STIRLING CASTLE, SCOTLAND
Stirling Castle, sits, dominating a vast volcanic rock above the river Forth at the meeting point between Lowlands and Highlands.
Its origins are ancient and over the centuries it grew into a great royal residence and a powerful stronghold.
Comprising of several different buildings, each built with a specific purpose.
Most of the principal buildings of the castle, date from the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries.
A few structures remain from the fourteenth century, while the outer defences fronting the town date from the early eighteenth century.
James IV (reigned 14881513) kept a full Renaissance court, including alchemists, and sought to establish a palace to rival those in Europe, at Stirling.
The building works begun by James IV, had not been completed at the time of his death at the.
His successor, James V (reigned 15131542), was crowned in the chapel royal, and grew up in the castle.
James V continued and expanded his father's building programme, creating the centrepiece of the castle, the Royal Palace.
James V also died young, leaving unfinished work to be completed by his widow, Mary of Guise.
His infant daughter, Mary Queen of Scots, was brought to Stirling Castle for safety, and crowned in the chapel royal on 9th September 1543.
She too was brought up here, until she was sent to Inchmahome Priory, and then to France in 1548.
Queen Mary returned to Scotland in 1561, and visited Stirling Castle frequently.
She nursed Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley, through an illness here in 1565, and the two were soon married.
Their son, James VI, was baptised here in December 1566.
The Great Hall, is the largest of its kind ever built in Scotland and was used for feasts, dances and pageants.
Completed for James IV in 1503 it has four pairs of tall windows at the dais end, where the king and queen sat, and was heated by five large fireplaces.
There are galleries for minstrels and trumpeters.
In 1594 James VI held a banquet in the hall for the baptism of his son Prince Henry.
It was so lavish that the fish course was served from an enormous model wooden ship complete with firing cannons.
The palace is one of the best-preserved Renaissance buildings in the UK and has been refurbished to look as it might have done around 1540s.
The royal chambers include the magnificent rooms where nobles and courtiers met their monarch, and the bedrooms where the royals retired with their closest companions.
The Chapel Royal, was built on the orders of James VI, who wanted somewhere suitable for the baptism of his son and heir Prince Henry.
Dating from 1593-4 it was one of the first Protestant kirks in Scotland, and also the last royal building built at the castle.