No visit to Edinburgh is complete without a tour of Edinburgh Castle, in fact, it is Scotland’s most visited paid attraction. While I had been up to the castle entrance, I had never ventured in. Sam and I went on a bitterly cold, windy Friday a few weeks ago.
The Castle was the Scottish royal residence until the Union of the Crowns in 1603. It is actually a collection of different structures built over the course of the last 800 years with the earliest structure built in 1130.
There is an audio tour you can purchase for a tour of the Castle, but you can also join a free guided tour that takes about 30 minutes and gives an overview and highlights. We took part in the free tour and then explored on our own afterwards. Our guide told us that the reason the Castle is in such good repair is that unlike other castles that were built by one particular Lord and then fell into ruins at some point, Edinburgh Castle was a national garrison.
Here are some of the must sees in the Castle complex:
St. Margaret’s Chapel
This was my favorite part of the Castle. Built in 1130, St. Margaret’s Chapel is the oldest surviving building in Edinburgh. The simplicity of the chapel is charming and the stained glass windows are stunning.
No need to say a lot about this, pictures suffice, the views from the Castle are gorgeous.
Maybe not something you should look forward to seeing, but they have done a great job in staging the prisons to give you a sense of their history. There is a prison for prisoner’s of war dating back to the 1700s and also one for military personnel, such as Private Robert Ewing who was found drunk while on guard.
Believe it or not, parts of Edinburgh Castle are still a military base. Sam really loved the museum about the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards which had a lot of swords, medals, and uniforms.
One O’Clock Gun
At 1:00pm every day except Sundays, Christmas Day and Good Friday, the One O’Clock Gun is fired. This dates back to a tradition started in 1861 when it alerted ships in the Forth of Firth to set their maritime clocks.
Don’t miss the many canons on display, including Mons Meg, one of the largest canons by caliber in the world.
The crown jewels of Scotland date to the late 1400-1500s. There were worn by Mary Queen of Scots at her coronation, were locked up after the union of Scotland and England and were rediscovered by Sir Walter Scott.
Stone of Destiny
The Stone of Destiny, or Coronation Stone, sounds kind of mysterious, right? well, it is. No one knows for sure when or where it came from, but it has been used in the coronation of Scottish monarchs and later in those of English and British monarchs for hundreds of years. The stone will only leave Scotland again when there is a coronation at Westminster Abbey.