The browser you are using is out of date and is no longer supported. To view and use this site correctly, please update your browser to the latest version.

We're changing

We have created a new public body, Historic Environment Scotland. While we work on shaping our future we can reassure you that all services and products will continue as normal. Please follow our progress and find out more about our new organisation.

Largest Stirling tapestry unveiled

21 November 2008

A magnificent tapestry telling a mystical medieval tale is to be unveiled at Stirling Castle.

Entitled The Unicorn is Found, it is the largest of a series of seven tapestries being hand woven for the castle and measures 11 foot high by 12 foot wide.

Media are invited to an unveiling on Friday, 21 November at 11.15 am for 11.30 am in the castle’s Chapel Royal – this will also be attended by a specially invited audience.

The tapestries project, worth £2 million and due for completion in 2013, involves the creation of new versions of a surviving medieval set belonging to New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Much of the funding comes from the Quinque Foundation in the USA.

Chris Watkins, Historic Scotland head of major projects, said: “The unveiling of the new tapestry will be a landmark moment as it means we have past the half-way point in this remarkable project.

“It is the largest of the tapestries being woven and has taken years of work to complete.

“We are proud to be helping keep alive these ancient weaving skills and to be creating new versions of one of the world’s greatest surviving sets of medieval tapestries.

“It is known that a similar set of tapestries once graced the walls of the royal palace at Stirling Castle.

“This is a quite remarkable project because it allows the public to see what these kind of tapestries looked like when they were knew and we are very grateful to the Quinque Foundation for its tremendous support.”

The tapestries will eventually go on permanent display inside the castle’s royal palace which is currently being returned to how it might have looked in the mid-16th century.


  • Photographers are invited to attend the unveiling of the tapestry and are asked to arrive at the castle by 11.15 am
  • There will be the opportunity to photograph the tapestry in the Chapel Royal.
  • Weavers and members of the Historic Scotland project team will be available for photographs.


  • Members of the project team will be available for interviews either on the day at noon or in advance and under embargo. Please contact us and we will be pleased to make arrangements.


The tapestry

  • The Hunt of the Unicorn series tells a story that would have been familiar to people throughout medieval Europe. It involves the hunting and slaying of a unicorn in order to obtain its horn, which possessed mystical powers of purification. However, the unicorn is then restored to life. The story could be understood on two levels – as a tale of courtly love and a woman’s capture of a man’s heart – or as an allegory for the death and resurrection of Christ.

  • The Unicorn is Found shows the critical moment at which the hunters discover their prey. When found it is kneeling to dip its horn in a poisoned burn, thereby purifying the waters. Exotic birds and animals wait patiently for the magic to work so they can then drink the waters.

  • There was particular symbolism linked to the animals depicted. Among them is the lion, admired for its valour, and the stag which was respected for the way it protected its own kind from danger and was a destroyer of dangerous serpents.

  • The tapestries are being woven by experts from the West Dean Tapestry Studio, West Dean College, West Sussex. Some are being created at the college and others at the castle.

Shopping evening

  • On Thursday, 4 December Historic Scotland is offering local residents a chance to see the tapestry for free during a special Christmas shopping evening from 5.30 pm to 8.00 pm.
  • The evening opening will be for the Clan Shop on the esplanade and the main gift shop inside the castle walls.
  • Drinks and light refreshments will be offered to those who come along to look for gifts among the top-quality goods – including ceramics, books, malt whiskies, jewellery and toys – available at the castle’s shops. There will be a free gift wrapping service for purchases from any of the castle shops.
  • The Chapel Royal will be specially opened for the occasion so shoppers can enjoy the four of The Hunt of the Unicorn series which have so far been completed. Among the goods on sale will be a whole range inspired by the tapestries.
  • Stirling Castle is at the head of Stirling’s old town, off the M9 at junction 9 or 10. Parking will be free on the shopping evening.
  • Warm clothes are recommended in case of rain and cold weather.

Historic Scotland is delighted to be supporting the 2009 Year of Homecoming with a series of initiatives including family trails, spectacular events and the creation of a Homecoming Pass for heritage attractions in association with other heritage organisations.

For further information

Laura Varney
PR Executive
Marketing and Media
0131 668 8959 or 07769 630 763