Edinburgh Castle

Kings, armies and bloodshed: A day in Edinburgh Castle

Don’t miss a day at the historic Edinburgh Castle, the symbol of Scotland and a riveting visit through the country’s bloody history!

Dominating the Scottish skyline from Castle Rock, you can’t help but admire Edinburgh Castle, Edinburgh’s most famous landmark. You can easily spend a whole day exploring this ancient royal fortress and getting lost in the tales of bloody battles and glorious kingdoms. Want to discover all her secrets? Here’s where you need to go…
The Castle through the ages
Edinburgh Castle sits atop Castle Rock and stands guard over Edinburgh’s Old Town. Archaeologists believe that the Rock was formed after a volcanic eruption some 350 million years ago and human settlement dates back as far as the Iron Age. So who built Edinburgh Castle then? The structure that is today known as Edinburgh Castle was built for David I in the 12th century. It’s played an important role in Scotland’s long history, as whoever controlled the Castle, controlled Edinburgh and the country. For centuries, the castle bounced between English and Scottish monarchies, before it became a military barracks in the 17th century. Interesting fact: Historians think there were at least 26 sieges in its 1100-year history, making it one of the most attacked places in the world. Today, the Scottish Government owns Edinburgh Castle. It’s run by Historic Scotland, although the army is still responsible for several areas including the military museums. It’s well known around the world as the site of the famous Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo, held every August on the Esplanade.
St Margaret’s Chapel
When you visit Edinburgh Castle, you’ll most likely start at the Portcullis Gate, built almost 450 years ago. Then you can make your way up the Lang Stairs to the summit of Castle Rock to visit St Margaret’s Chapel, the oldest building in the castle and all of Edinburgh. From here, you’ll have a panoramic view across Edinburgh, so make sure you have your camera at the ready.
Military marvels
Just near St Margaret’s Chapel is Mons Meg, one of the greatest guns in medieval Europe, which could blast a 150kg cannonball an impressive two mile distance. Make sure you’re in time for the legendary One o’clock Gun exhibition, when a 105mm fired gun is fired every day at 1pm. A gun has been fired here since 1861 and it’s certainly an explosive event that you can’t miss!
Crown Square
Crown Square is home to several royal rooms, including the Great Hall – the heart of Edinburgh Castle. Here, you can admire the beautiful wooden roof, which was completed in 1511 for James IV. The walls are lined with impressive armour, weapons and swords. Then, move over to the Royal Palace, a room that has seen many pivotal moments in Scottish history. Queen Mary of Guise died here in 1560, and several years later her daughter Mary Queen of Scots gave birth to her son James VI. The last sovereign to stay here was Charles I in 1633, the night before his coronation. After the Royal Palace, marvel in awe at the Crown Jewels, displayed in the Crown Room on the first floor of the Royal Palace. See the sceptre presented to James IV by Pope Alexander VI in 1494, the 1540 coronation crown of Queen Mary of Guise and the accompanying exhibition detailing the royal history. Also with the Crown Jewels is the mysterious Stone of Destiny. It’s said it was used by Patriarch Jacob as a pillow and is a sacred object used in many kings’ coronations.
Prisons of Wars
Not one for the faint-hearted, the spooky Prisons of War is a recreation of prison life throughout the ages. The damp dungeons once held all kinds of criminals, such as pirates, murderers, traitors and women who were accused of witchcraft. Public executions by beheading, hanging or burning were held on Castle Hill, now the Esplanade which is home to the prestigious Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo.
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