PrincessaPetra in #DanielaBarb Breathing Spaces Exclusively @ Stirling Castle
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Kings and Queens,
One of the glorious aspects of my intense summer was not the Sun shining onto my radiant Snow White skin, but my Soul shining from within when I was first touched ground on the mythical and mystical land of mountain wildernesses interspersed with glacial glens (valleys) and lochs (lakes), which is Scotland, my love. You would probably consider this trip to be a rather peculiar choice, considering my background of walking on the Path of Jesus in several Arabic countries, fascinated by aspects related to Life and Culture, which served their purpose of Enlightenment, but it is, nevertheless, one of the most outstanding trips I have ever had, considering the valuable Historical and Religious References which had broadened my horizons, the Myth and Glory surrounding its Land, the National Pride of its Natives, and the High Vibrational Energy I was exposed to, elements which had greatly impacted my conscience and contributed enormously to the life-changing events to follow.
First of all, I would like to point out several aspects related to the country’s Independence, Early History, Religion, Education, National Identity, Renewable Energy and Woodland Expansion available for your general reference on Wikipedia and optimized by myself, in order to facilitate the public understanding of the general context and my personal preference for Scotland. I have only chosen information which I consider remarkable from a cultural and spiritual perspective, filtered at the level of my own Conscience and Experience, facts which have enriched my perception and awareness of Scotland being of the most valuable contribution not only to the world, but also to my Mission of Enlightenment.
Then I would love to invite you to walk along myself onto the path of Glory of Stirling Castle, a remarkable treasure and one of Scotland’s grandest castles due to its imposing position and impressive architecture. The Scenery will take your breath away, Stirling Castle being one of the most naturally well defended and largest castles in all of Scotland. Cliffs defend 75% of the castle walls and intricate and beautiful hand-woven tapestries hang on the walls of the Queen’s Inner Hall in the royal palace. They all feature the national animal of Scotland – the Majestic and Fierce Unicorn, my favorite Symbol of Love and Purity, also linked to Christianity as you will soon discover.
Buckle up and follow my lead – this is the beginning of a beautiful journey!
“We look to Scotland for all our ideas of civilisation.”
The Kingdom of Scotland emerged as an independent sovereign state in the Early Middle Ages and continued to exist until 1707. By inheritance in 1603, James VI, King of Scots, became King of England and King of Ireland, thus forming a personal union of the three kingdoms. Scotland subsequently entered into a political union with the Kingdom of England on 1 May 1707 to create the new Kingdom of Great Britain.
The union also created a new Parliament of Great Britain, which succeeded both the Parliament of Scotland and the Parliament of England. In 1801, Great Britain itself entered into a political union with the Kingdom of Ireland to create the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland.
Within Scotland, the monarchy of the United Kingdom has continued to use a variety of styles, titles and other royal symbols of statehood specific to the pre-union Kingdom of Scotland. The legal system within Scotland has also remained separate from those of England and Wales and Northern Ireland; Scotland constitutes a distinct jurisdiction in both public and private law.
The continued existence of legal, educational, religious and other institutions distinct from those in the remainder of the UK have all contributed to the continuation of Scottish culture and national identity since the 1707 union with England.
Repeated glaciations, which covered the entire land mass of modern Scotland, destroyed any traces of human habitation that may have existed before the Mesolithic period. It is believed the first post-glacial groups of hunter-gatherers arrived in Scotland around 12,800 years ago, as the ice sheet retreated after the last glaciation.
The groups of settlers began building the first known permanent houses on Scottish soil around 9,500 years ago, and the first villages around 6,000 years ago.
The 2009 discovery in Scotland of a 4000-year-old tomb with burial treasures at Forteviot, near Perth, the capital of a Pictish Kingdom in the 8th and 9th centuries AD, is unrivalled anywhere in Britain. It contains the remains of an early Bronze Age ruler laid out on white quartz pebbles and birch bark. It was also discovered for the first time that early Bronze Age people placed flowers in their graves.
Just over half (54%) of the Scottish population reported being a Christian while nearly 37% reported not having a religion in a 2011 census.
Since the Scottish Reformation of 1560, the national church (the Church of Scotland, also known as The Kirk) has been Protestant in classification and Reformed in theology. Since 1689 it has had a Presbyterian system of church government and enjoys independence from the state. The Church operates a territorial parish structure, with every community in Scotland having a local congregation.
Scotland also has a significant Roman Catholic population, 19% professing that faith, particularly in Greater Glasgow and the north-west. Other Christian denominations in Scotland include the Free Church of Scotland, and various other Presbyterian offshoots. Scotland’s third largest church is the Scottish Episcopal Church.
Islam is the largest non-Christian religion (estimated at around 75,000, which is about 1.4% of the population),and there are also significant Jewish, Hindu and Sikh communities, especially in Glasgow.
The Samyé Ling monastery near Eskdalemuir, which celebrated its 40th anniversary in 2007, is the first Buddhist monastery in western Europe.
The Scottish education system has always been distinct from the rest of the United Kingdom, with a characteristic emphasis on a broad education. In the 15th century, the Humanist emphasis on education cumulated with the passing of the Education Act 1496, which decreed that all sons of barons and freeholders of substance should attend grammar schools to learn “perfyct Latyne”, resulting in an increase in literacy among a male and wealthy elite.
There are fifteen Scottish universities, some of which are amongst the oldest in the world. These include the University of St Andrews, the University of Glasgow, the University of Aberdeen and the University of Edinburgh—many of which are ranked amongst the best in the UK. Proportionally, Scotland had more universities in QS’ World University Rankings’ top 100 in 2012 than any other nation. The country produces 1% of the world’s published research with less than 0.1% of the world’s population, and higher education institutions account for 9% of Scotland’s service sector exports. Scotland’s University Courts are the only bodies in Scotland authorised to award degrees.
Tuition is handled by the Student Awards Agency Scotland (SAAS), which does not charge fees to what it defines as “Young Students”. Young Students are defined as those under 25, without children, marriage, civil partnership or cohabiting partner, who have not been outside of full-time education for more than three years.
Although there is no official national anthem of Scotland, Flower of Scotland is played on special occasions and sporting events such as football and rugby matches involving the Scotland national teams and since 2010 is also played at the Commonwealth Games after it was voted the overwhelming favourite by participating Scottish athletes.
Other currently less popular candidates for the National Anthem of Scotland include Scotland the Brave, Highland Cathedral, Scots Wha Hae and A Man’s A Man for A’ That.
St Andrew’s Day, 30 November, is the national day, although Burns’ Night tends to be more widely observed, particularly outside Scotland. In 2006, the Scottish Parliament passed the St Andrew’s Day Bank Holiday (Scotland) Act 2007, designating the day an official bank holiday.
The national animal of Scotland is the Unicorn, which has been a Scottish heraldic symbol since the 12th century.
Increasing amounts of Scotland’s electricity are generated through solar power and wind power; a sizable proportion of Scotland’s electricity is generated that way.
Globally, deforestation causes about 18% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. It also has a huge impact on the world’s biodiversity. In Scotland, extensive deforestation has occurred through a combination of natural climate change as well as human activities such as agriculture.
By 1900, only 5% of the land cover remained as forest, of which less than a third was ancient, semi-natural woodland. During the 20th century, however, reforestation increased Scotland’s woodland resource to 17% of our land area.
At a national scale Scotland is continuing to expand its woodland resource. Nevertheless, many individual woodlands have been removed over the last few decades as part of a deliberate change in land use. Since 1990 there has been significant woodland removal associated with landscape design, restoration of priority habitats and development such as housing or wind farms.
In regards to such matter, it would be appropriate to mention The Scottish Forestry Strategy’s Seven key themes which will help achieve the vision:
• Using forestry, and adapting forestry practices, to help reduce the impact of climate change and help Scotland adapt to its changing climate.
• Getting the most from Scotland’s increasing and sustainable timber resource.
• Strengthening forestry through business development to underpin sustainable forest management and support economic growth and employment across Scotland.
• Improving the quality of life and well-being of people by supporting community development across Scotland.
• Making access to, and enjoyment of, woodlands easier for everyone – to help improve physical and mental health in Scotland.
• Protecting the environmental quality of our natural resources (water, soil and air), contributing to and improving our scenery, and helping to make the most of our unique historic environment.
• Helping to restore, maintain and enhance Scotland’s biodiversity, and increasing awareness and enjoyment of it.
“To be kind to all, to like many and love a few, to be needed and wanted by those we love, is certainly the nearest we can come to happiness.”
– Mary Stuart, Queen of Scots (1542 – 1587)
These being said, I would like to warmly welcome you to the first royal topic we tackle during my spiritual journey through Scotland’s Yards – the marvelous trip I had to Loch Lomond, the largest lake of Great Britain, which rivals in fame and beauty the famous Loch Ness, and to the astonishing, breathtaking and unrivaled Stirling Castle, one of Scotland’s most historically important sites, a favoured residence of the Stewart kings and queens who held grand celebrations at the castle, from christenings to coronations. Knights, nobles and foreign ambassadors once flocked to Stirling Castle to revel in its grandeur with its superb sculptures and beautiful gardens.
Dominating the skyline for miles around, Stirling Castle is a shining example of Renaissance architecture. Visitors can look out from its high stone walls to the battlefields of Stirling Bridge where great medieval armies clashed to decide the fate of nations. Home to generations of Scottish monarchs including, Mary Queen of Scots, the Castle is an enduring and powerful reminder of Scotland’s fascinating history.
Admission prices are subject to change.
The castle opens daily at 9.30am. Closing time varies seasonally.
Last admission is 45 minutes before closing
The castle is closed on 25 and 26 December. On 1 January we are open from 11am to 5pm and normal hours from 2 January.
Children under 5 years old go free, all children 15 and under must be accompanied by an an adult.
There is so much to see and experience stepping into the world of colour, splendour and glorious craftsmanship of Sterling Castle that one blog post regarding this matter would be insufficient. However, I would love to introduce you to the Pride and Glory of Scotland’s Renaissance kings and queens, therefore I will dedicate my distinguished words of recommendation to each of my favorite architectural or decorative highlight emerging from Sterling’s Castle rich history.
The Great Hall
This magnificent banqueting hall is the largest of its kind ever built in Scotland and was used for feasts, dances and pageants.
Completed for James IV in 1503 it has four pairs of tall windows at the dais end, where the king and queen sat, and was heated by five large fireplaces.
There are galleries for minstrels and trumpeters.
In 1594 James VI held a banquet in the hall for the baptism of his son Prince Henry. It was so lavish that the fish course was served from an enormous model wooden ship complete with firing cannons.
The exterior walls are a distinctive colour, rendered in Royal Gold harling, as they would have been in the 1500s.
The Royal Palace
Step into the palace of James V and be transported into the rich world of Scotland’s royalty in the 1500s.
Splendidly decorated and furnished, it recalls the years when it was the childhood home of Mary Queen of Scots.
Costumed interpreters set the scene and talk to visitors about the palace and the intrigues which took place within its walls.
The palace is one of the best-preserved Renaissance buildings in the UK and has been refurbished to look as it might have done around 1540s.
The royal chambers include the magnificent rooms where nobles and courtiers met their monarch and the bedrooms where the royals retired with their closest companions.
They are also home to brightly-painted replicas of the Stirling Heads and the breathtaking Hunt of the Unicorn tapestries which took many years to weave at a cost of £2 million.
The Sterling Tapestries
Intricate and beautiful, this set of seven hand-woven tapestries hangs on the walls of the Queen’s Inner Hall in the royal palace.
They are closely based on the Hunt of the Unicorn series which were created in the Low Countries in the early 1500s and are now in the Metropolitan Museum of New York at its Cloisters Museum.
Only the very wealthiest of people could afford tapestries and James V had a large collection, including two sets which showed unicorns.
The huge new tapestries were created in a £2 million project which took 13 years to complete and allow visitors to recapture the atmosphere of Scotland’s royal court.
The castle’s Weaving the Unicorn exhibition tells the story of the project.
Stirling Heads Gallery
The Stirling Heads are one of Scotland’s great art treasures – metre-wide 16th-century oak medallions carved with images of kings, queens, nobles, Roman emperors and characters from the Bible and Classical mythology.
They decorated palace ceilings until a collapse in 1777 after which they were dispersed.
Most of the survivors have now been brought back together and are the centrepiece of the magnificent Image-makers for the King exhibition on the upper floor of the palace.
Other highlights include the Chapel Royal, Castle Exhibition, Regimental Museum, Great Kitchens and the nearby Argyll’s Lodging, a 17th century town house. There is a restaurant, the Unicorn Café, which offers a range of hot and cold drinks and food. Marvel at the spectacular views from the roof top terrace while you enjoy a freshly-prepared Scottish meal. Three gift shops which stock a wide selection of gifts and souvenirs are also present in the area.
Tales of the Unicorn
One of the most remarkable aspects of visiting Sterling Castle was my encounter with the Unicorn symbol. In Celtic mythology the unicorn was a symbol of purity and innocence, as well as masculinity and power. Tales of dominance and chivalry associated with the unicorn may be why this fabled creature was chosen as Scotland’s national animal. It also possesses immense healing powers, which I would like to think as of the reason why my friends and acquaintances often link me to this godly creature therefore my association to its virtues and blessings baths humbles and honors me.
Mythology also states that these strong-headed creatures could not be caught unless by virgins, whose purity struck a chord with the equally pure unicorns until they fell asleep in their laps. Many see this as an allegory for the bond between Jesus Christ and the Virgin Mary.
In the 5th Century AD, interpretation of a passage in the Hebrew Old Testament described an animal that scholars believed to be a Unicorn.
It could also explain the Unicorn’s popularity in Christian Art, particularly during the Middle Ages.
In the various depictions of the unicorn, the stories that go along with it there’s one in particular, the water cleansing story. A snake would come up to the watering hole and poison it, but then the unicorn would then come along and dip its horn into the watering hole to purify it for all the other animals.
So it had a combination of this power to dominate, but instead of using the power, it used it to protect and provide other resources for other animals. And in medieval times, when there was this great focus on chivalry, it became the ultimate animal. It could do what ever it wanted because of that power, but it chose to use this power to make better for other things. “When you combine this with all the other stories about its greatness, its power and its ferocity – you can understand why they wanted it.”
The Unicorn was first used on the Scottish royal coat of arms by William I in the 12th century. In the 15th century, when King James III was in power, gold coins even appeared with the unicorn on them. When Scotland and England unified under the reign of James VI of Scotland in 1603, the Scottish Royal Arms had two unicorns supporting a shield. When James VI became James I of England and Ireland, he replaced the unicorn on the left of the shield with the national animal of England, the lion, to show that the countries were indeed united.
Folklore states that these two creatures were arch enemies in a perpetual state of battle for the title of King of Beasts — the unicorn reigned with harmony as power while the lion ruled by valor. Interestingly, even an animal as great and powerful as an elephant, the unicorn’s second arch nemesis, was still no match.
Today, the UK’s royal coat of arms still showcases a unicorn for Scotland and a lion for England. In Scotland, however, the unicorn is accentuated by the addition of a crown and its place on the left-hand side.
By the way, did you know the oldest football in the world was found in the Palace at Stirling Castle? I did not, nor was I previously exposed to the Castle’s fascinating secrets, which I will definitely share for your delight:
* 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.
* 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.
* It is widely rumored that James V would swap his riches for rags and sneak out of the castle to the old town of Stirling, where he would mingle with his subjects posing as the guid man of Ballengeigh.
* 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.
* 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.
* A secret binary code was discovered on one of the Stirling Heads that turned out to be musical notes to a long lost requiem from the 16th century. Visitors can hear the music the Royal Palace today.
* The phrase “pushing the boat out” is thought to have been coined in relation to the extravagant celebrations held at the castle for Prince Henry’s baptism in 1594 when a full-size boat featuring live mermaids and shooting cannons was used to serve the fish course.
* Nine skeletons dating from 1200-1400s were unearthed in a long-lost Royal Chapel in 2008. It is thought they must have been people of stature to have been buried within the castle. Visitors can come face to face with 2 of the skeletons in the castle exhibition.
* A research carried out in 2011 revealed that King Arthur’s Round Table May well have been hidden beneath the historic King’s Knot that sits below the castle. Writers including John Barbour and Sir David Lindsay have linked the landmark to the legend of King Arthur for more than six centuries.
* Massive efforts are being made to restore the buildings of Stirling Castle, and the castle is open to the public. It is visited by more than 300,000 people every year.
I am confident you have enjoyed our exquisite journey we have embarked on by presenting my favorite aspects regarding Scotland and its fabulous Sterling Castle; I am looking forward to sharing more fabulous castles in my upcoming blog posts, which will satisfy your quest for Beauty, Mystery and Magic.
“Those who bring sunshine to the lives of others cannot keep it from themselves.”
– J.M. Barrie (1860 – 1937)
Your Supreme Highness,
Queen of Unicorns
The Majestic P