Edinburgh Castle

Edinburgh Castle has a long and interesting history. It sits atop a volcanic plug in the centre of Edinburgh and dominates the city. The first stronghold we know of in the spot of the present castle was Din Eidyn which was besieged and taken by the Angles in 638. The Angles renamed the city Edinburgh.

Various kings and queens have left their mark on the castle structure and so it has a disjointed appearance, like a jumble of buildings contained and tied together by the battlements and cliffs on three sides. The esplanade and main entrance spill into the Royal Mile which leads down to Holyrood Palace.

The oldest building at Edinburgh castle is the 12th century chapel of Saint Margaret which was built by King David I and dedicated to his mother who had lived at the castle with his father King Malcolm III and was canonised after her death in 1093.

Edward I captured the castle in 1296 after a three day siege but it was retaken in a brave night assault just a few months before the decisive Battle of Bannockburn. Some of Bruce´s men under Thomas Randolph attacked on the night of 14th March, 1314; while some of the men created a diversion at the main gate Randolph and a few others guided by a local man scaled the northern face of the castle rock.

James III extended the castle and made it his permanent home, a policy continued by his son James IV who completed the Great Hall in 1511. Mary Queen of Scots gave birth to James VI at Edinburgh Castle. Even once Mary was in captivity in England the keeper of the castle continued to support her and the castle was sieged for almost two years in the name of James VI. The siege finally ended in 1573 when twenty heavy guns arrived on loan from Elizabeth I.

Charles I was the last king to stay at the castle back in 1633 and by 1650 it served as headquarters for Cromwell´s army. The Jacobites tried unsuccessfully to capture the castle in 1715 and the last attack was 1745 but Bonnie Prince Charlie´s men lacked the necessary heavy guns. The esplanade which now houses the Military Tattoo was built in 1753. The last big addition to the castle was the ugly seven storey New Barracks which was built in 1799 and designed to house up to six hundred troops.

The castle also houses the Honours of Scotland rediscovered by Sir Walter Scott in 1818 in a locked room where they had been placed after the 1707 Union with England. They were immediately put on display marking the beginning of Edinburgh Castle as a tourist attraction. You can also see the Stone of Destiny on display after it was returned to Scotland in 1996, though many believe it is not the genuine article.

Edinburgh is one of the few castles to still have a military garrison, though the purpose is now purely ceremonial. Unfortunately this means that access within the castle is restricted though there is still plenty to see. Admission costs £11 for adults and £5.50 for children and there are audio and guided tours available.

Edinburgh Castle Edinburgh Castle Edinburgh Castle
Edinburgh Castle Edinburgh Castle Edinburgh Castle

Plan of Edinburgh Castle