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Situated at the top of the Royal Mile, sitting on the extinct volcano Castle Rock, Edinburgh Castle can be seen on the skyline from many parts of the city. It offers unrivalled, panoramic views on clear days. It is packed with history, from the twelth century St Margaret’s Chapel to the Great Hall, remodelled by Victorians in their image of what they thought a medieval hall should be.
Although archaeological evidence suggests there may have been settlements on Castle Rock since around 900 BC, much of the Castle itself has been built far more recently- for instance, the Half Moon Battery lies on top of the remains of David’s Tower, which was destroyed during a siege of the Castle in the sixteenth century. The Gatehouse was built in 1887 and the statues of Robert the Bruce and William Wallace either side of the Gatehouse were added in 1929.
Edinburgh Castle has had a chequered history. It has been a royal Scottish residence, it has been held by both the Scots and the English, it has seen the death of Queen Margaret and the birth of Mary Queen of Scots’ son James VI. It has been a fortress, a holding place for prisoners-of-war and hiding place for the sword, crown and sceptre - Scotland’s National Treasures.
In modern times thousands flock to the Castle’s floodlit esplanade to see the Edinburgh Military Tattoo every summer. The National Treasures and the Stone of Scone – essential in the coronation of early Scottish kings – are on display for visitors to see. The Scottish National War Memorial provides a moving tribute to all Scots who died in the First and Second World Wars and in more recent conflicts.
A few tips should you decide to visit Edinburgh Castle:
Allow a day to fully appreciate all the Castle has to offer. There is a huge amount to see including castle defences, exhibitions, museums, prison quarters, the National Treasures, St Margaret’s Chapel, the war memorial and much more.
Be prepared for inclement weather; I visited in late June and the weather was, as the Scots say, dreich – wearing layered clothing and taking a waterproof, windproof jacket should help ensure you have a comfortable visit.
Book your ticket online to avoid the queues waiting to purchase tickets.
Consider using an audio guide (available in a wide variety of languages) – a hand-held device with headphones that gives you information about all areas of the castle; it allows you to take your visit at your own pace and to focus on what really interests you.
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