A day out at one of Scotland’s top tourist attractions
Edinburgh Castle blog
You can spend endless days, weeks, months scouring the globe looking for the best, most spectacular sights in the world. But sometimes it is wonderful not to have to travel far to see something really special. Being Scottish, it’s great to have world class attractions right on my doorstep and they don’t come much finer than Edinburgh Castle.
Castle Rock has had an action-packed history. Earliest inhabitants go all the way back to around 900BC. The castle’s role as a military stronghold began during the time of Robert the Bruce and the Wars of Independence with England (13th and 14th Centuries). During this time the castle was taken and re-taken by opposing sides in perpetual bloodbaths. Things calmed down a bit during the Stewart Dynasty when the castle emerged as a Royal residence. Perhaps the most significant event during this time was Mary Queen of Scots giving birth to her son, James, here in 1566.
But this is Scottish history don’t you know?! A good fight is never far away. The ‘Lang Siege’ of 1571-73 saw forces loyal to Mary furiously defend the castle against those opposed. Sir William Kirkcaldy, leader of the defenders, was brutally executed upon the castle finally falling. Conflict continued during the time of the Jacobites (17th and 18th Centuries) with both supporters and opponents occupying at various times. Bonnie Prince Charlie’s ill-fated siege in 1745 was to prove the last.
And what of Edinburgh Castle today? The looming fortress dominates its city like no other I’ve ever seen. The visitor’s journey begins by following the highly atmospheric Royal Mile as it climbs upwards towards Castle Rock. As you approach from the east, you get a taste of the amazing views that the castle offers over Scotland’s capital. Get used to this as visitors will be spoilt for magnificent vantage points during their visit.
Here’s a very quick run-through of my highlights once through the castle gates:
The big guns – everyone loves big guns and Edinburgh Castle has Mons Meg. This is an absolute monster of a cannon that has been standing since 1449. Even better there is the one o’clock gun that still fires ceremoniously daily. Lunchtime visits are therefore advantageous.
National War Museum – a very visual journey through Scotland’s distinguished military history over the centuries.
Crown Square – right in the heart of the castle the square joins the Great Hall, the Royal Palace, the National War Memorial and the Prisons of War.
The Royal Palace – the residence for any royals who stayed at the castle and where Mary gave birth to James VI of Scotland and I of England.
The Honours of Scotland – Scotland’s crown jewels, the Crown, Sceptre and Sword of State. Joined by the Stone of Destiny (a big rock that has been used in corronation ceremonies in Britain for centuries) these are amongst the country’s most treasured items.
Prisons of War – Edinburgh Castle has held many a prisoner over the centuries. Beginning with French prisoners of the Seven Years War in 1758 there has since been Caribbean pirates caught in 1720, Americans from the Independence Wars over there and prisoners captured during the Napoleonic Wars of the late 18th and early 19th Centuries.
At £16 a head for adults it’s a pricey fee but you will likely spend half a day up here so it is worth it. If you don’t like queueing I also advise booking your tickets online in advance.
Fancy seeing more of Edinburgh? You can purchase one of my city guides for just £7. All the top attractions are discussed and shown on interactive maps to help you best plan your stay in Scotland’s capital.