It was always going to be hard to top 2014 with all the buzz of Year of Homecoming, the Commonwealth Games and Ryder Cup but the last 12 months have brought many poignant moments that will go down in the castle’s history.
In January The Great Tapestry of Scotland visited the castle as part of its national tour. The brainchild of author Alexander McCall Smith, the 160 panels of intricate stitching illustrate a people’s history of Scotland from the turbulence of the last ice age to the present day. Some of the panels even depicted the castle and Stirling.
The 14 year project to recreate the lost tapestries of James V was completed in June as the final tapestry in the series ‘The Mystic Hunt of the Unicorn’ was hung in the Royal Palace. A very bittersweet occasion which marked the culmination of the biggest tapestry project undertaken in the UK in the last 100 years. This extraordinary venture had become an integral part of castle life and the visitor experience and we continue to celebrate its legacy in our new exhibition “Weaving the Unicorn”. Located in the former Tapestry Studio, the exhibition tells the story of the tapestries and the weavers and will continue to run throughout 2016.
2015 was also the Year of Food & Drink when we celebrated Scotland’s rich larder.
Our Unicorn Café received Visit Scotland’s Taste our Best award which ensures commitment to “serving quality Scottish produce prepared with care and delivered with passion”. In May we married the food theme with another grand celebration, Mary of Guise’s 500th birthday as visitors were invited to join in the Queen’s Feast. The event saw the castle come to life with the hustle and bustle of the courtiers as they prepared for this great banquet.
In July we explored our French Connection further as we continued to celebrate Mary of Guise, a formidable and much-loved character in the castle’s history. The Chapel Royal was transformed with art exhibitions from Iona Leishman and Douai Artists International, whilst in the Nether Bailey visitors enjoyed a fascinating exhibition all about ‘The Other Mary’, wife of James V and mother of Mary Queen of Scots.
Summer also saw a cultural renaissance with performances from Magnetic Opera, The Scottish Chamber Orchestra and our first outdoor theatre in many years from Chapterhouse Theatre Company who presented Pride & Prejudice in the beautiful Queen Anne Gardens. A rich and diverse programme combined with stunning locations proved popular with the castle’s visitors.
Autumn brought us Jacobites in the form of our Rebels & Redcoats event. Timed to mark the 300th anniversary of the Battle of Sherrifmuir, the event gave visitors the chance to meet the Jacobite rebels and Redcoat soldiers who clashed at the battle.
The year ended on a high note when we hosted Outlander author, Diana Gabaldon, and local historian and TV presenter Neil Oliver who joined forces to launch the Scottish Book Trust’s “Book Week Scotland”. The event sold out in record time and created huge buzz. It’s great to see that Scotland’s history, fact or fictional, is still capturing people’s attention and imagination.
But our top highlight of this year has been welcoming visitors from across the world, from sons & daughters of the rock to those from far flung corners, who shared in these special moments and great events with us. We look forward to seeing even more of you in 2016, Year of Innovation, Architecture & Design. Thank you all for your continued support.
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