Edinburgh Castle stands proudly on the top of Castle Rock, dominating the Edinburgh skyline. It has been through it’s fair share of turbulent times since building began in the 12th century, and it is now Scotland’s most popular tourist attraction. With unparalleled panoramic views and brilliant facilities provided by it’s caretaker, Historic Scotland, it’s good to have such a magnificent piece of history right on our doorstep.
Over the years the castle has been involved in several wars including the wars of Scottish independence in the 14th century and the Jacobite rising.in 1745. The prisoner block was used to hold prisoners during the Seven Years War, the American war of Independence and the Napoleonic war, and again during the the First World War.
It has also had many a Royal visitor. Mary Queen of Scots gave birth to James V1 in the rooms of the Royal Palace and King Malcolm III and his descendants spent most of their time living here as well as King David I.
During the 12th, 13th and 14th century the castle changed hands between Scotland and England several times, in the 15th century it was used as a weapons arsenal and in the 18th and 19th century it was used as a prison, as well as during the Second World War.
The Castle is now run, mostly, by Historic Castle and is Scotland’s most visited tourist attraction, there has been two cafes/restaurants added, as well as some shops and an educational unit. The army still run the New Barracks block and the military museums.
There is so much to see here. Each part as exciting as the next. The prisoner of war block is a chilling reminder of how bad life could be during these famous wars, it is atmospheric, dark and just a little eerie, but I found it fascinating.
St Margaret’s Chapel, being the oldest part of the castle and sitting at the highest point of the grounds, is a lovely little building. In 1314 Robert the Bruce ordered the whole castle to be destroyed except the Chapel which, on his deathbed, he paid for to be restored. Historic Scotland and the St Margaret’s Chapel Guild have recently refurbished it again and now you can hold weddings and baptisms there. It has benches along each side and there is always fresh flowers in the flower stand. If you come here on a quiet day apparently it is the perfect place to sit and relax, and reflect perhaps, while exploring, although it was mobbed when we were there as the Fringe festival was sill on.
The Crown Jewels are kept here, under lock and key. The Crown, the Sceptre and the Sword are the oldest Crown Jewels in Britain. The Sceptre was presented to James lV on 1494 and the Crown was worn by James V in 1540. Also in the Crown Room you can see the Stone of Destiny, only recently returned home from England in 1996. This stone has been used in the Coronations of most of Britain’s Monarchs for centuries. You aren’t allowed cameras in the Crown Room but you can take all the photos you want to in the Royal Palace, and you will want to!
The Great Hall with it’s beautiful Hammer-beam roof is stunning. Swords, knifes and coats of armour line the deep blood red walls, the imposing stone fireplace dominates the room. It has been used to host State banquets and hold Parliamentary meetings, as well as becoming a military hospital during Oliver Cromwell’s occupation.
There is also the 15th century Cannon, Mons Meg, gifted to King James II in 1457, that sits outside St Margaret’s Chapel along with some of the cannon balls it used. The size of these balls are unbelievable, weighing 300 pounds each they could be fired up to two miles!
The One O’clock gun fires every day at , funnily enough, one o’clock. The tradition began in 1861 as a time signal for the ships on the Firth of Forth and has carried on ever since. Try and watch the time because I completely forgot (I hear the gun a lot as you can hear it all over Edinburgh), I absolutely jumped right out my skin!
I thoroughly enjoyed my time at the castle. These attractions can be quite expensive but you could easily spend the whole day here, having a nice picnic lunch on the grass, taking in the stunning views, or you could splash out in one of the restaurants. We had lunch at the Redcoat Cafe which also had the fantastic views. You can buy tickets directly from there website at www.edinburghcastle.gov.uk. Adults cost £16, children cost £9.60 with consessions available. You can also buy an audio guide.