In a small courtyard that lies at the heart of Stirling Castle built for James V is a small, paved area that is very nondescript but is referred to as the Lion’s Den.
While the name probably comes from the importance of the lion in Scottish heraldry, there is another theory behind the name. Some believe that this courtyard was once home to an actual lion.
It’s said the lion was sent to James V as a present from Flanders in 1537. Lions were actually a common gift among European kings of the period, James II had one and James VI kept three of these noble animals. Menageries containing such exotic animals were a common feature of Renaissance castles.
Lions have always been considered a royal beast. Keeping one was more than just for curiosity or entertainment, they were considered the embodiment of the Scottish royal arms—a symbol of royal power.
Occasionally, lions were used in spectacle shows at the court.
Know Before You Go
The Lion's Den can only be visited as part of a self guided tour of Stirling Castle.