Life in a castle under siege

In 1304, Stirling Castle was put under siege by King Edward I of England.

Watch the film below to learn how just 30 Scottish defenders were able to hold the castle for months, even against Edward's mighty army.

Find out what life was like in a castle under siege.

What is a siege?

A siege is when an enemy surrounds a town, castle or other building so no one can escape and no food can get in.

It was very important for the people inside the castle to be prepared. They needed supplies of food and water to live on.

Getting fresh food was difficult so they needed to find ways to preserve food by drying, salting and storing it. For a safe water supply, castles needed their own well.

Look at the photos below to find out a bit more about how defenders prepared for a castle siege.

Preparing for a siege

Dunstaffnage castle well


During a siege, attackers could poison the water coming into a castle and the people inside would have to surrender. Digging a well inside the castle meant there was a safe supply of water that enemies couldn't get at. This photo shows the well at Dunstaffnage Castle near Oban.

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Siege weapons

Attackers surrounding a castle in a siege could use different kinds of siege engines to attack the castle and make it weaker.

Some Medieval siege weapons included:

  • trebuchets
  • mangonels
  • cannons
  • battering rams
  • siege towers
During the siege of Stirling Castle, King Edward I of England ordered the world's biggest ever trebuchet to be built. It was called the Warwolf.

What were the Scottish Wars of Independence?

The Wars of Independence were a series of battles fought between Scotland and England from 1296 to 1328.

England wanted to take control of Scotland's castles to show off how powerful they were.

Scotland had to defend their castles from the English army.

There were many castle sieges during the Scottish Wars of Independence.

Scottish Wars of Independence