. :)

Davie Mac said...

Great image of The Wallace Monument on the Abbey Craig in Stirling. Thanks for sharing.

Vonda Sinclair said...

Thank you for checking it out, Davie! I'm glad you enjoyed it.