Stirling: Mar's Wark
John Erskine, 1st Earl of Mar (c.1510–72), was a moderate Protestant during the tumultuous years of the Scottish Reformation.
As governor of Edinburgh Castle he maintained a neutral position during the regency of Mary of Guise (1554–60). But he turned against her daughter, Mary Queen of Scots, following the murder of Lord Darnley, Mary’s second husband, in 1567.
The earl was stripped of the governorship but compensated with the hereditary keepership of Stirling Castle. He was given custody of Mary’s infant son, the future James VI and, following the assassination in 1571 of Regent Moray, was rewarded with the regency. He died during his first year in office.
Mar began building his impressive Stirling town house, originally known as Mar’s Lodging, on becoming keeper of Stirling Castle. It remained unfinished at his death. His widow took up residence but never completed the original scheme.
James VI and Queen Anna briefly stayed here in 1593. Subsequent earls of Mar used it until the 1715 Jacobite Rising, led by the 6th Earl, who fled into exile as a result and forfeited his estates, including Mar’s Wark. Thereafter, it served as a workhouse for a time before being abandoned.
Mar’s Wark was a proud Renaissance mansion in its day. It still has an impressive entrance facade facing onto the street, dominated by a great arched pend, or passage, flanked by octagonal turrets. The façade features a wealth of sculptures, heraldic panels, gargoyles carved to resemble cannon and humorous rhyming inscriptions. The vaulted entrance pend led into a courtyard, around which were ranged two-storey lodgings.
- The entrance façade – still impressive despite the passing of time.