Edinburgh Castle is one of Scotland’s most popular and celebrated castles. Set upon the remnants of an ancient volcano, the castle’s striking strategic significance made it a hotly contested stronghold all throughout its nearly 1,000 year history.
Location: Edinburgh, Scotland, United Kingdom
Edinburgh EH1 2NG
Hours: 9:30am – 5pm Daily
Handicap Accessible: Read all about the castle’s
accessibility standards here
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Built in 1130 by King David I on Edinburgh Rock, which was once an active volcano more than 300 million years ago, and overlooking the North Sea and the town below, Edinburgh Castle is one of the oldest castles in all of Europe, and one of the most excellent strategic and military sites in all of Great Britain. Archaeological evidence shows that people had lived on this rocky outcrop for at least 1,000 years prior to the building of the castle. The castle’s fantastic position made it a decisive component in many great battles for Edinburgh, Scotland, and all of Europe throughout history.
Edinburgh Castle was the site where Mary Queen of Scots gave birth to her son James VI, who would later unite England and Scotland, because of his strong claim to both thrones. To this day it houses both the Honours of Scotland, which are the oldest Crown Jewels in Great Britain, and the Stone of Destiny. The Honours of Scotland are a gold and jewel encrusted set of a crown, sword, and sceptre that were used to crown Mary Queen of Scots on her coronation day at Stirling Castle in 1543, and were what the English, envious of Scotland’s beautiful jewels, modeled their own Crown Jewels after. During WWII, when Edinburgh was bombed by enemy forces 18 different times, the Honours of Scotland were said to have been hidden from the enemies underneath the castle in an old outhouse structure, in hopes that the Honours would never be taken from Scotland, and never find their way into the hands of vile Nazis.
The thought of one structure or small area being bombed 18 times during a single war is a staggering amount, and yet Edinburgh Castle itself is one of the most besieged places in the entire world throughout its long history, and was destroyed, rebuilt, and partially destroyed again and again by the English, Nordic invaders, Nazi forces, and many others who sought to claim this advantageous piece of Scotland for themselves. After being reinforced significantly after each destruction, the castle eventually became the most secure place in all of Scotland and served as a maximum security prison for nearly a century, where violent criminals and prisoners of war were sentenced and held until they repaid their debt to society, or succumbed to the cruel conditions of the castle prisons. The castle ceased prison activities in the early 1800s once a group of 49 prisoners escaped, proving that the ancient structure wasn’t as good at keeping people in as it was at keeping them out.
Said to be the most haunted place in Scotland due to how many people died during the various battles here, we didn’t notice anything out of the ordinary here. In fact, I found the castle to have one of the best city views of any major city I’ve ever visited. If you want views of Edinburgh that rival those found atop Arthur’s Seat, climb to the highest point of the castle and you will be able to see many of the beautiful buildings in Edinburgh Old Towne, New Town, and the sea that lies beyond. It is estimated that 70% or more of visitors to Edinburgh visit the iconic castle, likely due to the fact that the castle can be seen from just about everywhere in the city and has an intriguing silhouette.
While much of the castle’s history is tragic, there are some wonderful moments in the castle’s history. Edinburgh Castle was the very first place that fireworks were launches in Scotland in the 1500s to celebrate a jousting tournament. The castle once housed all of the Scottish Royal family’s treasures and riches, which were said to have piled to the ceilings, although they were eventually moved to other castles around Scotland so they weren’t in danger of being stolen by invaders. The National War Monument stands inside the walls of Edinburgh Castle, and serves as a monument and educational tool, honouring the brave men and women who helped Scotland fight off invaders throughout its history. During our visit, the museum was honoring conscientious objectors who eschewed fighting in the war and took up support roles to help Scotland during WWII, leaning on their pacifist ideals to support Scotland in ways that didn’t involve bloodshed.
Recognized as part of a UNSECO Heritage Site that covers all of Edinburgh, Edinburgh Castle is now held by the Scottish Ministers whilst operated and cared for by Historic Scotland, although Great Britains military still has some say in what happens at the castle, particularly the castle’s military museums. It is also one of the most visited places in all of Europe. If you intend to visit multiple historical sites around beautiful Scotland, purchase either a 5-Day or 14-Day Explorer Pass to see 70 incredible sites across Scotland such as Stirling Castle, Edinburgh Castle, St. Andrews Castle, and many others, as you will save up to 80% on some of the most popular sites around Scotland.
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