Stirling - 'The Prospect of their Ma'ties Castle of Sterling'

A view of Sterling - now Stirling - Castle, most of which was built between 1496 and 1583. High on volcanic rock, the castle was a key strategic point for the defence and control of central Scotland. The outer walls of the present-day castle aren't shown here, as they were built between 1711 and 1714.

Soldiers with long pikes, and one carrying a shield, are alone or in small groups on the path in the foreground. Behind them, others are making their way up the hill. One is accompanying a woman who looks as though she may be carrying a basket.

Image from Theatrum Scotiae by John Slezer, 1693.

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  Read what Robert Sibbald wrote in Theatrum Scotiae about Stirling


To the Right Honourable John Earl of Marr, Lord Areskin and Garioch, &c. Hereditary Governour of Stirling.


Stirling is the Chief Town of the Shire of that Name, where the Sheriff keeps his Courts. It hath its Name from its Situation; for the Town stands upon the Descent of a steep Rock, at the Foot of which there runs a deep River call'd Boderia or Forth. It takes its Name from the Saxon Word Ster, which signifies a Hill, and Lin a Water.

It was of old called Binobara, which by some is judged to be Ptolomy's Vindouara: For Bin in our old Language signifies a Hill, and Vara a River; So that the Name which the Town now retains, is the Signification of the old Name thereof.

At the Head of the Town stands a well fortified Castle, adorned with stately Buildings in the former Age, by King James the V. This is the Place, as Tacitus observes, where Clyde and Forth being carried back divide from one another. For a great way they are separated by a small Neck of Land, which was then strengthned by a Garrison; and all that Isthmus was possessed by Soldiers, the Enemies being removed as it were into another Island, the Inscription on a Stone below the Castle toward the Bridge, which makes mention of a Wing of the Army that kept Watch there, seeming to intimate as much: And although the Romans did several times infest some Places beyond it by their Inroads, yet the Strength and Glory of the Roman Name had its Bound in this Place.

The King's Park lies at the very Foot of the Castle, and the City stands on the Back of a Hill toward the South. It is enclosed with a Wall, and toward the North, it is bounded with the River Forth, which crossed by a Bridge in that Place.

The Bridge is of hewen Stone, and fortified with an Iron-Gate. It consists of four stately Arches, and lies South and North.

The Ships at full Tide come up to the Bridge, and the Haven is a little below the same.

The Church, which is of hewen Stone built very artificially, stands in the Upper Part of the Town toward the East, adorned with a very high Tower.

Not far from the Church may be seen the Mansions of the Earls of Argyle and Marr, notable both for their Bigness and Artifice of their Structure.

The Earl of Marr is Governour of this Castle by Heritage. It hath a competent Number of Great Ordnance, for defending the Passage of the Bridge, and a sufficient Garrison established for its Security.

In times of Trouble the Chief Magazine of the Nation is usually transported to this Place, it lying upon a considerable Pass, and almost in the Center of the Kingdom.

As this City stands in a most commodious Place for Commerce, so it hath a most delectable and pleasant Prospect, by the great and various Windings of the River Forth, which are so extraordinary, that from the Bridge of Stirling to the Town of Allowa, it is 24 Miles by Water, and but 4 by Land.

Who was Robert Sibbald?

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