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Final rehearsals for Stirling Castle's Grand Renaissance Palace opening

1 June 2011

Join the fun at this weekend's most colourful event.

Final rehearsals are underway for this weekend’s grand opening of Stirling Castle’s Renaissance royal palace.

More than 60 costumed performers including jesters, musicians, dancers, swordsmen, cooks, nobles and even two 16th-century queens will be entertaining the crowds.

But the star attraction is the palace itself, with its six magnificently refurbished royal appointments, which back in the 1540s were home to dowager queen, Mary of Guise, and her young daughter Mary Queen of Scots.

The palace has been closed for two years while a £12 million project took place which has returned the apartments to how they may have looked in their heyday, and has seen the creation of new exhibitions and family-friendly interactive displays.

It’s best to buy tickets in advance online from the castle website, but some will now be available at the castle gate due to popular demand.

Gillian Macdonald, castle executive manager, said: “It’s been great seeing the rehearsals, and the performers will be putting on a fantastic show.

“It really will have something for everyone – sword fights, cannon firing, jesters, dancing, cookery demonstrations, music and dance.

“You may even be able to have an audience with her grace, Mary of Guise, and even see her daughter, Mary Queen of Scots.

“But the really big treat is the chance to be among the very first people to see inside the royal palace.

“The refurbishment is absolutely fabulous, and makes a wonderful new additions to Scotland’s list of visitor attractions.”

  • Tickets can be bought at

  • Free to use rehearsal pictures will be sent to picture desks by FTP from Rob McDougall.

Park and ride

The castle esplanade is going to be pretty full over the opening weekend, so we are having to close it to parking. However, there are special park and ride arrangements in place. Buses will run regularly from the Castle View Park and Ride off Junction 10 of the M9 – just follow the signs for Stirling Castle Weekend Event. The buses will take passengers up to the esplanade, with the last trip back to the business park being at 7.20pm.

Event highlights

  • Royal procession – 11.45am, Saturday only:  Mary of Guise, Mary Queen of Scots and the royal party arrive at the castle and are welcomed by cannon fire.

  • Feast your eyes: See a team of cooks prepare a feast fit for royalty. They will be roasting, boiling and poaching everything from venison, beef and trout to (a few) vegetables. But the main attractions are likely to be a decorated boar’s head, complete with apple in mouth, and a model warship made from sugar.

  • Gunpowder and rapiers: Four costumed gunners will fire salutes from a cannon set on the gatehouse. And there will be a Renaissance military encampment where visitors can find out how the bow and arrow is gradually being replaced by the gun and see why gentlemen are prefer the rapiers to the broadsword.

  • Meet the mighty: Mary of Guise, widow of James V, along with little Mary Queen of Scots, will meet their subjects. Remember to bow and curtsey.

  • Plots and politics: Dramatic events are shaking Scotland – meet the French ambassador Henri Cleutin and his rivals at court as they cook up all sorts of plots, but beware, it could spill over into swordfights at any moment.

  • Looks could kill: A make-up demonstration will reveal the beauty secrets of Renaissance women. It will also explain the risks, as cosmetics contained poisonous substances including lead. Visitors can see how a lady was dressed by her servants each morning, beginning with a shift and tight corset.

  • What a giggle: Sir Guy de Brouillard and his Fool Peterkin will entertain the crowd with jokes, juggling and acrobatics.

  • Sounds of the 40s – that’s the 1540s: Hear the hurdy gurdy and a harp-type instrument called a psaltery. Then there’s the racket, a small wind instrument which makes a big noise.

  • Strutting their stuff: See displays of Renaissance dance of the types that courtiers and nobles would have enjoyed at a major royal party.

Opening arrangements

Tickets for Stirling Castle Presents – a Palace Fit for a Queen and are best purchased in advance from though some will be available at the gate. They are £13 adults, £6.50 children, £10 concessions.

The castle gates will open at 9.30am and activities start at 11.45am.

Opening hours have been specially extended on both days and people without event tickets can buy tickets after 4pm – the castle gates will shut at 7pm.

For further information

Matthew Shelley - 07786 704299

Ellen Drummond-Ferroni - 07801 820757

Nicola McCrae - 01786 431325

Lesley Brown - 0131 6688603

Notes for editors

  • For all the latest on the palace project, and everything else that happening at Stirling Castle, visit our website at and sign up for our free e-newsletter.

  • Stirling Castle is at the top of Stirling Old Town off the M9 at junction 9 or 10. Call 01786 450000

  • Historic Scotland has 345 historic properties and sites in its care. These include some of the leading tourism attractions in the country, including Edinburgh, Stirling, and Urquhart Castles, Fort George, Linlithgow Palace, the Border Abbeys, and Skara Brae. For further details visit:  

  • Historic Scotland’s Mission is to safeguard Scotland’s historic environment and to promote its understanding and enjoyment.

For further information

Matthew Shelley
07786 704 299 or 01786 431 325