Edinburgh Castle

Edinburgh Castle: Why it’s a must-visit in the Scottish capital

Brush up on your Scottish history, marvel at the views of the city or catch a gig in a truly unique location, all in the shadow of one of the most majestic castles in the world<o:p></o:p>

It’s impossible to miss, majestically rising above the Old Town and dominating the city’s skyline. Edinburgh Castle is nothing if not impressive, although that extends far beyond the realms architecture. This is a site and a structure of immense historical importance and undoubtedly central to any visit to Edinburgh. Chances are that if you’re already bound for Edinburgh, the castle is top of your itinerary. If it’s not, our list of the best reasons to visit Edinburgh Castle will change that.<o:p></o:p>

Castle Rock

The rock on which Edinburgh Castle stands is the plug of an extinct volcano that rises up ominously over Edinburgh’s Old Town. There has been a settlement on this rock since the 2nd Century and it remains possible that it is the oldest continuously inhabited place in Scotland. The first recorded mention of a castle on the rock is from 1093, when St Margaret supposedly received news of her husband King Malcolm III’s death while residing there. She is depicted in the stained-glass window in the current castle’s chapel. The rock is formed of impermeable dolomite, which made it difficult to get water to the castle. The water supply often ran out during droughts or sieges. This is offset though by the fact that rock offers impeccable natural defences, surrounded by sheer cliffs on two sides and a step ascent on a third side.<o:p></o:p>

The Great Hall

Fans of everything from Macbeth to Game of Thrones will know that a castle’s great hall is its heart and the location of some of the most important happenings, from banquets to greeting important guests. Edinburgh Castle’s Great Hall is indeed great, with its intricately carved wooden panels, blood red walls and impressive hammerbeam ceiling. At one end stands a giant stone fireplace, which would have cast heat through the hall from the bonfire within. Around the perimeter and along the walls are some vicious-looking weapons and medieval armour. The hall was started by James IV in 1511, although he died in 1513, leaving little time for banquets. Beside the fireplace is the ‘Lairds Lug’, a spyhole he used to secretly watch his courtiers from. Oliver Cromwell seized control of the castle in the late 17th Century and used the hall as barracks for his troops. It wasn’t until 1897 that it was restored.<o:p></o:p>

The Royal Palace

The Royal Palace was the home of Scottish royalty from the 15th Century up until 1633. It was here that Mary, Queen of Scots gave birth to her son James VI. The labour was so bad that it’s said magic was employed to ease her pain. James VI would go on to unite the crowns of England and Scotland and become James I. His birth room is on the ground floor of the palace. The Royal Palace is the current home of the Scottish Crown Jewels, housed in the Crown Room. The jewels were hidden for many years until the novelist Sir Walter Scott discovered them in a locked trunk in 1818. The Crown Room also houses the Stone of Scone, which has been used in coronation ceremonies since 1293 and will be taken to Westminster Abbey when the next coronation happens.<o:p></o:p>

The Castle guns

The One O’Clock Gun is an Edinburgh tradition that dates back to the 19th Century. Back then, a gun would be fired from the castle at 1pm every day to let ships know to set their maritime clocks to navigate out at sea. These days, it fires every day except Sundays, Christmas Day and Good Friday and is a popular spectacle. The castle’s most famous gun, however, is Mons Meg, a gigantic cannon that was capable of firing a 150kg gun stone two miles. The gun was used in battles between 1460 and 1550, and was used in 1558 to celebrate the marriage of Mary, Queen of Scots.<o:p></o:p>

The events

These days, Edinburgh Castle hosts many different events, from gigs to fireworks displays to historical re-enactments. Rod Stewart, The Proclaimers, Boyzone and Arcade Fire have all played there and BBC Scotland’s Hogamanay Live celebrations are often held in the Great Hall.<o:p></o:p>

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