Visiting Edinburgh Castle
Visiting Edinburgh Castle in Scotland
by David Wheater of Tours of Edinburgh
If you're visiting Edinburgh for the first time, Edinburgh Castle will probably be at the top of your list of places to see. I've lived in Edinburgh for 44 years, and still marvel at this huge, imposing castle perched high upon an extinct volcanic plug, bang in the city centre. To know the history of the castle, and the precious artefacts contained within, is to know the story of Scotland and this makes it a 'must visit' place in my eyes.
With this in mind, here's a quick guide to visiting this amazing Scottish castle. Please do let me know what you think about the castle in the comments section. Enjoy your visit.
Edinburgh Castle is one of Scotland's most iconic visitor attractions and attracts over a million visitors every year.
The castle is located in the heart of Edinburgh at the top of the Royal Mile and sits quite spectacularly upon an old volcanic, rocky crag, making it the most dominating feature in the city landscape. The obvious strategic advantage of this large rock has been utilised since the Iron Age, with the possibility of there having been an Iron Age hill fort occupying the site.
Being built on a naturally occurring volcanic rock gave Edinburgh Castle a powerful defensive position, with steep cliffs on three sides making it extremely difficult to scale. Today, Edinburgh Castle is still only approachable from the east via the Royal Mile and Castle Esplanade.
Edinburgh Castle has a long, fascinating history and has been the focal point for many battles and sieges, none more important than the Scottish Wars of Independence, when the castle changed hands between the Scots and the English on many occasions. Statues of William Wallace and Robert the Bruce were added to the Castle gatehouse in the late 1920s to commemorate their important roles in Scottish history.
Today, Edinburgh Castle is perhaps most famous for its spectacular Edinburgh Military Tattoo, which takes place on the Castle Esplanade every August. The site and sound of massed pipes and drums is one of the most uplifting and rousing experiences any visitor to this wonderful city can have. Book your tickets for the Tattoo early as they are in strong demand! (see www.edintattoo.co.uk)
Something that often gives visitors a big fright when visiting the Castle, or indeed the city centre, is the sound of a huge gun going off from the castle ramparts! Even the locals can jump at the sound of it if they've not visited the city centre for a while! Don't be alarmed: the 'One O'Clock Gun' fires blanks and is just for ceremonial purposes. The gun was originally fired as a time signal for ships in the Firth of Forth and the daily tradition carries on to this day.
Some of the many highlights from a tour of Edinburgh Castle include:
The National War Museum of Scotland. This fascinating war museum covers 400 years of Scottish military history and is a ʻmust seeʼ.
The Regimental Museums. Edinburgh Castle is home to the fascinating regimental museums of the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards and the Royal Scots. Both are well worth visiting.
St. Margaret's Chapel. A beautiful little chapel dating back to the 12th century and still used today for weddings and other ceremonies. Thought to be the oldest building in Edinburgh!
Mons Meg. A huge, six-ton cannon which fired enormous stones for over two miles. A cannon similar to this one exploded in 1460 killing King James II!
The Royal Palace. Built as royal apartments and containing the Crown Room, which houses the Scottish crown, sceptre and sword of state and also the Stone of Scone upon which Scottish Kings were crowned.
The Great Hall. Only one of two great medieval halls in Scotland (the other at Stirling Castle) to have a hammerbeam roof and today still used for ceremonial occasions.
The Scottish National War Memorial. Opened in 1927, this beautiful and thought-provoking memorial commemorates all those brave Scottish soldiers who died in the First and Second World Wars and up to the present day. The sobering Rolls of Honour, naming hundreds of Scottish soldiers, demand serious contemplation and quiet reflection on their brave sacrifice.
Tickets & Opening Hours
Edinburgh Castle is open all year round (except 25th & 26th December) and very easy to find! There's an excellent restaurant, cafe and shop along with brilliant tours. Find out more at www.edinburghcastle.gov.uk.
Open in summer 1 Apr - 30 Sept 9.30am - 6pm (last entry 5pm) and in winter 1 Oct - 31 Mar 9.30am - 5pm (last entry 4pm)
Adults (16 - 59 yrs) £17.00 / Children (5 - 15 yrs) £10.20 / Concession (60 yrs+ and unemployed) £13.60. Children under 5 years old go free. Audio Tours are available in English, French, German, Spanish, Italian, Japanese, Russian and Mandarin. (Correct as of 27 May 2017)
If you'd like to join me on a special walking Tour of Edinburgh, including Edinburgh Castle, you can Email me or telephone me directly on 07400 705 357.
Castlehill, Edinburgh EH1 2NG