The Nether Bailey occupies the lower part of the castle rock, to the north of the main area of the castle. It is accessed by descending through the North Gate, probably the oldest standing part of Stirling Castle.
As you emerge from the North Gate, the Nether Bailey can seem like another world. This is the least known and least visited part of the castle and a walk around its walls provides excellent views of the north side of Stirling. It also provides an unusual view of the main part of the castle, and the Great Hall in particular, looming over the north curtain wall.
It is unclear when this lower northern part of the castle rock was fortified. But it seems probable there was already a walled enclosure here by 1380, when work was undertaken on the North Gate.
Until 1689 there had been small postern gates located on the east and west sides of the Nether Bailey, but these were blocked up as part of a strengthening of Stirling Castle's defences in the light of the threat from the Jacobites.
It is not known whether any buildings were located in the Nether Bailey during the early centuries of the castle's life. There was a proposal in 1583 to build kennels here: but as part of the North Curtain Wall had by then partly collapsed, there were probably more pressing priorities for the building programme.
In 1810 three blast-proof powder magazines were built behind strong walls in the lowest part of the Nether Bailey, as was a guard house beside the approach to the magazines from the North Gate. In 1851 the guard house became the castle's punishment cell.
In 1860 a fourth powder magazine was built beyond the existing three. This is open to the public to give an idea of the internal arrangements of these buildings when in use. The older magazines were connected and converted into stores in 1908.
At the far end of the Nether Bailey is the oddest structure here. This is a curved wall close to is most northerly tip, all that remains of a firing range. It is hard to think of a less suitable location for a firing range, close to the powder magazines and high above Stirling: but it has clearly not been used for a very long time.
The most recent addition to the Nether Bailey sits close by. This is the wooden, chalet-like, Tapestry Studio. This is used by the team producing the tapestries for the magnificently restored Palace at Stirling Castle. As well as watching the tapestries being woven, visitors can learn more about the process from a range of interpretive displays.
A walk around the Nether Bailey's walls brings you to the far end of the magazines where it is possible to descend to ground level. Or for the enthusiastic there's the alternative of climbing the steps leading up to the base of the North Curtain Wall at its north-western corner.
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Stirling Castle In Fiction
Hide and Seek by Ken Lussey (26 May 2023).
It’s April 1943. Medical student
Helen Erickson is followed from London to her aunt’s farm in Perthshire. What do her pursuers want? Meanwhile Monique Dubois is
attending a secret meeting at Stirling Castle when an old adversary is murdered in a chilling echo of a dark episode in the castle’s