|Edinburgh Castle, perched on its outcrop of volcanic rock, is by far Edinburgh's most famous tourist attraction. Dating back over 1000 years, it was first settled in the Bronze Age, and it has been prominent in Edinburgh's history ever since.|
The Castle is an interesting mixture of designs and architectural styles. This is partly because the structure of the Castle has been modified and added to over many hundreds of years, the legacy of which is an interesting mix of numerous different architectural styles.
But equally importantly, the role of the castle has changed numerous times over the years. From fortress to royal residence to house of parliament, the Castle has had many roles and this is also reflected in its design.
|(1) - Esplanade||(9) - Scottish United Services Museum|
|(2) - Gatehouse||(10) - War Memorial|
|(3) - Half Moon Battery||(11) - Vaults|
|(4) - Portcullis Gate||(12) - Prison|
|(5) - Reservoir||(13) - New Barracks|
|(6) - St Margaret's Chapel||(14) - Storehouse and Hospital|
|(7) - Palace||(15) - Governor's Ward|
|(8) - Great Hall
||(16) - Mills Mount Battery and|
One o'clock Gun
|To get to the Castle you will have to approach from the Royal Mile. This takes you across the magnificent 18th century Esplanade (1), site of the world famous Edinburgh Military Tattoo that takes place annually as part of the Edinburgh International Festival. |
You then enter the Castle through the Gatehouse with its drawbridge (2). This is a relatively recent addition to the castle, dating only from the 1880's, but it does offer an appropriately grand, although not quite authentic, entrance way to the Castle.
Straight ahead you will see the imposing Half-Moon Battery (3), built in 1574 as an extra defence to the Castle's eastern side. Follow the path round to the right and it will take you to the Portcullis Gate (4) that dates from the same period.
|In the centre of the Castle, next to the Reservoir (5), you will find the oldest surviving part of the Castle - St Margaret's Chapel (6). This chapel was built by King Malcolm III in 1076, and is named after his wife, Queen Margaret. |
It is worth pausing on the battlements outside the chapel for this is probably the best spot in the Castle to admire the stunning views.
In the southern part of the Castle you will find a collection of some of the most interesting parts of the castle. Firstly there is a 15th century Palace (7), which is where Mary Queen of Scots gave birth to James VI of Scotland in 1566. (It was James who united the Scottish and English Crowns by also becoming King James I of England in 1603).
|It is also in this Palace, in the Crown Room, that the Scottish Crown Jewels, known as the Honours of Scotland, are displayed. They include the Scottish Crown, reputedly the oldest crown in Europe, the Sword of State, and a 15th century sceptre. |
These are a great source of Scottish national pride and so were hidden in the castle when the Act of Union took effect in 1707, and were only put on display again in 1822.
More recently the Stone of Destiny has joined the Honours of Scotland. Also known as the Stone of Scone, this was used as the coronation throne for Scottish Kings until James I removed it to Westminster in 1296. It remained in England for 700 years, becoming a focus of Scottish Nationalists in the meantime, until it was returned to Scotland in 1996.
Then next to the Palace is the magnificent 16th century Great Hall (8) with its imposing hammerbeam roof and intricate carvings. Built by James IV, this room was the venue for Scottish Parliaments until 1639.
|And finally this part of the Castle is also where you will find the Scottish United Services Museum (9), a military museum dedicated to Scotland's three armed services, housed in the Queen Anne Barracks and in the Hospital Block. |
Among other things the museum contains an excellent collection of uniforms from all of the Scottish regiments, and an extensive collection of military journals, prints and pictures.
|Opposite the museum you will find the most recent addition to the Castle, the poignant Scottish National War Memorial (10) commemorating Scottish servicemen who lost their lives in the two World Wars.|
As well as the memorial itself, there is also a book of rememberance which lists the names of all those who died serving their country and which is available to people looking for relatives or friends.
|Then if you make your way round to the western side of the castle you will find the Castle Vaults (11). These contain an exhibition about the castle's military history, which includes one of the Castle's most famous attractions - the 5 tons Mons Meg. This 15th century cannon was the most advanced piece of artillary of its era and was able to fire a 500 pound stone a distance of two miles!|
Next to the vaults is the Castle Prison (12), which to this day is marked with the graffiti of past prisoners. Also along this side of the Castle is the New Barracks (13), and to their right the Ordinance Storehouse and Hospital (14).
Opposite the Storehouse and Hospital, in the Middle Ward is the Governor's House (15). This was built in 1745 as the official residence of the Castle Governor, however now it is home to the Scottish Army Officer's Mess.
|On the northern side of the Castle is the Mills Mount Battery (16). This is where you will find one of the Castle's (and Edinburgh's) most distinctive features - the One o'clock gun.|
Originally fired to allow boats on the Firth of Forth to set their clocks, the gun is still fired each day, the sound echoing out across the whole of the city and startling unsuspecting tourists.
|Edinburgh Castle is open daily from 9.30am - 6.00pm April to September and from 9.30am to 5pm from October to March. Entrance costs around £6 for adults. Guided tours are available.|
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