Carrying on from Mar’s lodge (without crossing over-keep to the same side of the street so don’t go down the hill yet), you will come to the church of the Holy Rude and, next to that, Cowane’s hospital.
Cowane was a merchant and money-lender who bequeathed the funds for the building of an alms house intended to house 12 members of the Merchant Guildry of Stirling who were unable to support themselves. His family made their fortunes over generations trading with the Dutch which might explain the Dutch influenced architecture. The nice statue of Cowane himself is Dutch-inspired as are the bowling-green and gardens. Moreover, the various biblical inscriptions are architectural symbols of Dutch connections.
Leaving Cowane’s hospital turn right down St John street following this for a few minutes. Should you feel the need for refreshments at this point, you might want to cross the road and go past the Tollbooth onto Bow street at the bottom of which is the Darnley café- named after the murdered 2nd husband of Mary Queen of Scots.
Whilst we can find no direct European links for him, his son with Mary – James (future King James VI of Scotland and I of England) was baptised Charles James on 17 December 1566 in a Catholic ceremony held at Stirling Castle.
His godparents were Charles IX of France, Elizabeth I of England and Emmanuel Philibert, Duke of Savoy. The café also makes a great pit-stop!
Whether or not you stop for refreshments, continue back down St John street for a reasonable distance, carrying on down as it becomes Spittal street as you pass the Stirling highland hotel and on down past the Colessio on until you reach Corn exchange road where you turn right following this down to just before the big junction.
As you pass the civic buildings here, you might notice a plaque noting the twinning links between Stirling and Forcheim, Bavaria, Germany.
Turn right again at the statue of PM Henry Campbell-Bannerman (Liberal PM 1905-1908 and believer in free trade, Irish home rule and improvement of social conditions). You will pass several carvings including one of a wolf- this also features on Stirling’s Coat of Arms. It is said that in the 9th century a Viking raiding party disturbed a sleeping wolf which woke up and howled, alerting the townspeople and saving Stirling from attack – relations with our European friends were not always quite so easy!
Walking up the back walk you will pass along the Upper Back Wall. Built hastily in 1547 in response to English raiding, this is the legacy of the ‘Rough Wooing’, or the Anglo-Scots War of 1543-51, which began because Henry VIII of England sought to force James V and his French queen, Marie de Guise, to let his heir, Edward, marry Mary – later Mary Queen, of Scots.
He did this in part to prevent the (very young) Mary from marrying the French dauphin, or royal heir. If he succeeded, he would rupture the ‘Auld Alliance’ between Scotland and France. So the wall – one of the most complete burgh walls in Scotland – was one of the reverberations from wider European politics. During the ‘Rough Wooing, Marie de Guise found safety in Stirling and it was in the castle in 1549 that she sealed a promise of French guns. The next year, the war ended and Marie and her young daughter Mary left Scotland for France, where the princess would marry the dauphin.
Picture credits: John McPake (Wolf), Stirling4Europe 2021