Edinburgh Castle – the keys of Scotland

Edinburgh Castle in Scotland

The most famous place in Scotland is Edinburgh Castle, which fascinates with its architecture and history. Let’s take a virtual tour of this beautiful place together with you.

Pictured with Edinburgh Castle, Scotland: Past and Present

Edinburgh Castle – a symbol of the struggle for independence

In ancient times, the fortification performed the role of an impregnable fortress, it was even called “the key to the country”. The location of the fortification is very convenient – it’s the top of a basalt cliff, on the site of an extinct volcano. Ancient legends said that the one who would own and rule the castle, will rule the whole country. This fortification has always served as a defensive complex, and with its help the local population fought for their independence.

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History of the castle

Associated with the history of the castle is the history of the whole country. For a long time, the Scots fought for their independence and did not want to lose it. People have long settled in the area, as evidenced by excavations and archaeological finds. Andrew of Winston, the medieval historian and poet, first wrote about the castle in his works. The first fortification was originally built on the high ground and was called the “Castle of the Virgins.” It bore that name until the 16th century.

Pictured with Edinburgh Castle, Scotland: Past and Present

In 1093, the first documentary information appeared that a fortress was located at the top of the mountain. It was in this year that King Malcolm III died. A little later Queen Margaret died of grief. In remembrance of his parents, his son David I decreed that a memorial chapel be built on the grounds. It was also thanks to him that the capital of the country was moved from Dunfermline to Edinburgh. In 1141 the castle became the seat of state parliament.

The history of the fortification is closely connected with the confrontation between the Scots and the English. In 1296 the head of England – Edward I began a military campaign against Scotland. In exactly two months the English conquered the fortress. In 1357, King of Scotland David II signed a treaty with the English about the independence of the country. In honor of this event David’s Tower was built on the territory of the castle.

Pictured with Edinburgh Castle, Scotland: Past and Present

The difficult period for the fortress fell on 1573. In the course of another war the castle was besieged. The commander W. Drury began to prepare for its capture two months in advance. The territory of the castle was repeatedly bombarded with cannons. Because of this, many buildings were destroyed or destroyed altogether. During the shelling, a shell hit a water well, causing the soldiers to be deprived of drinking water and forced to surrender to the enemy.

Battles for the territory continued until 1707, at which time the country was incorporated into the United Kingdom. The government immediately began fortifying the complex, using hard stone that could withstand heavy loads. The last battle near the castle took place in 1745.

Pictured with Edinburgh Castle, Scotland: Past and Present

After all military actions ceased, the building began to function as a prison, and criminals were kept there. But it was easy to escape from this place, and in 1811, several criminals escaped. No one strengthened the prison, it was simply moved to another place, and the castle was made a historical landmark.

In 1818, the Crown of Scotland was found in the fortress. Walter Scott and a group of patriots were searching for it. For ordinary people the memorial site became open in 1830. It was in connection with this event that many tourists began to arrive in the capital, which brought the city additional income. Church services began to be held in the chapel. In 1880, comprehensive restoration began, thanks to which the castle has survived until today. The building had served as a prison during World War II. German aviators were imprisoned here. Nowadays, historians and archeologists conduct research and excavations.

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“The Castle Rock – the most ancient history

The first written information about the settlements on the castle grounds appeared in the work of Andrew of Winston. He wrote a work on the history of the country, which consisted of nine volumes. He called his work “The Metrical Chronicle of the Country.” In one section he mentioned that people began to settle on “Castle Mountain” as early as 1000 B.C. There is no direct evidence of this, but during the archaeological excavations we found confirmation of his version.

Where did the historian get such information, it is a mystery, because the ancient chronicles from this area did not exist or they simply have not survived. Also in his nine-volume book, the author mentioned the fortress, which guarded not the entire country, but the virgins living in the castle. They were of noble birth, and lived under guard until they were given in marriage.

Pictured with Edinburgh Castle, Scotland: Past and Present

History of the appearance of the fortress on “Castle Rock”

Let’s leave Andrew’s work alone, and go mentally back to 600 AD. According to the annals which have survived to this day, King Munnidog was the first among the nobility to settle on the high ground. He ruled a small territory and often indulged in binge drinking. At one point, for some reason, he decided to have a battle with the English, in which his army was defeated. The king was badly wounded and died. After the king was defeated the castle was taken over by the Angles. Some historians question the battle between Munnidog’s army and the English.

Pictured with Edinburgh Castle, Scotland: Past and Present

The fortified edifice at Edinburgh is first mentioned in written sources in 1093, in a chronicle describing the death of King Malcolm III and his wife. During a military siege, the heirs of the royal family managed to hide from the enemies through an underground passage, and in time they avenged the death of their parents. Queen Margaret was made a saint. In 1124 the king’s son, David I, avenged his father’s death and took back the throne.

It was during David I’s reign that the country’s parliament met on the castle grounds; Edinburgh was not the capital before that. It was also during his reign that the first stone structures were built on the grounds. In 1296, the long and bloody war between Scotland and England began, and King Edward I of England was the instigator. It was not until 1357 that King David II signed a peace treaty with the King of England, which gave the country its independence.

Pictured with Edinburgh Castle, Scotland: Past and Present

In 1573 another bloody battle took place on the territory of the fortress, until then it had become almost impregnable. On three sides it was surrounded by cliffs, and on the fourth side a steep and narrow path led to it, on which the enemy army was immediately trapped. It was possible to take the fortified building thanks to the strategy of the commander. In twelve days, more than 3 thousand cannon shells fell on the castle, which helped to take it as a result of the assault. For her courage and endurance, Queen Elizabeth I of England ordered the release of all soldiers holding the defense. Only Kirkaldy, the head of the defensive detachment, his brother and the goldsmith were hanged for minting coins with the image of Mary Stuart.

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Edinburgh Castle these days

The castle is now a symbol of Scotland. Millions of tourists from all over the world come to it every year. Now we will walk together through the most popular parts of the castle.

St. Margaret’s Chapel

It was built in XII century by King David I in honor of his mother Margaret of Scotland. The first written mention of it was in 1124. It is listed as a National Historic Landmark of the highest protection category. The chapel was built in the Romanesque style at the top of “Castle Mountain”. It is a small stone structure similar to early Celtic and Scottish chapels. Inside, the chapel is up to three meters wide and the walls are up to sixty centimeters thick. The chapel has five windows with stained glass windows. In 1993, the interior was completely renovated to commemorate the 900th anniversary of St. Margaret’s death.

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Scottish National War Memorial

St. Mary’s Church was once here, but in the 16th century it was turned into an armory. A little later the site was a barracks. On July 14, 1927, a memorial was opened on this site to honor the Scottish soldiers who died in World War I. The Scots hoped that this war would be the last for the country, but alas they were wrong, so the memorial also became a memorial to the victims of World War II.

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The Royal Palace

This is the highest point of Edinburgh’s fortification. It contains the royal regalia and the Stone of Destiny, a 152 kilogram stone on which Scottish kings were crowned. King Edward I of England once stole the stone and took it to London. There it remained for almost seven hundred years under the throne in Westminster Abbey. The stone returned home only in 1996, on condition that it be given for the coronation of the next ruler of England.

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Great Hall of Edinburgh Castle

Visit this place and you won’t regret it. Once inside, you’ll see an incredibly beautiful painted ceiling, which has survived from ancient times to the present day. It is made of wood, which makes it even more valuable. Unfortunately, the walls of the castle were damaged during the war and during the time when the soldiers’ barracks were located here. During the restoration works in 1897, beautiful wooden panels and a chic collection of weapons and knight’s armor were added to the hall. Stained-glass windows with the coats of arms of the two countries are also striking in their beauty.

Pictured with Edinburgh Castle, Scotland: Past and Present

If you come to Scotland, be sure to visit Edinburgh and its famous castle, you’re bound to have a lot of fun. To find out as much information as possible about the attraction, send a request for a tour in advance through a travel agency.

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Edinburgh Castle

Edinburgh Castle

Edinburgh Castle, Scotland’s main castle-fortress, sits atop Castle Mountain in the heart of the capital, Old Edinburgh. It dominates its surroundings because it grows organically out of an 80-meter high hill.

The complex on the mountain has been remarkably well preserved, despite years of service, not just as a royal residence but as a veritable fortress: impregnable and reliable, it has been the city’s main defence and the “key to the country” for centuries. Its dense masonry of varying shades of dark stones and its exact correspondence to the modern concept of a medieval castle are impressive.

Visiting it when visiting Edinburgh is a major must-visit: how do you like the idea of walking where kings, great generals and famous writers once walked? It’s worth the climb, if only for the unparalleled views of the city and the Firth of Forth Bay from its walls. Allow at least half a day for more in-depth exploration: there are several history museums in the fortress which tell the story of the country from its very founding to the present day, and which house some of Scotland’s most important national treasures.

Edinburgh Castle


Edinburgh Castle’s history is impressive in its length and richness, but also in the unresolved issues of controversy among prominent historians. Excavations are still being conducted on its territory and what is found raises new questions about the historical past of the settlements rather than gives clear answers.

For instance, there were earlier preconditions for the foundation of the castle in this location, but exactly when and in what form it was built is not known with certainty. It is assumed that in prehistoric times, a thousand years BC, the ancient tribes took fancy to this place on a high mountain, which would protect them from wild animals or enemies. The first mention of any buildings here also dates back to BC – Welsh poetry speaks of the Din Eidyn fortress and the castle to the early 11th century, during the reign of King David I, who convened parliament here.

The subsequent history is much more extensive and demanded more than one volume: the castle was constantly rebuilt and adapted to the military realities, passed from hand to hand from one English king to another, and then many times was returned to the Scottish rulers.

The Scots wanted independence, while the English saw Scotland as theirs. And only in the middle of the XVIII century the last battle of the dissenters took place near the walls of the fortress with the final passing of Scotland to Great Britain in 1707.

Edinburgh Castle

After that the fortress was used as a prison unsuccessfully: in 1811 as many as 49 dangerous prisoners all at once escaped from here and after that the authorities moved the prison to another place and the castle was made a monument of architecture.

In 1818 the writer Walter Scott found here the real jewels and the crown of Scotland, earlier considered to be lost. From the beginning of the 30s of the XIX century the territory of the fortress and its buildings were available for tourists, and towards the end of the century it acquired the composition and outline that we can see nowadays.

The Castle Inside

Inside Edinburgh Castle there are a number of attractions.

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The way up here is through a wide street, the Esplanade. The Royal Edinburgh Parade of Military Bands, which marches to music in national costumes, is held here annually. Of course, the most impressive and significant is the bagpipe and drum band.

The tallest building in the castle complex is the Royal Palace. It was not a permanent home of the monarchs, not everyone liked it, so perhaps the interiors are not the most chic, something has not been preserved at all, but here are the royal regalia and another amazing artifact – the Stone of Destiny, which is a large block of sandstone weighing 152 kg and about three thousand years old. Many rulers of the kingdom were crowned on it.

St Margaret's Chapel

The tall stone house in the fortress is the chapel of St Margaret, the wife of Malcolm III, who was elevated to the rank of saint.

But it still performs its functions, and even unusual wedding ceremonies are held there, where the groom appears in the national costume of his clan.

Many buildings and objects in the castle belong to the military theme: there are several military museums and various cannons.

A special local pride is the huge giant cannon Mons Meg. It was made in the middle of the XV century and served until the middle of the XVI century. The six-ton cannon is capable of shooting 150-kg stone cannonballs to a distance of 3.2 kilometers. Because of its weight it was an impossible task to move it even with a herd of oxen, so its movement in military operations was limited to 5 km a day. The ceremonial volley was fired from the bombardment on the occasion of the wedding in 1558 of Mary Stuart, Queen of Scots, and in 1681 the last shot was fired from it – the cannon was cracked from overloading.

The other, the Clock Cannon, has been used since 1861 at the instigation of businessman John Hewitt to correct the time of ships in the bay, and simply for the people of the town. Now it is no more than a tradition: every day, with the exception of a few days a year, a shot is fired from the cannon at exactly 1:00 p.m. Over the years several cannons have been in her role.

Edinburgh Castle

Many military exhibits are presented indoors.

The National War Museum houses various artifacts from Scotland’s military times: officers’ letters, weapons, uniforms and costumes. There was formerly a military hospital here, replacing an ammunition depot once built in the 1700s.

In the Museum of the Scottish Guards Dragoons – the elite royal troops that existed since the 17th century – there is the main trophy – the French imperial eagle captured by the Scots at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815. One can also see here a portrait of the Russian Emperor Nicholas II. Queen Victoria granted him the title of honorary colonel of the Grey Dragoons, and he sent her in return his portrait in the traditional red dragoon uniform.

Opposite the museum there is a museum of the Royal Regiment of Scotland and nearby the Scottish National War Memorial in memory of those who died in the conflicts of the 20th century. There are also dungeons for prisoners of war, a Victorian-era garrison prison and even a cemetery for the garrison officers’ dogs – all accessible for viewing.

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Buy Tickets

To avoid lines at the entrance, both the administration of the castle and many visitors are advised to buy tickets in advance online. At the same time choose the time of entry to the castle. Tickets for the morning from 09:30-10:00 should be booked no later than the previous day, and for the next time – no later than 1.5 hours.

Admission costs £18.00/£21.00 online for adults from 16 years old, £11.00/£12.50 for children from 5 to 15 years old, children under 5 years old are free. Discounts are available for holders of various museum cards for Scotland, such as Historic Scotland.

The price includes a sightseeing tour in English every half hour in summer and every hour in winter. Audio guides in different languages, including Russian, are available for £3.50 for an adult and £1.50 for a child.

View of Castle Hill from the city below

Opening hours

The Castle is open every day from 09:30 to 18:00 (April 1 to September 30) or 10:00 to 16:00 (October 1 to March 31), except December 25 and 26. Note that different objects on the territory of the fortress are closed at different times.

Since the castle is located on a hill and blows a lot, in bad weather it may be closed. This information is reflected on the castle’s website https://www.edinburghcastle.scot/plan-your-visit/opening-times. Tickets purchased for that day are valid for two more days and are automatically refunded if the visit is not possible.


On the territory of the fortress visitors can have a hearty meal or tea in two cafes, buy national gifts in three souvenir stores, one of which is also available online. There are restrooms available.

For visitors with disabilities, there is an auto-delivery service on steep sections, and some rooms are equipped with elevators.

Museum Building

How to get there

Edinburgh Castle is located at the end of Castlehill St., at the top of a mountain that will require climbing. It’s a central part of the city and also home to many iconic important national sites and attractions: the National Museum and Gallery of Scotland, the Whiskey Heritage Center, the Writers’ Museum – Burns, Stevenson, Walter Scott and many others.

Edinburgh Waverley, Edinburgh’s main train station, is also half a kilometer from the castle. So, it’s convenient to come here to see the castle even from the suburbs of Edinburgh or other cities in the country.

The nearest bus stop to the castle is Mound Place on nearby Cuthill Street. Routes passing here are No. 23, 27, 41, 42, and 67.

More traffic will be at the farther “South Bridge” stop: Buses #5, 7, 8, 14, 35, 45, 49, N7, and X95, where you should turn off into High Street and walk a mile to the castle along the so-called Royal Mile – High Street, Lonmarket, and Castlehill Streets.

If you are coming by car you can park near the castle in Castle Terrace and Johnston Terrace. The parking lots offer discounts on tickets to the castle.

The cabs in Edinburgh are represented by cars of different brands and colors, there is no single style. You can book at specialized parking lots, by phone or online, such as Airport Taxis Edinburgh, Central Taxis, CityCab, FestivalCars.

Panorama: view from one of the castle observation decks on Castle Hill

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