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Go ahead for 12m Stirling Castle project

10 June 2008

Historic Scotland has announced it is to go ahead with a £12 million project to return the royal lodgings at Stirling Castle to their Renaissance magnificence.

The result will be a major new attraction that is predicted to raise castle visitor numbers to around 480,000 a year – compared to around 398,000 in 2007-08.

Visitors will not only be able to see how the king’s and queen’s halls and chambers may have looked in the mid-16th century, they will be welcomed and shown round by costumed interpreters richly dressed in authentic costumes of the era.

And the Stirling Heads – regarded by some as Scotland’s other crown jewels – will go on permanent public display. These intriguing hand-carved oak medallions, up to a metre in diameter, once adorned the ceilings of the palace, depicting kings, queens, courtiers, imps and other mythological creatures.

Chris Watkins head of Historic Scotland’s major projects team, said: “The conservation and presentation of James V’s magnificent Renaissance palace is the most ambitious phase of Historic Scotland’s project at Stirling Castle. “It will mark the culmination of many years of research and skilled conservation and craft work that have helped reinstate the splendour that the Stewart monarchs gave to Stirling.

“We have so far completed the refurbishment of the Great Hall and the Chapel Royal and this phase will help emphasise the grandeur of the palace, the royal lodgings and James V’s aspiration to create a Scottish court of European importance.

“All this, plus the chance to see the Stirling Heads, will further raise the castle’s profile in this country and overseas as a world-class attraction and a fantastic family day out.

“Much of the investment is from our own resources but we are delighted that the Scottish Government has provided the additional funds needed to carry out this part of the project.”

Some £9 million is being invested by Historic Scotland and an additional uplift of £3 million has been granted by the Scottish Government.

Linda Fabiani, MSP, Minister for Europe, External Affairs and Culture, said: “This is a bold and imaginative project that the Scottish Government is delighted to support. We are firmly committed to making the very most of the nation’s fabulous culture and heritage, which are so important to our tourism industry.

“I hope that once the palace project is complete it will attract many more visitors to Stirling from home and worldwide.”

King James V began building the palace block in 1538 as a sumptuous residence for himself and his Queen, Mary de Guise.

Extensive archaeological and historical research has taken place to ensure that every detail in the presented lodgings will be as authentic as possible.

Notes for editors

About the palace

  • Unlike Linlithgow Palace, which stands on its own, the palace at Stirling is a block within the castle walls. It is, nonetheless, the most prominent building in the castle with magnificent facades, some adorned with splendid statues. It is quadrangular in design with a central courtyard known as the Lion’s Den.
  • The designer of the palace was probably one of several French master masons in James V’s employment, amongst whom we know the names of Mogin Martin, Nicholas Roy and John Roytell, though it is likely that Hamilton of Finnart, the king’s principal master of work, was also closely involved in the process. The resultant building is of outstanding interest as an example of royal planning, which reflects contemporary ideas on the architectural expression of royal authority and the increasingly sophisticated protocol of courtly life.

The Stirling Castle Project

  • Stirling Castle and its palace fell into disrepair in the 17th century and when James Duke of Albany and York (the future James VII and II) visited in 1681 it was deemed unfit for him to stay there.
  • Neglect led to decay in parts of the palace. But refitting for military use ensured that some parts remained in very good condition as the army often covered up, rather than removed, original features.
  • The castle ceased being a military depot in 1964. It later became a paid-for visitor attraction in but many of the buildings were largely bare and there was little in the way of exhibits or information.

  • In 1991 Historic Scotland put forward proposals for a multi-phase project to turn the castle into a world-class visitor attraction. This has seen ongoing major conservation work to preserve the castle as a monument of major national and international importance.

Achievements to date include the:

  • return of the Great Hall to how it appeared in the days of the Stewart kings and queens

  • new shop and ticketing facilities

  • provision of education rooms

  • addition of the tapestry studio

  • return of the Great Kitchens to how they might have been in the Middle Ages

  • refurbishment of the Chapel Royal

  • creation of a modern café

  • conservation and maintenance of all areas of the castle.

The palace now

  • Recent years have seen parts of the palace closed for a major programme of archaeological research – the largest of its kind on a building in Scotland.
  • At present the royal lodgings, on the ground floor, have been stripped of cementicious plaster to conserve the historic fabric and exposed the underlying archaeology of the building. Visitors are currently able to see the archaeology and marvellous architectural detail, including the great fireplaces. The Palace will be closed to visitors in August 2008 to reopen in 2011.
  • The first floor is largely unused at present. Its fittings are much as they were when the army departed and, in some cases, date back to the 18th century. The interior will be kept intact when this area is transformed into the Renaissance Gallery.
  • The vaults contain exhibits about life at Stirling’s royal court. These will be upgraded.
  • A major project is also underway to hand weave a set of tapestries similar to ones that hung at the castle in the 16th century. Visitors can watch the weavers at work on the Hunt of the Unicorn series when they visit the castle.

The palace project

  • The conservation project at the palace is due to be ready for public opening in the spring of 2011. The palace will be closed in the meantime, but there will new information displayed about the project.

Project highlights include the:

  • conservation of the Queen’s Outer Hall, Queen’s Inner Hall and Queen’s Bed Chamber so they are fully decorated and furnished in mid-16th century style

  • re-presentation of the King’s Outer Hall, King’s Inner Hall and King’s Bed Chamber as splendidly decorated, but unfurnished, lodgings – as it is believed they were after the death of James V

  • costumed interpreters who will help bring the past of the palace to life for visitors

  • creation of a Renaissance Gallery on the upper floor of the palace, where the original Stirling Heads will be displayed

  • displays and exhibits in the Renaissance Gallery allowing visitors to find out about Scotland’s place in Renaissance Europe and which explore the story behind the marvellous stone statuary on the outside of the palace

  • updating of exhibitions about the lives of courtiers, including jesters and musicians, in the palace vaults

  • modernisation of the introductory display, telling the story of Stirling Castle throughout the ages, in the Queen Anne casemates.

About Historic Scotland
Historic Scotland is an agency of the Scottish Government. It cares for 345 sites of national importance which cover 5,000 years of history. It is also Scotland’s largest operator of paid-for visitor attractions. These include premier sites like Edinburgh, Stirling and Urquhart castles. For further information visit.

For further information

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