The Ultimate Guide to Edinburgh Castle

The Ultimate Guide to Edinburgh Castle

No trip to the Scottish capital is complete without a trip to Edinburgh Castle, the city’s premier attraction which holds so much history within its 3,000-year-old walls.

Where is Edinburgh Castle?

Edinburgh Castle sits on Castle Rock, a 700-million-year-old extinct volcano in the city centre of Edinburgh. It overlooks Princes Street and is an imposing part of Edinburgh’s skyline, being part of both the Old and New Towns of the city’s World Heritage Site. Edinburgh Waverley Railway Station is within walking distance.

Everything you need to know about Edinburgh Castle

 

Edinburgh Castle Facts

  • Edinburgh Castle is Scotland’s most-visited paid tourist attraction
  • More than 70% of leisure visitors to the city visit Edinburgh Castle
  • Edinburgh Castle is claimed to be one of the most attacked places in the world, and the most attacked place in Britain
  • The castle’s St Margaret’s Chapel is the oldest surviving building in Edinburgh, dating back to the 12th century
  • Castle Rock stands at 130 metres above sea level, with the highest surrounding cliffs measuring in at 80 metres above the ground.

Edinburgh Castle Cannons

The Edinburgh Castle cannons include Mons Meg, which was made in Belgium and presented to King James II for use in siege by his uncle, the Duke of Burgundy. However, due to it weighing over six tons, it couldn’t be moved further than three miles a day, so was saved for ceremonial purposes only. There is also the One O’clock Gun, which is fired at that time every day and traditionally allowed ships to set their clocks in order to aid navigation.

Edinburgh Castle Cannons - Mons Meg and 1 o clock Gun

 

Edinburgh Castle Tour

A visit to Edinburgh Castle isn’t complete without the full tour experience, incorporating a comprehensive history of the importance of the site. Wander the perimeters of the attraction with the other visitors and learn about each area of the grounds. Key attractions at Edinburgh Castle include the Great Hall, the Crown Jewels, the Stone of Scone, Mons Meg and the Prisons of War. Hear all about the role the castle played in endless battles, the royalty who have called it home and the sad stories of the prisoners who have been kept there.

Edinburgh Castle Crown Jewels

Edinburgh Castle famously holds the Scottish crown jewels, otherwise known as the Honours of Scotland, which were stored away for over a century. They were only rediscovered when Sir Walter Scott and his men made it their mission to find them in 1818. They are the oldest existing crown jewels in Britain, having been used in coronation from 1543 to 1651.

Edinburgh Castle Military Tattoo

Every year in August, Edinburgh Castle hosts the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo, a series of performances with a military focus taking place on the Esplanade at the front of the castle. It has been televised in over 40 countries and is watched by 100 million people worldwide every year. It attracts audiences of over 200,000 people each year.

Edinburgh Castle Military Tattoo

Events at Edinburgh Castle

As well as the Military Tattoo, Edinburgh Castle hosts a variety of other events including Christmas lunches, festive dinner and dance evenings, historical performances and interactive re-enactments, plus summer concerts. Artists who have performed at Edinburgh Castle include Rod Stewart, Simply Red, Paul Weller and Arcade Fire.

Edinburgh Castle Dungeon

The Edinburgh Castle Dungeons are a place of much fascination, having been the site of torture for many prisoners over the years. There are many sad tales of failed escape attempts, with prisoners as young as five having been kept within the gloomy depths of the site. Suspected witches were placed on trial at the castle after being captured, eventually being hung at the stake. Many of the restless souls are said to still haunt the castle grounds, with an attempt to scientifically prove the existence of ghosts there by Richard Wiseman in 2001.

Edinburgh Castle Ghosts

There have been many tales of spirits who walk the castle over the years. Visitors have often reported strange experiences such as feeling unseen physical contact or sudden drops in temperature, and seeing silhouettes of people and mysterious green lights. Stories of Edinburgh Castle ghosts include a piper who still roams the underground tunnels after disappearing down there hundreds of years ago. He played his bagpipes to keep others above ground informed of his whereabouts while exploring, but halfway along he ceased to be heard and was never seen again. There’s even a resident ghost dog called Greyfriars Bobby!

Edinburgh Castle Tours

Edinburgh Castle Fireworks

The annual Edinburgh Festival Fireworks Concert is quite the sight to behold. Taking place below Edinburgh Castle, the fireworks last for 45 minutes and feature the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, four tonnes of explosives and an incredible number of fireworks (around 400,000 are set off during the display). The event makes for the perfect close to the Edinburgh Festival, with spectators enjoying the action on blankets at viewing points in areas between Princes Street, Waverley Bridge, Castle Street, Calton Hill and the New Town – and even as far as Holyrood Park.

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Kate Quigley

Kate Quigley Travel Writer

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