The Edinburgh Castle is probably the first landmark that comes to your mind when you think of the Scottish capital city. Due to its size and the history behind it, there are plenty of things to see and the visit can easily take about 3 hours. Have you ever wondered which are the top 10 places to visit in the Edinburgh Castle and which the history behind them is?
Putting us in context, the Edinburgh Castle is an ancient fortress perched on a hill of volcanic rock that was built for military reasons on the XII century. The castle starts on the top (and beginning) of the Royal Mile, the largest street and the main hub of Edinburgh’s Old Town. It is the best-known and most visited place in Scotland.
Top 10 places in the Edinburgh Castle
- The One O’Clock Gun. This time signal was originally established for the ships in the harbours. Although it became useless due to the bad weather, the ceremony still remains and the gun is fired every day at 1pm by the District Gunner on the north side of the castle. Given that people gather there to see it, I recommend going there around 15 minutes earlier to find a good spot either in front of the gun or in the upper side of the castle. In any case, be there on time, the gun doesn’t wait for any latecomers!
- St Margaret’s Chapel. Did you know that this small chapel is actually the oldest building in Edinburgh? It is still standing up despite many repeated attacks to the castle! The chapel is a tiny rectangular building with stained-glass windows, an altar and other representative worship items. It was built in 1130 by David I as a dedicatory to his mother, Queen Margaret, a member of the English royal family.
- Mons Meg. The name doesn’t define exactly what it is, but Mons Meg is a big siege gun situated at the top of the castle next to St Margaret’s Chapel. Made in Belgium, this weapon was a gift for the king and has a weight of over 6 tons (almost 7,000 kg). Almost nothing!
- The Great Hall. It is located in the heart of the castle and was originally built as a meeting point of the Scottish Parliament, then it was converted into the soldiers’ barracks and later into a hospital. Nowadays, the hall has displays of arms and armour.
- Prisons of war. It is a recreation of how prisoners that came from Spain, France, USA, Netherlands or Italy to many England’s wars lived during their arrest. It is very impressive to see how they managed to survive here. The prison is really dark and cold and a huge amount of people had to live together in that small place. There are beds, a kitchen and even tables where games were often played!
- Military prisons. Just in front of the prisons of war, the cell where military officers served their sentences is worth a visit. Guess which one of the crimes was: being drunk on duty! These prisons are totally different from the other ones: there were individual cells, well-illuminated and, obviously, cleaner!
- Scottish Crown Jewels (“Honors of Scotland”). Located in the first floor of the Royal Palace, it houses the Crown, the Sceptre and the Sword of State that were used for the coronation of many monarchs. They were hidden and locked for many years until they were rediscovered. Problem? You have to queue up and be fast seeing everything since there is a long line of tourists waiting behind you. And it is forbidden to take pictures 🙁
- David’s Tower. This was one of the most impressive places in the Edinburgh Castle and it actually took me some time to find it, as it is underground. The Tower was the first Royal residence in the castle and played an important part in Scotland’s history. For example, did you know that the Crown Jewels were hidden here during World War II?
This Tower was also the place of two tragic moments: The “Black Dinner”. When the young Earl and his brother were accused of treason, they were served a black bull’s head on a platter in the presence of 10-year-old King James II and then they were both beheaded in the palace yard; and the imprisonment of the Duke of Albany for plotting against his brother, who escaped by getting his guards drunk and then lowered himself from a window on a rope.
- The Royal Palace. Royal Palace: This magnificent building helps us see and imagine how kings and queens lived: surrounded by richness and comfort! Queen Mary of Scots gave birth to her child in one of the rooms in the building. It is said that the birth was so difficult that one of Mary’s maids used magic to transfer birth pangs onto a servant.
- Scottish National War Memorial. Situated in Crown Square at the heart of the castle, this building commemorates the sacrifice of Scots in conflicts like the Great War and the World War II. It does not only honors the soldiers but also women’s services, nursing services and civilian casualties from 1914 until now. No pictures were allowed here neither.
- Dog cemetery. Yes, there is also a dog cemetery in the castle! It can be seen from the place where the ceremony of the One O’Clock Gun takes place. The cemetery is like a small garden that was used as a burial place for the officer’s dogs and mascots. It is not accessible and you can view it only from above.
- Views from above. The Edinburgh castle offers a beautiful and complete view of all the city! How many places can you recognize in the picture below?
The Edinburgh Castle opens at 9:30 every day and closes at 6pm in summer and at 5pm in winter. Last admission is 1h before closing. The price of the standard ticket (adult 16 – 59 yrs) costs £16.50 (21€) and the one for children (5 – 15 yrs) is £9.90 (13€). The are also discounts for unemployed people, seniors, youth and holders of special cards such as Euro 26 or the Explorer Pass that you can find here.
Enjoy your visit! 🙂