Edinburgh Castle, perched high atop the volcanic Castle Rock, looms over the city of Edinburgh. Today, visitors come from around the world to explore the castle, propelling it to the status of Scotland’s second-most-visited tourist attraction. Parts of the castle itself date from 1130 A.D. while the Castle Rock site shows signs of ancient human settlements dating from around 900 B.C. The castle presided over many years of important Scottish historical events , including the Wars of Scottish Independence in the 14th century and the Jacobite Rising of 1745, and was a royal residence until 1603.
When you arrive at the castle, you will immediately notice the striking views of the city of Edinburgh nestled in the area below Castle Rock. Most of the castle’s buildings post-date the 16th century, when artillery fire during the Lang Siege destroyed the castle’s medieval fortifications—with the notable exception of St. Margaret’s Chapel, which dates from the early 12th century. Just outside of St. Margaret’s, stop to visit Mons Meg, a 15th century siege cannon that has not worked since the late 17th century when its barrel burst while firing a birthday salute for the Duke of Albany.
In the center of the castle complex lays the main courtyard of the palace, Crown Square, whose foundation is formed by a series of large stone vaults built during the 1430’s and used to house prisoners until the 19th century. The Royal Palace, the former residence of Scottish royalty, lines one side of Crown Square. Mary Queen of Scots gave birth to James VI, the future King of England, in 1566 inside a small room within the palace. Today, the Royal Palace houses the Crown Room where visitors can see the Scottish crown jewels, as well as the “Stone of Destiny”, the ancient Scottish coronation stone.
The palace became primarily a fortress and arsenal after the Scottish court departed to London in the 17th century. During modern times, it found new life as an active army base that houses two regiments and as the home of the Scottish National War Memorial. The Scottish War Memorial commemorates the Scottish casualties of World War I, World War II, the Malayan Emergency, the Korean War, Northern Ireland, the Falklands War and the Gulf War. Each day—with the exception of Sunday, Christmas Day and Good Friday—Edinburgh Castle fires the One O’Clock gun, a time signal historically used by ships in the area.
Edinburgh Castle houses several gift shops, as well as a bookshop full of titles relating to the history of the castle and the area. The staff provides guided tours of the castle and you can also rent an audio tour online or in the visitor information area.
Opening Times and Prices
Summer – 9:30am – 6pm
Winter – 9:30am – 5pm