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Stirling Castle
Photo credit: Blue Noun

Step 1 | Choosing your Castle

Hello English learners and friends of Blue Noun English Hub in Scotland!

 

Today we are talking castles. Our language school in Crieff, Perthshire is positioned equidistant to three amazing castles: Doune Castle, Huntingtower Castle and Stirling Castle.

Each of the three is a superb visit, each offers a different style of touristic experience. We’ll take our English learning guests to at least one of these castles during an immersion English week with our language school.

Stirling Castle is by far the most educational in terms of the displays and actors enhancing the visit.  It tends to be quite busy, however, so if you like to let your imagination lead your castle visit, read on for our tips to getting a powerful Stirling Castle experience.

If you are all about the educational aspect of your visit, it should be noted that Doune Castle’s audio guide is by Monty Python‘s Eric Idle (much of the Holy Grail was filmed at Doune Castle) – and it’s very entertaining.

 

 

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Stirling Castle, the roof of the Great Hall.
Photo credit: Blue Noun

 

“In my book, Huntingtower Castle gets points for not having actors in medieval costumes offering you facts. You are just left to get on with exploring the rooms and winding staircases yourself. “

Ruth, 2019

 Step 2 | Choose Your Timing!

Stirling Castle merits a visit any day.

We’ll talk more about the interior of the castle in another blog post, here we just want to guide you through what you can see from the castle’s outer walls – and encourage you into trying a dusk-laced visit.


Winter/autumn and mid-late afternoon are the best times to visit! 
 

 

“On Any Visit to Scotland, feeling alone in a Castle is a Must!”

Ruth, 2019

Our Top Tips

We love a castle visit at this time of year. Here are our top tips for our English Language School Visit to Stirling Castle.

 

  • If you go when there’s a nip in the air, you’ll be sharing it with fewer visitors – and feeling alone within the shadowy chambers, watchtowers and imposing walls is an essential part of the experience, as your imagination can more easily transport you back to the castle’s medieval past.

  • Wrap up warmly and you’ll want to spend dusk on the ramparts.

  • Watch the sunset by gazing across the remarkable landscape.

  • Bring a flask or get a takeaway hot chocolate from the cafe and enjoy the spectacle of the changing landscape.  

English Language Class Photography Trip Culross Fife
Stirling Castle, the castle ramparts as dusk arrives.
Photo credit: Blue Noun

Stirling Castle within its Landscape

Nestled into the shelter of the castle walls, you can’t help but wonder to what extent the views from the castle’s walls have changed over time.

Stirling Castle overlooks the City of Stirling and surrounding carse (a low, fertile strip of land along a river).

 

Around 8000 years ago this valley was under the sea as the River Forth was then a long inlet that almost bisected Scotland in two (a fossilised 72-foot blue whale skeleton was found where the University of Stirling is now sited).
 

The valley and the plug of hard volcanic rock where the castle sits were themselves scraped out by the movement of glaciers flowing east from the Highlands during the Ice Age.

The resulting carse is so flat that its river meanders across it in generous oxbow loops: becoming a silvery ribbon in low light.

English Language Class Photography Trip Culross Fife
View towards the Trossachs form Stirling Castle walls.
Photo credit: Blue Noun

International Visitors

Look up. The Carse of Stirling is winter home to migrating greylag and pink-footed geese.

At dusk, thousands of them settle along the wide mudflats of the Forth.

Despite being inland, Stirling lies where the North Sea mixes with the river Forth, making it brackish around Stirling and increasingly salty and tidal further east, where wide mudflats get revealed when the sea tides are low in the river and provide a rich feeding ground for geese and seabirds.

English Language Class Photography Trip Culross Fife
Winter can bring amazing clear skies.
Photo credit: Blue Noun

Visit Scotland | Flanders Moss

The western part of the Carse of Stirling is one of the last remnants of the great bogs that once covered much of Scotland. Flanders Moss NNR (National Nature Reserve), is one of the largest lowland raised bogs in Britain and one of the most intact raised bogs in Europe.

Remarkably, it has remained in a near-natural state since the carse drained 8000 years ago.

It provides vital habitat for many endangered species – and another taste of timelessness for visitors.

Stirling Castle’s Earthworks 

If you look down, directly below the castle you can see the King’s Park’s historic earthworks, which have been excavated and (re)formed into their original, geometric shapes.

Known as  King’s Knot and Ladies Knot, these built structures are where monarchs once partook in jousting, hawking and hunting. Their surrounding gardens once supplied castle dwellers with fruits and vegetables.

English Language Class Photography Trip Culross Fife
King’s Knot and Queen’s Knot
Photo credit: Blue Noun

Medieval Stirling

As night takes over the earth, look over our contemporary version of the still recognisably medieval townscape and the surrounding arable farmland: this land concealed generations of advancing armies, whose blood poured into its ground.

Witness the daily tableau of car lights and street lights twinkling on.

 
Look west, and enjoy the pink-tinged sky as the sun sets over snow-capped Trossachs mountains Ben More and Ben Ledi, the sun’s final rays will slide over the castle walls, before the chill of the night quickly sets in.
English Language Class Photography Trip Culross Fife
View towards the Trossachs form Stirling Castle walls.
Photo credit: Blue Noun

Imagine a River Red with Blood

Look northeast and in the distance you’ll see the Wallace Monument (commemorating battle hero William Wallace) light up.
 

One of the principal royal strongholds of the Kingdom of Scotland, Stirling was once a royal burgh and capital of Scotland.

Many battles from the War of Independence occurred around the Carse of Stirling, most notably the Battle of Stirling Bridge.

Stirling Castle was already in English hands when William Wallace led an attack on the invading English at Stirling Bridge. The Scots were outnumbered, but by attacking at the crossing point of the river, the English could not make full use of their cavalry or archers.

 

The English forces were ambushed after a sizeable (but beatable) portion of the army had crossed the bridge.

Those who crossed over struggled to retreat, whilst oncoming soldiers still tried to pile forwards, creating a bottleneck of vulnerable invaders, who were slain on a huge scale.

Fearing the massacre had rendered them outnumbered, the English commander ordered the immediate destruction of the bridge, leaving all remaining soldiers on the far side to be slain (or drowned as they struggled, heavily armoured into the Forth to escape).

Scottish casualties were not recorded.

The English lost 6000 men.

English Language Class Photography Trip Culross Fife
Flowers growing out of Stirling Castle’s walls.
Photo credit: Blue Noun

Tiny, Spirited Flowers

The victory at Stirling Bridge led to the ascent of William Wallace and he was named Guardian of Scotland.

The castle itself was in Scottish control once more, but only briefly. It went on to change hands many times again.

 
Look closely at the walls you are leaning on, and you can see scraggy plants growing impossibly from the ancient stonework: bright little buttons of yellow which seem unreasonably optimistic against the wind and craggy rock face.
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Stirling castle English language school visit
Stirling Castle’s at dusk
Photo credit: Blue Noun

It is from these walls that the king’s alchemist, John Damian, once flew.

 

Well, slightly.

King James IV was an intelligent monarch with an interest in medicine and even had a working knowledge of surgery.

Like most nobles of his time, he was excited by the potential of alchemy and the possibilities of alchemical research.

To this end, in around 1500 he brought an Italian alchemist to his court at Stirling Castle, whom he hoped would provide him with the most coveted treasure of the time: the Philosopher’s Stone.

Huge amounts of money (and copious amounts of whisky) were to fuel a variety of diverse scientific experiments by the alchemist.

 

By 1507, Damian had become obsessed with the notion of mechanical flight. Damian fashioned a pair of wings like those of a bird.
To test them out, on 27 September 1507, Damian threw himself from the top of Stirling Castle.
 
Damian fell downwards, and by landing in a dunghill, broke only his thigh bone.
 
He is recorded to have blamed the hen feathers in his wings instead of the eagle plumage that he had ordered (it was his opinion that the hen feathers were attracted to the ground and not to the sky, like those of the eagle).
 
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Stirling Castle rooftop in sunset
Photo credit: Blue Noun
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Thank you for reading about our English Language School visit to Stirling Castle.

I hope to have given you a taste of the atmosphere of a late afternoon wintery visit which allows you to feel alone in the castle and to absorb the sunset over the Carse of Stirling and its spectacular scenery.

Our English language school visit all kinds of cultural places – if you would like to read more try:

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Read more about Stirling Castle here.

Stirling castle English language school visit
English Language School Visit to Stirling Castle
Photo credit: Blue Noun

A quick note from the author

We began the Blue Noun blog back in 2019, when we called ourselves a ‘language school’ (we now call ourselves a language hub) and we were building up our business completely from scratch.

Our first few months were spent making friends in the community, researching homestay hosts for our language guests and finding out about all the good local places and activities to take our language learning guests.

In 2021 we moved the Blue Noun website to a different platform. We had the option of deleting these old blogs – they are very different form our current, more pedagogic style of posting, but I think they are quite charming to see how our young business grew, turning from a language school run by an artist – into a language hub which really began to focus on coaching artists in English by immersing them in creative environments.