My birthday started off with a warm, delicious breakfast of pain au chocolat, coffee with cream, and bacon! As my birthday was on Sunday, we went to church at the Church of the Holy Rude (Holy Cross), which is the second oldest building in Stirling after the castle.
It was founded in 1129 as the parish church of Stirling. The church is reputed to be the only church in the United Kingdom other than Westminster Abbey to have held a coronation and still be a living church today. The coronation on July 29, 1567 of James VI (13-month old infant son of Mary, Queen of Scots) is an important part of the history of Scotland, of the United Kingdom and of the Reformation. Just days earlier, she was forced to sign the instrument of abdication in favor of her son, Prince James. After the death of Queen Elizabeth I of England , King James VI of Scotland also became King James I of England.
When we walked into the church, we were greeted right away by two women (who we found out later were sisters). After the service, we were warmly greeted by several other members of the congregation and found out all sorts of interesting things about the church.
An older fellow took G and L up to the altar to see the angel window and show them the super old flags hanging from the wall, one was used at Waterloo! The angel window is there to remind people that there’s an angel in everyone. When the light shines through it, it shines on the cross.
Another man, who was referred to as the historian, pointed out to us that up high on one of the stone columns there’s a carving of King James IV. He went on to explain that court jesters were used for providing amusement at court, but that they also served as the whooping person in place of the young prince and princesses. As a result, one day, the court jester who took the place of Prince James, came into the church, while the stone mason was working and looked upset. He explained that the prince had been misbehaving and he had taken the whooping once again. The two of them devised a plan to get back at the king and the prince for this practice. The stone mason used the column right across from the carving of the king and made one of the court jester and made him slightly higher than the king, so he’d be closer to heaven and with his tongue sticking out at the king!
We enjoyed visiting with so many different people and having some coffee and cake, too, (which wasn’t for my birthday, but for a member of the congregation, who was celebrating his 70th birthday)! They couldn’t have been more friendly or welcoming!
After church, we walked up the cobble stoned street a bit to Stirling Castle. We’d been told by the tourist office the previous day that we should plan to spend about 2.5 hours. I think we ended up being there for almost 4 hours! It’s a fabulous castle with so much history and with all the information so well presented on boards, with interactive exhibits, and by costumed staff dressed as servants and court officials (below we learned about the oldest “foot” ball, the history of the golf ball, the term “caddie,” and chamber pots).
We started out in the Casements and Palace Vaults, which were part of the outer defenses of the castle. In the Casements, there was a Castle Exhibit that explained in great detail the history of the castle from it’s beginnings to the present day.
In the Palace Vaults, each room was full of interesting and interactive exhibits, specifically aimed at kids. In the tailor’s room, G tried on one of the period costumes and we smelled scents used to ward off bad smells.
In the music room, we learned more about medieval instruments (like the clavicle). In the painter’s room, L and G both read about how rare pigments were shipped from all over the world to create paints and dyes and then played a related game. In the carver’s room, we saw how the carvers created the Stirling Heads and stone carvings around the castle.
Below are replicas of the Stirling Heads. These replica medallions are installed on the ceiling of the King’s Inner Hall. The 16th century originals, which are 1-meter wide and made of oak are displayed in a special gallery in the castle. They were carved with images of kings, queens, nobles, Roman emperors and characters from the Bible and Classical mythology.
And in the jester’s room, L and G posed as jesters, we heard a jester tell some jokes. 🙂 In the picture below, there is wording above where L and G are that tells parents to peek in the window above them. When you do, you see a mirror reflection with their faces, but now the front of them shows them sitting on “thrones.” (You can see the reflection of Mike taking the picture.) Those crazy jesters and their silly sense of humor!
Stirling Castle, like Edinburgh, is situated atop a large volcanic rock above the river Forth. During the Wars of Independence, the castle changed hands eight times in 50 years. Both the battles of Stirling Bridge and Bannockburn took place nearby. Below are miscellaneous pictures:
View from inside the castle, looking down at the Queen Anne Garden and the steeple of the Church of the Holy Rude in the distance.
In the Great Hall, G and L posed as royalty!
In the kitchen area, L and G tried their hand at the mannequin challenge, which doesn’t work as well in a photo, but in real life, they could hold a pose!
After touring the castle, we stopped in the gift shop, where Mike and the kids found a birthday gift for me (sterling silver Scottish earrings with my birthstone in the middle :)) and then in the last gift shop on the castle grounds — The Clan and Craft — we found Santa and one of his elves! 🙂
We headed from the castle to get a birthday lunch/dinner at the kilted Kangaroo (the best part was the appetizer — crispy brie wedges with cranberry sauce). For dessert, we stopped at The Crossed Peels. Grace had fudge cake with ice cream; Mike had a fudge brownie with ice cream; Leo had a knickerbocker glory (a layered ice cream sundae with berries and fresh whipped cream); and I had sticky toffee pudding with ice cream.
How much better could a birthday be (for a gal who has always loved drawing and reading and looking at princess-y things) than to spend it at a castle?! 🙂 A royally, sweet birthday!