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First Minister announces details of Renaissance Royal Palace Opening Event

15 March 2011


First Minister meets Mary of Guise     First Minister with Original Stirling Heads

First Minister Alex Salmond has revealed details of a weekend of celebrations to mark the opening of Stirling Castle’s Renaissance royal palace after a £12 million refurbishment.

He made the announcement during a visit to the palace where he saw the first of the original 16th-century Stirling Heads being prepared for display in a specially-created gallery on the upper floor.

At the same time he was introduced to costumed performers who will take part in the weekend event which is entitled Stirling Castle Presents – a Palace Fit for a Queen.

The First Minister also met some of the highly skilled traditional craftspeople who have played key roles in Historic Scotland’s project to return the royal apartments in the palace to how they may have looked in the 1540s.

Mr Salmond said: “I am delighted to announce what promises to be a great weekend of events to mark the opening of Stirling Castle’s Renaissance royal palace to the public. It’s a fitting opportunity to celebrate a real Scottish success story that will provide a significant boost to our tourism industry.

“A total of £12 million has been invested in transforming the palace interiors, creating a new gallery where the original Stirling Heads can go on permanent display, upgrading the main castle exhibition and introducing new interactive exhibits. This will undoubtedly attract many more visitors to the castle and also highlight everything else the area has to offer.

“I was also very pleased to meet some of the remarkable craftspeople who have worked so hard on this project and who are helping keep traditional skills alive for future generations.”

Stirling Castle Presents – a Palace Fit for a Queen will take place on 4th and 5th of June. It will be a specially ticketed event, with full public opening from Monday 6th.

Numbers are being limited to avoid overcrowding and tickets will need to be bought in advance.

Weekend opening hours will, though, be specially extended so those without tickets for the event will still be able to get in from 4pm, with the castle closing at 7pm.

The event will feature around 60 costumed performers putting on a range of displays, including everything from Renaissance cooking to medieval games.

The main attraction will be the chance to be among the very first people to explore the sumptuously refurbished palace interiors – which have been richly decorated in the style of the 1540s.

The event will recall the years during which Mary of Guise, widow of James V, made the newly-completed palace the heart of the royal court – and where her young daughter Mary Queen of Scots was brought up before being sent to France.

There will also be the chance to see the original Stirling Heads, which were removed from the ceiling of the King’s Inner Hall in 1777 and dispersed round Britain.

This will be the first time that all the survivors will have been together – and on public show – since the 18th century.

Sometimes known as Scotland’s other crown jewels because of their superb craftsmanship, the heads are metre-wide oak medallions depicting kings, queens, emperors, Classical heroes and figures from the Scottish court.

A replica set has been hand-carved and used to recreate the ceiling of the King’s Inner Hall, meaning visitors will be able to see how they would have looked when new.

Ruth Parsons, Historic Scotland Chief Executive, who showed the First Minister round the palace, said: “The project’s completion will be a tremendous moment for Historic Scotland, and everyone who has worked with us to make it possible.

“Our special celebratory event will be a fantastic chance to see the palace, and enjoy all the other new attractions we have to offer at the castle. It should be lots of fun, and make a great day out for all the family.

“The palace project is even more special because it’s the final stage in our ambitious plan to restore this beautiful Scottish Castle to its 16th-century glory.”

Notes for editors:

  • The new gallery where the Stirling Heads will go on display is called Image Makers for the King. It will give visitors the chance to discover how and why the heads were made and to find out about the marvellous stone statues which decorate the outside of the palace. Many have been eroded by centuries of exposure to the wild Scottish weather – but an audiovisual display uses special effects to morph one back to its original form and shows how it would have looked brightly painted. The gallery puts the reign of James V, who built the palace, and his queen Mary of Guise in context. Visitors can find out about their world, and the place of Scotland in 16th-century Europe.

  • Groups of the heads were previously on display in the palace and also at Stirling’s Smith Gallery. Three are on loan from National Museums Scotland. In recent years most of those in the care of Historic Scotland have been in storage for safe keeping, with two exhibited in the Chapel Royal.

  • Tickets for Stirling Castle Presents – a Palace Fit for a Queen will cost £13 for adults, £10 for concessions and £6.50 for children and will go on sale from 1 May – details will be available on the Stirling Castle website at and the Historic Scotland website at There will also be information in the press and on the radio.

  • Historic Scotland has previously carried out full restorations of the Great Hall and the Chapel Royal.

  • 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.

For further information

Matthew Shelley
01786 431 325 or 07786 704 299

Iona Matheson
Communications and Media Officer
Communications and Media
0131 668 8703 or 07827 956 858

Nicola McCrae
Marketing Executive
Stirling Castle
01786 431 325