8 facts you may not know about Stirling Castle

Stirling Castle is known to many around the world as that place Mel Gibson fought for in Braveheart. While most Scots will cringe away from the horrific historical inaccuracies portrayed in those 177 minutes, here is a list of equally gory facts about one of the world’s most famous castles.

Stirling Castle was home to many Royals through out the years. Picture: Ian Rutherford

1. Mary, Queen of Scots spent much of her life here

One of the more notable royal figures, Mary spent much of her youth and adulthood in the castle. The youngest ruler of Scotland - her father, King James V, having died when Mary was only six-days-old - she was crowned at the Royal chapel here. She returned here in her later years, when her son James VI took residence at the palace.

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2. Stirling Castle was abandoned for many years

Stirling Castle sits high above the city of Stirling

The castle is one of the few that has not had a constant occupancy through out the years. During the Wars of Independence in 1296, when Edward invaded Scotland, he found the great castle empty and abandoned. This allowed the English king to set up a Scottish stronghold with relative ease.

3. The castle esplanade has featured in several music videos

The parade ground outside the castle has been used as an open-air concert venue through out the years. This includes R.E.M., Bob Dylan and Runrig, some of who filmed their live in concert DVDs here. Stirling’s Hogmanay celebrations are also held here every year, and live broadcasted on TV.

4. The Battle of Bannockburn had a scaring effect on the castle

In the aftermath of the famous bloody battle, King Robert the Bruce regained control of the castle. The impressive fortress had switched hands so many times during the Wars of Independence, that Robert ordered all of the defences to be destroyed so it could never be used against his efforts again.

5. A bloody murder took place here

While we know many killings took place here, none seem as violent and intentional as that of William, 8th Earl of Douglas. In February 1452, James II had the Earl assassinated with the help of his courtiers. He was stabbed 26 times, and then his body was flung from a castle window down into the gardens.

6. The first attempt at flight in Scotland happened here

In 1507, the very first record of an attempted flight took place on the castle walls.

An Italian alchemist by the name of John Damian was in attendance at the court of James IV. He believed that with the aid of feathered wings, he would be able to take flight, and jumped from the battlements. Of course, this failed spectacularly and instead, John landed in a dunghill and broke his thigh bone.

7. The oldest football in the world was discovered here

Mary, Queen of Scots loved sports and in particular, football. She even recorded playing a game in one of her diaries. Behind the panelling in the Queen’s chamber, the oldest surviving football in the world was discovered. No one knows how it got there, but speculation includes the queen hid it in a safe place to protect it from witch craft. The ball was made from an inflated pig’s bladder, wrapped with cow’s hide and is around half the size of footballs today.

8. There may have been a lion in the palace

Many people argue that James Vs lion was kept here. The king was known to have owned a lion as it was the symbol of the King of Scots. Within the castle there is an open rectangular courtyard, known as the Lion’s Den. This is where James is thought to have kept his pet.