Edinburgh Castle

Edinburgh Castle
©2022 Gazetteer for Scotland

Edinburgh Castle

Situated on a volcanic plug at the head of a crag-and-tail feature at the centre of Edinburgh, Edinburgh Castle is one of Scotland's leading tourist attractions. This remarkable fortress and former royal residence was visited by more than 2.1 million people in 2019, making it Scotland's second busiest tourist attraction. It is managed by Historic Environment Scotland on behalf of the government and retains a military garrison.

The site of the castle was probably first occupied in the late Bronze Age, although the first documented record comes from the 6th Century. St. Margaret, the wife of Malcolm III, died in the castle in 1093. The tiny Norman St. Margaret's Chapel, built in her memory and the oldest building in the castle precinct, was spared on the several occasions the castle was razed. Successive sieges and occupations of the Castle by the English and the Scots were a feature between the 12th and 17th centuries, and the castle was last strengthened in the 18th century in response to the Jacobite threat and the New Barracks were built 1796-99 to house further troops during the Napoleonic Wars.

The castle we see today was begun in 1367 and includes several important buildings such as the Great Hall, which now houses a collection of weapons and armour. The Royal apartments include a small wood-panelled room where Mary, Queen of Scots, gave birth to a son, who would become King James VI.

The Honours of Scotland - the Crown, the Sceptre and the Sword of State - together with the Stone of Destiny, are on view in the Crown Room. Nearby is the Scottish National War Memorial, designed by Robert Lorimer shortly after the First World War, and containing - in a Hall of Honour - the names of Scots who have died in 20th C. wars. Other buildings include the National War Museum of Scotland, dungeons, which held French prisoners during the Napoleonic Wars, and a more recent military prison.

Amongst an extensive collection of weapons is the famous Mons Meg, a five-ton cannon, thought to have been forged around 1486, perhaps in Flanders and said to have been able to fire a stone cannonball some 1½ miles (2.5 km). Edinburgh Castle is also the site of the One O'clock Gun, which has been fired each day, except Sunday, at precisely 1.00pm since 1861, to provide an accurate time signal.

The figures of Robert the Bruce and William Wallace in niches on the gate-house were placed there by Edinburgh Corporation and unveiled by Lord Provost Sir Alexander Stevenson on the 28th May, 1929.

The Castle Esplanade is the venue for the world-famous Edinburgh Military Tattoo, which takes place annually in August and comprises a programme of music, marching and historical re-enactments. An equestrian statue of Field Marshal Douglas Haig (1861 - 1928) was relocated from the Castle Esplanade to Hospital Square within the Castle in 2011 and rededicated by HRH The Princess Royal.

Since 1987, Edinburgh Castle has featured on the rear of the now-rare Royal Bank of Scotland £1 notes.

Use the tabs on the right of this page to see other parts of this entry arrow

If you have found this information useful please consider making
a donation to help maintain and improve this resource. More info...

By using our site you agree to accept cookies, which help us serve you better