During a long and bloody history Stirling Castle has been attacked or besieged at least 16 times. Three battles have been fought in its immediate vicinity, two of which were turning points in Scottish history: and a fourth equally important battle took place just a few miles to the north. A number of Scottish Kings and Queens have been baptised, or crowned, or died within or near Stirling Castle. And at least one King was murdered nearby: while another committed murder within its walls.
Much of the History of Scotland has been played out at Stirling Castle or within sight of it...
A site as important as the castle rock at Stirling, guarding as it does the lowest crossing point of the River Forth, would have been of strategic interest to anyone wanting to control central Scotland. There is, however, no actual evidence that the Romans or the Votadini, or the Picts who fought over this ground in the first millennium A.D. fortified the rock: it simply seems highly likely that they would have done. And it is sadly only an attractive theory that the legend of Camelot is based on a castle here during King Arthur's conquest of parts of Scotland in the 6th Century.
- 1110: Alexander I dedicates an existing chapel within the castle.
- 1124: Alexander I dies at Stirling Castle.
- 1170: William I (William the Lion) creates a royal hunting park at Stirling.
- 1174: Control of Stirling Castle is handed over to the English as part of the terms of the release of William I, held captive by them.
- 1189: Stirling Castle is returned to William I by Richard I of England.
- 1214: William I dies at Stirling Castle.
- 1263: Alexander III creates additional hunting parks to the south of Stirling Castle, near Bannockburn.
- 1280: Extensive building work is undertaken at the castle, none of which remains.
- 1291: Stirling Castle is placed under the control of Edward I of England while he adjudicates the future of the Scottish Crown.
- 12 July 1291: The Scottish nobility swears fealty to the English Crown at Stirling Castle.
- 1296: Edward I captures an undefended Stirling Castle.
- 11 September 1297: William Wallace and Andrew Murray lead the Scots to victory at the Battle of Stirling Bridge below the castle. The wooden bridge of the time was 60m upstream from the stone bridge visible from Stirling Castle today, which dates back to the 1400s.
- September 1297: Stirling Castle is surrendered by the English to the Scots in the aftermath of the Battle of Stirling Bridge.
- 1298: The Scots abandon Stirling Castle after their loss at the Battle of Falkirk and Edward I again resumes control.
- 1299: Robert the Bruce successfully lays siege to Stirling Castle and regains it from the English.
- April 1304: Stirling, the last castle in the hands of the Scots, is besieged by the English.
- 20 July 1304: Stirling Castle surrenders to Edward I of England.
- 1314: Stirling is by now one of only five Scottish castles held by the English and is besieged by Edward Bruce, the younger brother of Robert the Bruce. An agreement is made that it will surrender if not relieved by midsummer's day.
- 24 June 1314: English forces attempting to relieve Stirling Castle are resoundingly defeated at the Battle of Bannockburn, two miles to the south of the castle. The castle surrenders to the Scots.
- 1314: Robert I destroys the defences at Stirling Castle to prevent them being used again by the English.
- 1333: The English again take control of Stirling Castle and rebuild its defences as part of a major redevelopment of the castle. Nothing of what they built remains visible today.
- 1337: The Scots unsuccessfully besiege Stirling Castle, possibly using cannons.
- 1342: Robert Stewart (the future Robert II) begins a siege of Stirling that succeeds the following year.
- 1347: Stirling Castle remains under Scottish control during a further English invasion.
- 1380: Stirling Castle is strengthened, acquiring a range of defensive works including a new North Gate. This is the earliest part of the castle still visible today.
- 1412: The Chapel of St Michael at the castle was rebuilt, possibly on a site underneath part of the present Chapel Royal.
- 1437: After the murder of James I at Perth, Queen Joan brings James II, aged six, to Stirling Castle for safety.
- 1463: James III undertakes a range of building works at Stirling including a "White Tower" no longer standing, and the rebuilding of a chapel.
- 1475: Records suggest artillery is being manufactured in the castle.
- 11 June 1488: The 14 year old James, Duke of Rothesay, son of James III, leads a revolt against his father that culminates with the Battle of Sauchieburn, fought over the same ground as the Battle of Bannockburn just two miles south of Stirling Castle. James III is killed after the battle by an unknown hand.
- 1496: James IV begins extensive building works at Stirling, including the "King's House", now the King's Old Building. At around the same time he creates the Chapel Royal. This is probably a major refurbishment and enlargement of earlier buildings partly within the Inner Close and partly under the Chapel Royal standing today.
- 1500: Work begins on building the Great Hall at Stirling Castle. It is completed in 1504.
- 1503: Work is under way on the Forework, a massive series of defensive towers and walls at the south end of the castle. Parts of this, including the Forework Gate and the Prince's Tower, remain today in altered form.
- September 1507: James IV's alchemist, John Damian falls from the castle walls while attempting a flight to France using wings made of bird feathers.
- 1511: The upper parts of the North Gate are built.
- 1513: Queen Margaret Tudor retires for safety to Stirling Castle after the death of James IV at the Battle of Flodden.
- August 1515: The Duke of Albany successfully besieges Stirling Castle to gain the Regency of Scotland from Margaret Tudor.
- 1528: James V escapes to Stirling Castle after a period in the captivity of Scottish nobles.
- 1529: James V gains ownership of the castle from his mother in return for lands elsewhere.
- 1531: James V begins major building works at the castle with a new stable block.
- 1537: Work begins on the Palace at Stirling Castle. It is finished by James V's widow, Mary de Guise, after his death in 1542.
- 9 September 1543: The infant Mary Queen of Scots is crowned in the Chapel Royal (the building of that name refurbished in 1496 rather than the one standing today).
- 1559: Mary de Guise, (now Regent on behalf of her daughter, who is in France) orders the upgrading of the defences at Stirling Castle to bring them into the age of artillery. Although later altered, parts of her new defences can still be seen today, especially the French Spur.
- 17 December 1566: The future James VI of Scotland and I of England is baptised in the Chapel Royal.
- 21 April 1567: Mary Queen of Scots visits Stirling Castle to see her son James. This turns out to be the last time she will see him.
- 29 July 1567: Following his mother's forced abdication, James VI is crowned the infant King of Scotland at the Church of the Holy Rude, close to Stirling Castle.
- 3 September 1571: Stirling Castle is attacked by Mary's supporters.
- 15 July 1578: A meeting of the Scottish Parliament is presided over by James VI in the Great Hall at Stirling.
- 17 April 1584: Rebellious Scottish lords seize Stirling Castle, then surrender it to the King and his army on 4 May.
- 1585: The rebellious Scottish lords return from England and capture Stirling Castle again, only to hand it back to James VI.
- 1594: James VI orders the rebuilding of the Chapel Royal, the building on view today.
- 30 August 1594: The new Chapel Royal is used for the Baptism of Prince Henry, first son of James VI.
- 1617: Stirling Castle is refurbished in advance of a visit by James VI.
- 1627: The castle gardens are redesigned, including the construction of the King's Knot in the valley below.
- 1633: Charles I visits Stirling Castle during the Scottish tour that forms part of his belated coronation as Scottish Monarch.
- 3 August 1650: General George Monck lays siege to Stirling Castle on behalf of Cromwell. The badly damaged castle surrenders on 14 August.
- 30 March 1685: Stirling Castle officially becomes a military base rather than a Royal Palace.
- 1689: New artillery batteries are built, and the old kitchen range is infilled to provide a secure base for guns.
- 1700: The Palace is rebuilt to include an upper level of accommodation for the Castle Governor.
- 1711: Work begins on the strengthening of Stirling Castle's defences in light of the Jacobite threat. It is finished in 1714.
- 17 September 1715: The Government commander in Scotland, the Duke of Argyll, bases himself at Stirling Castle to prevent the advance south of the Jacobite army.
- 13 November 1715: The Duke of Argyll meets, and defeats, the numerically superior Jacobite army at the Battle of Sheriffmuir, a few miles north of Stirling.
- 6 January 1746: The Jacobite Army under Bonnie Prince Charlie takes the town of Stirling and sets up its artillery on Gowan Hill, to the north-east of the castle (now a cemetery) to besiege the castle. The castle's artillery destroys the attacking guns and the Jacobites retreat.
- 1800: During the Napoleonic Wars much of Stirling Castle is converted into barrack accommodation to house Scottish troops bound for distant battles. The Great Hall, Chapel Royal and Palace all have extra floors inserted and a number of smaller new buildings are constructed, including the powder magazines in the Nether Bailey in 1810.
- 13 September 1849: Queen Victoria visits Stirling Castle and is greatly impressed by it.
- 1855: The King's Old Building is badly damaged by fire.
- 1893: The first suggestion is made that the Great Hall should be restored.
- September 1906: King Edward VII expresses concern at damage being done by the military to Stirling Castle. It is the turning point in the Castle's fortunes.
- 1921: The kitchens, filled in since 1689, are excavated and partly restored.
- 1964: The army leaves Stirling Castle and work begins to restore parts of it to its heyday as a Royal Palace.
- 1982: The base of the Oliphant Tower is excavated and made safe.
- 1996: Restoration of the Chapel Royal, begun in the 1930s, is completed.
- 30 November 1999: Queen Elizabeth II formally opens the renovated Great Hall.
- June 2011: The Palace reopens to the public after a £12m and five year resoration programme.