Edinburgh Castle. Castle in Edinburgh, Scotland

Edinburgh Castle

Castle in Edinburgh, Scotland

Edinburgh Castle Photo © Morag Casey

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Edinburgh Castle

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Edinbrugh Castle at Dusk - Edinburgh Castle
Edinbrugh Castle at Dusk - Edinburgh Castle. Photo by Chris Combe
With a commanding position perched high up on Castle Rock, the historic fortress of Edinburgh Castle dominates the city’s skyline. Thought to date back at least to the 12th century, with humans occupying the rock area since the Iron Age in the 2nd century, the castle is of historical importance to Scotland’s national heritage.


Castle Rock is the remains of a volcanic pipe that pushed through the sedimentary rock around 350 million years ago. It cooled to form hard dolerite that resisted a period of glacial erosion that followed. Rocky cliffs lie to the south, west and north with the eastern slope being the only readily accessible route, providing a distinct defensive advantage.

Archaeological digs suggest humans lived on the Castle Rock area from the 1st and 2nd centuries AD, and referred to it as ‘Alauna’. Pottery, bronze, and brooches found suggest a trading relationship between the Votadini (Wikipedia Article) and the Romans from this early period.

 - Edinburgh Castle
Edinburgh Castle. Photo by Kim Traynor

Edinburgh was developed as a seat of royal power by King David I in the 12th century. While initially built of timber, stone defenses are documented as having existed on the site that held an assembly of nobles and churchmen, considered a precursor to the Scottish Parliament. St Margaret’s Chapel is one of these original buildings that remains at the rock’s summit.
When the throne of Scotland became vacant in the late 13th century, Edward I of England launched an invasion, resulting in the First War of Scottish Independence (Wikipedia Article). Edinburgh Castle came under English control with all Scottish legal records and royal treasures transferred south, until a surprise attack on 14 March 1314 by Thomas Randolph, 1st Earl of Moray, recaptured the castle.

Edinburgh Castle -
	Edinburgh Castle
Edinburgh Castle - Edinburgh Castle. Photo by Mike Smith
In 1335, the English invaded again and reoccupied Edinburgh Castle, holding it until 1341 when William Douglas, Lord of Liddesdale, and his men, disguised as merchants bringing supplies, stormed the castle and killed the entire English garrison.
Throughout the 15th century, the castle became an important factory of arsenal and armaments, as well as being a royal residence, although its latter function declined towards the end of the century as residences were built elsewhere.

The Lang Siege of the 16th century resulted in the destruction of the medieval defenses by artillery bombardment and the subsequent rebuilding of much of the castle. In 1745 the Jacobite army, under Charles Edward Stuart, took Edinburgh, although not the castle which defended itself leaving the Jacobites to march south to England.

Its main function operated as a military barracks, housing a large garrison and holding prisoners during the Seven Years' War (1756–1763), the American War of Independence (1775–1783), and the Napoleonic Wars (1803–1815).
Its use as a prison ceased following a mass prison break in 1811 during which 49 war prisoners escaped, although resumed during the two World Wars with German Luftwaffe pilots incarcerated there after being shot down in British territory.

Scottish National War Memorial, Edinburgh Castle - Edinburgh Castle
Scottish National War Memorial, Edinburgh Castle - Edinburgh Castle. Photo by David McKelvey
From the 19th century, its importance as part of Scotland’s national heritage was increasingly recognized and numerous restoration projects took place as important buildings were ‘rediscovered’. It was first opened up to visitors during the 1830s. In addition to St Margaret’s Chapel, the Royal Palace and the Great Hall, built in the early 16th century, are among its oldest structures.
In 1991, the castle came under the care of newly-established Historic Scotland and was designated a Scheduled Ancient Monument in 1993. Amongst its protection listings, it is recognized by UNESCO under its World Heritage Site listing of Edinburgh’s Old and New Towns as being ‘dominated by a medieval fortress’.
Edinburgh Castle is also home to the Honors of Scotland regalia, the Scottish National War Memorial, and the National War Museum of Scotland. It receives more than 1 million visitors annually and is one of Scotland’s most visited tourist attractions.
Every year, the castle hosts the Edinburgh Military Tattoo and has become a recognizable backdrop for the internationally-renowned Edinburgh International Festival.

Edinburgh Castle -
	Edinburgh Castle
Edinburgh Castle. Photo by Keith

Interior - Edinburgh
Interior - Edinburgh Castle. Photo by duimdog

Visiting the Edinburgh Castle

The Edinburgh Castle is located at the top of the Royal Mile in the west end of Edinburgh’s Old Town. The castle is open from 9:30 AM to 6:00 PM in summer and 9:30 AM to 5 PM with tickets costing £ £16 ($24) for adults and £ £10 ($15) for children (the last tickets are sold one hour before closing).

The Esplanade, a long sloping forecourt, is located in front of the castle and hosts the Edinburgh Military Tattoo each year. A road built to transport cannons leads up to the Half Moon Battery and the Portcullis Gate, with the Gatehouse at the head of the Esplanade and statues of Robert the Bruce and William Wallace added in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. A number of military buildings sit to the north and west of the prominent Argyle Tower with the Governor’s House, built in 1742, now operating as an officer’s mess. To the southwest is the National War Museum of Scotland that offers an insight into the 300-year military history of the country and the castle’s role throughout. Other buildings of note are St. Margaret’s Chapel, the oldest building in Edinburgh, the Royal Palace, the Great Hall, and the Queen Anne Building that houses an educational center with costumed re-enactments and period weaponry.

In addition to its role as a tourist attraction, the Edinburgh Castle still houses a military garrison whose purpose today is more ceremonial than military - standing watch at the Gatehouse and guarding the Honors of Scotland.

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Author: Pip23. Last updated: Feb 02, 2015

Pictures of Edinburgh Castle

Edinburgh Castle
Edinburgh Castle. Photo by Craig Cormack


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