Your trip to Edinburgh isn’t complete until you pay a visit to the most iconic landmark in the city, Edinburgh Castle. You can see it from around the city, as it dominates the Old Town skyline from its position on top of an extinct volcano, Castle Rock.
If military history interests you, then Edinburgh Castle has plenty of stories, as it has been involved in many battles and invasions throughout history, especially with England.
You will also be able to experience what life was like for kings and prisoners in the castle, visiting the rooms dedicated to each one of them.
By virtue of its location, impressive defensive structures and the good state of conservation of most of its buildings, despite the Castle is among the most expensive Edinburgh attractions, it is definitely one of the most attractive.
The gigantic rock on which stands the Castle of Edinburgh with a natural access only from the east. In this place sits today a large esplanade in which, during the month of August you can enjoy a unique spectacle: the Royal Military Tattoo.
In this incomparable scene, with the Castle in the background, you will see marching military bands from all over the world, wrapped in huge sets of lights and fireworks, creating an overwhelming atmosphere.
The Tatto takes place on weekdays (9pm) and twice on Saturdays (7.30pm and 10.30pm) during three weeks in August. If you have been lucky enough to get a ticket, get ready for something that you can only see in Edinburgh and which is going to leave you stunned.
As you enter the Castle, look out for the statues of Scotland’s most famous heroes, William Wallace and Robert the Bruce, who fought in the Wars of Scottish Independence. Above the entrance, you will see the Scottish national motto, “nemo me impune lacessit”, which means “no one provokes me without impunity”.
Continue to the upper levels of the Castle, and you will see Mons Meg, a huge cannon from the 15th century, gifted to King James II. It was used in battle against the English, but was too big to easily manoeuvre. It has been a blank gun since firing its last shot in 1681.
You can also check out the various military museums around the Castle, dedicated to important regiments who served there, and the Prisons of War, where captives were held.
The Castle has more than just military history; it has also served as a home for the Scottish Royal Family, and you can visit various buildings that were once used by them.
Don’t miss Crown Square, in the centre of the Castle, composed of the Royal Palace, the Great Hall, the Queen Anne building, and the Scottish National War Memorial. Here, you can see where grand banquets were held, or wander the rooms where royals once lived, including where Mary Queen of Scots gave birth to her son.
You can also visit the oldest building in Edinburgh, St Margaret’s Chapel, built in the 12th century by King David I, in honour of his mother. It fell into disuse for a time, and was even used as gunpowder store, before being restored in the 19th century.
Immediately inside the Castle, on the right, is Mill’s Mount, the north facing battery, where you can see the One O’Clock Gun. If you’re anywhere near the Castle at 1pm, you will hear it being fired, which happens every day except Sundays, Good Friday, and Christmas Day.
One of the most exciting areas in the Castle is the Crown Room, where you can see The Honours of Scotland; the crown, the sceptre, and the sword. They were first used together at the coronation of Mary Queen of Scots in 1543, and since then, have had a turbulent history of being moved around and hidden for many years to protect them. They’ve been on display in the tower since 1818, since being rediscovered by Sir Walter Scott.
As well as the Jewels, you should also take a look at the Stone of Destiny, a huge slab of sandstone which was historically used in the coronation of Scottish monarchs for hundreds of years. It was stolen by the English in 1296 and kept in Westminster Abbey for around 700 years, before being given back to Scotland.
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Find many more curiosities and anecdotes about Edinburgh in our tours around the city.