Edinburgh Castle Attractions | All About Edinburgh

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All About Edinburgh Castle History 

Edinburgh Castle History

Edinburgh Castle Rock first of all was formed over 300 million years ago by volcanic eruptions. Probably, the first evidence of inhabitants on the rock was in the Bronze Age circa 900 BC. This was due to evidence of an Iron Age fort being unearthed dated circa 900 BC.

Edinburgh Castle | First Fortress

The first writings probably were about a fortress on Edinburgh Castle Rock circa 600 AD in a poem Gododdin. This tells of Gododdin a race of warriors who lived in the south-east of Scotland and north-east England. Gododdin left the fortress of Din Eiden (Edinburgh) to battle with the Angles of Northumbria. Consequently, The Gododdin were wiped out and the Angles of Northumbria took control of the area.

Scottish Borders

King Malcolm II took over control of the area in 1016 at the Battle of Carham. He also changed the border of Scotland to the River Tweed as Northumbria once extended as far as the River Forth.

 

Edinburgh Castle | Fortress Occupation

Edinburgh Castle was originally built of wood by Malcolm III circa 1070. It was then built of stone by King David I circa 1130. Also including the building of a small Chapel for his mother Margaret. (St Margaret’s Chapel) the oldest surviving building in Edinburgh Castle. The occupation of Edinburgh Castle in 1296 by Edward I of England lasted until early 1314. Consequently the Scots led by Thomas Randolph – First earl of Moray recaptured Edinburgh Castle for the Scots. Similarly in 1335 the English under Edward III also lost control in 1341 when William Douglas regained it for the Scots. Consequently in 1361 David II strengthened the fortifications of Edinburgh Castle and built a tower. David’s Tower probably over 80 foot high which unfortunately was destroyed in the Lang Siege 1573.  Consequently, there are only underground remnants still visible. David II died in Edinburgh Castle 1371.

 

Last Royal Occupation of Edinburgh Castle Fortress

Finally, the last King to reside in Edinburgh Castle was Charles I in 1633 before his coronation. In 1650 Edinburgh Castle was once again under attack by the English led by Oliver Cromwell. After several months of siege, Edinburgh Castle was surrendered to Oliver Cromwell and the English forces. When Charles II was restored as King. He set up an army garrison in Edinburgh Castle that remained until the 1920’s. Edinburgh Castle became a tourist attraction and was open to visitors circa 1833. It is now one of the world’s most visited attractions in the UK.

All About Edinburgh Castle Attractions

Everything you can see in  Edinburgh Castle

Edinburgh Castle Gates


Originally there were two gates that protected Edinburgh Castle. Firstly the gate from the Esplanade over the drawbridge and then the inner barrier gate. Later a further gate was built, the Portcullis Gate. The Castle Gates plaque reads; For a period of at least 2000 years, this fortress was defended by the outer gate at the head of the esplanade.

Edinburgh Castle Drawbridge

Edinburgh Castle Drawbridge and main Gat

Edinburgh Castle Gatehouse

Gate House Edinburgh Castle exit and ent

 Gatehouse Plaque

Edinburgh Castle Gatehouse

Sir William Kirkcaldy  Edinburgh Castle Fortress

Firstly look up high on the rock left before the Portcullis Gate. Where there is a memorial plaque to Sir William Kirkcaldy . The inscription reads: In memory of Sir William Kirkcaldy of Grange. Justly reputed to be one of the best soldiers and most accomplished cavaliers of his time. He held this castle for Queen Mary from May 1568 to May 1573. And after its honourable surrenders, suffered death for his devotion to Her cause on 3 August 1573.

Sir William Kirkcaldy Tablet

Sir William Kirkcaldy of Grange Plaque Edinburgh Castle

Thomas Randolph Earl of Moray Edinburgh Castle Fortress

Further into the castle on the wall after the Portcullis Gate and the Lang Stairs a further plaque can be seen and reads; To commemorate Thomas Randolph Earl of Moray. A distinguished soldier and diplomatist. Who recovered this castle in 1313 after it had been for 20 years in the hands of the English.

Thomas Randolph Earl of Murray Tablet Edinburgh Castle

Thomas Randolph Earl of Murray Plaque Edinburgh Castle

Argyle Tower Edinburgh Castle Fortress

The Argyle Tower was built on to the top of the portcullis gate in 1867 and entrance is at the top of the Lang Stairs the original access to Edinburgh Castle. Named after the the 9th Earl of Argyle (Archibald Campbell) 1663-85. Imprisoned in the room above the Portcullis Gate before his execution June 1685. He was executed when found guilty of treason 19 Dec 1681. Because he lead a rebellion against the Roman Catholic Church and James VII of Scotland.

Argyle Tower Plaque _ Edinburgh Castle
Argyle Tower Edinburgh Castle Door
Argyle Tower Edinburgh Castle  above Portcullis Gate
Argyle Tower Sling Shot Edinburh Castle

Old Guardhouse and Inner Barrier Edinburgh Castle Fortress

The Old Guard house was built in 1853. Detention cells were added in 1866 and also later used as the Quartermaster stores. The present Guardhouse pictured above replaced the Old Guardhouse in 1887. The Inner Barrier posts where a large wooden gate would have hung, stand at each side of the road. Almost beside the door to the old guardhouse.

Edinburgh Castle Old Guardhouse & Inner Barrier

Old Guardhouse Edinburgh Castle

Edinburgh Castle Old Guardhouse & Inner Barrier

Old Guardhouse Plaque _ Edinburgh Castle

Portcullis Gate Edinburgh Castle Fortress

The first gateway after a short walk uphill gets you to the Portcullis Gate. Also Built after the Lang Siege in 1573 on the site of the Constable’s Tower. The large spikes of the Portcullis are only open for visitors and closed to stop any unwanted invasion. The upper section of the gates were added circa 1887. The Portcullis Gate plaque reads; 1574 -77 Built after the long siege of 1571-3. As the main gateway into the castle. It stands on the site of the medieval Constable’s Tower. The top storey was added in 1887.

Edinburgh Castle Portcullis Gate

Edinburgh Castle Portcullis Gate

Portcullis Gate  Edinburgh Castle.jpg

Edinburgh Castle Portcullis Gate Plaque

Portcullis Gate plaque.JPG

Lang Stairs Edinburgh Castle Fortress

First of all when through the portcullis gate on entering Edinburgh Castle to the left are the Lang Stairs. This is the most direct route to the highest point of the Castle Rock. The Lang Stairs was the main access to the summit of the castle rock in the middle ages.Furthermore on the right near the top of the Lang Stairs is the Argyle Tower. This was the original entrance under Constable’s Tower. Constables Tower was also destroyed in the Lang Siege of 1573. The easy way up is by the hill with setts creating a road that winds up the slope. Installed to make it easier to get the cannon to the battlements.

Lang Stairs Plaque Edinburgh Castle

The Water Tank at Foog’s Gate Edinburgh Castle Fortress

The circular building on the way to Foog’s Gate is an old iron water tank which stored the water for Edinburgh Castle. The water was supplied from St Margaret's well at the foot of the rock which in turn supplied the Fore Well.

Water Tank Edinburgh Castle
Foog's Gate Post Edinburgh Castle

Foog’s Gate Edinburgh Castle Fortress

Foog’s Gate built after the Lang Siege circa 1580 was a further gate to stop invaders. No one knows the background to the name. Maybe it is to do with fog or low cloud that often settles on Edinburgh Castle. Foog’s Gate gives entry to the Upper Ward, the highest part of Edinburgh Castle. The Gate is attached to the building that houses a great water tank made of iron (not in use) that was a store of water for Edinburgh Castle. Foog’s Gate plaque reads; The main entrance to the citadel by the 17th century. The perimeter wall looped for both cannon and musketry, was builtin King Charles II’s reign (1660- 85).

Foog's Gate Edinburgh Castle
Foog's Gate Edinburgh Castle
Foog's Gate Edinburgh Castle Plaque.JPG

Edinburgh Castle Fortress Mons Meg Cannon

Mons Meg is a Belgian cannon given to James II as a gift in 1457. Named after where it was tested in Mons in Belgium. Mons Meg was a super gun that could shoot a cannonball up to 2 miles. Mons Meg was last used in battle circa 1554 and was last fired circa 1680, when the barrel burst. It spent many years in England. Mons Meg was finally returned to the Castle in 1829 and has been on the battlements ever since. 

One o’clock Gun Edinburgh Castle Fortress.

A 105 mm field gun is fired from Mills Mount in Edinburgh Castle Monday – Saturday at 13.00 hours. Sundays it does not fire as no seamen work on the Sabbath.  Good Friday and Christmas Day are also days it is not fired. A gun has been fired here since 1861 as an audio time signal to shipping in the Firth of Forth. The original signal was the Time Ball which was on the mast of Nelson Monument on Calton Hill.

One O'clock Gun Edinburgh Castle.JPG
Mills Mount One O'clock Gun Edinburgh Castle

The Time Ball

The Time Ball on the mast of Nelson’s monument was originally a visual aid for the sailors in the Leith port and the Firth of Forth to set their chronometers by. Due to the weather being overcast in Edinburgh often, an audio aid was introduced (The One O’clock Gun) in 1861, in addition to the Time Ball.

Edinburg Castle Mills Mount One O'Clock Gun View

David’s Tower Edinburgh Castle Fortress

David’s Tower probably built by David II, circa 1368 once stood almost 80 feet (25 mtrs) high consequently giving a view of 360 degrees for an early warning of invaders by sea or land. The remains of the tower are below ground as the tower was bombarded by cannon during the Lang Siege of 1571 – 1573 and all but destroyed. As a result The Half Moon Battery was built to replace it after the Lang Siege in 1573. Most noteworthy In 1941 the Scottish crown jewels were taken from the crown room where they are on display today. They were buried below in the depths of David’s Tower.  For the reason that if the Germans invaded they would not find the Honours of Scotland (Crown Jewels). Consequently the Germans did not invade they were brought back out from their hiding place and returned to the crown room.

David's Tower Plaque Edinburgh Castle.JP
Edinburgh Castle Buried Treasure David's Tower Plaque _ E

Half Moon Battery Edinburgh Castle Fortress.

David II built David’s Tower circa 1361 and it was destroyed in the Lang Siege in May 1573. Rebuilding took place immediately with the Half Moon Battery where David’s Tower had stood.  A Great Half Bastion Round built by Lord Chancellor of Scotland Regent Morton which you can see today.

Half Moon Battery.JPG
David's tower.png
Half Moon Battery  Plaque _ Edinburgh Ca

The Fore Well Edinburgh Castle Fortress

The Fore Well, circa 115 feet (34 mtrs) deep, was the Castle’s main water supply mentioned when Robert the Bruce blocked it in 1314 attack as the Scots retained the Castle. The Water could also have been the source of Saint Margaret’s Well at the foot of the castle rock in West Princes Street Gardens. Circa 1080. Still in use circa 1840. Access to Saint Margaret’s Well is over the foot bridge at the rear of the Ross Bandstand in West Princes Street Gardens

The Fore Well Edinburgh Castle.JPG
The Fore Well Plaque Edinburgh Castle

Forewall Battery Edinburgh Castle Fortress

The Forewall Battery with 5 cannon pointing over what was the Nor Loch to the north the battery first built circa 1545 and rebuilt and extended 1573. The iron basket on the wall was light to warn the people of Edinburgh the expected invasion.

Fore Well Battery _ Edinburgh Castle.JPG

Royal Scots and Regiment of Scotland Museum Edinburgh Castle

The Royal Scots museum tells the stories from over 350 years of campaigning, most noteworthy are the six Victoria Crosses on display and the stories of heroic deeds behind them. The Royal Scots were the oldest serving infantry regiment in the British Army. Founded in 1633 when Sir John Hepburn raised a body of men in Scotland for service in France in the Thirty Years’ War. Under a Royal Warrant granted by King Charles I known as ‘Pontius Pilate’s Bodyguard’. Also now known 1st Battalion The Royal Regiment of Scotland, abbreviated to 1 SCOTS.

Royal Scots and Regiment of Scotland Museum Edinburgh Castle

Royal Scots Dragoon Guards Regimental Museum Edinburgh Castle

The Regimental Museum tells the history of the Scottish regiments, their heroes and unique artefacts from battles. The most important artefact being the flag taken by Ensign Ewart from the French at the Battle of Waterloo. Royal Scots Dragoon Guards are the senior Scottish regiment in the British Army. In the museum can be seen the French Eagle and Standard captured at the Battle of Waterloo by Ensign Ewart. The Royal Scots Dragoon Guards are a light cavalry regiment famous for its iconic victory at the Battle of Waterloo 1815.  Also were part of the charge of the Light brigade. Read the story of Ensign Ewart and how they adopted the Eagle as their emblem. Ensign Ewart’s memorial stone stands on the Castle Esplanade with his grave stone behind it. Read the hole story “Taking of the Flag” 

Royal Scots Dragoons Museum Plaque _ Edi
Royal Scots Dragoon Guards Edinburgh Castle

Dury’s Battery Edinburgh Castle Fortress

The Dury Battery was named after Captain Theodore Dury who built the battery after the 1708 Jacobite rising. Captain Dury was the military engineer for Scotland. In 1757 the guns were removed and the battery was converted into an exercise yard for prisoners of war. Furthermore, the Military Prison and the War Prisoners Prison are also located in this yard.

Dury's Battery Edinburgh Castle
Dury's Battery Plaque Edinburgh Castle

The Scottish National War Memorial Edinburgh Castle 

The Scottish National War Memorial Edinburgh Castle tells the story of Scotland at war with many items from the past that tell great stories of battles won and to many that were lost. The National war memorial commemorates all who have fallen in wars from 1914 to this day. A display of the rolls of honour, is of all in Scottish services and civilians who were casualties of wars. The Scottish National War Memorial is a building in Crown Square which is at the height of Edinburgh Castle rock on which Edinburgh Castle stands. The Building was opened in 1927. The Memorial is open to the public, free of charge on application to the Castle Ticket Office.

Scottish National War Edinburgh Castle
National War Memorial Scotland Edinburgh Castle
Scottish War Memorial Edinburgh Castle
Memorial to Honour of all Scots Women that took part in the wars Scottish National War Memorial Edinburgh Castle
Scottish National War Memorial Plaque Stone Edinburgh Castle

The Governor’s House Edinburgh Castle

The Governor’s House was built as accommodation in 1742 for the Governor of Edinburgh Castle and are still used for the same purpose.

Governor's House Edinburgh Castle
Governor's House Edinburgh Castle Plaque

Edinburgh Castle St Margaret’s Chapel 

St Margaret’s Chapel Edinburgh Castle was built by David I circa 1130 for his mother Queen Margaret. The Chapel was renamed in 1250 when Margaret was canonised, therefore St Margaret’s Chapel. The Oldest building n Edinburgh Castle  is St Margaret’s Chapel Probably also in Edinburgh. Which is still in use today.

St Margaret's Chapel Edinburgh Castle.JP
St Margarets Chapel interior Edinburgh Castle.JPG
St Margaret's Chapel History Edinburgh Castle
St Margaret's Chapel interior Edinburgh Castle

The Stone of Destiny Edinburgh Castle

In 1292 John Balliol was most certainly the last king to use the Stone of Destiny. He became king in 1292 until 1296. In 1296 the Stone of Destiny was captured by Edward I of England and taken to Westminster Abbey in London. The Stone of Destiny was finally returned to Scotland on St Andrews Day 1996 the first time in 700 years. There are also many stories of the Stone of Destiny’s origins from Syria to Egypt, from Spain. Before arriving in Ireland and then Scotland. The Stone of destiny is beside the Scottish Crown Jewels (Honours of Scotland) in the Crown Room of Edinburgh Castle. I have to images of the Crown Jewels as they are in a special glass case restricting photographs. There is a monument of Robert the Bruce having himself crowned as King of Scotland at Scone in 1306.

Edinburgh Castle Stone of Destiny _ Edin
Stone of Destiny History Edinburgh Castle
Monument of Robert the Bruce Crowned wit

Edinburgh Castle, The Scottish Crown Jewels, (The Honours of Scotland)

The Scottish Crown Jewels have been in continuous occupation of Edinburgh Castle since 1660. Most noteworthy the Honours of Scotland were forgotten about as they had been abolished in 1707 and locked away. Subsequently they were found locked in a chest in the crown room by Sir Walter Scott in 1818. As a result they have been on display in the Crown Room ever since. The Crown jewels consist of a crown, sceptre and sword of state. Firstly used in a group for the coronation of Mary Queen of Scots in 1543. The Sceptre is thought to have been a gift from the Pope Alexander VI in 1494. The Crown was a design for King James V in 1540 and the Sword gifted to King James IV in 1507 by Pope Julius II. The Scottish Crown Jewels (Honours of Scotland) are the oldest Crown Jewels in the British Isles. The images below are replicas in an outer room of the crown room.

Scottish Crown Jewels Edinburgh Castle
Scottish Crown Jewels Sword of State Edinburgh Castle
Edinburgh Castle Scottish Crown Jewels Honours of Scotlaand

Royal Palace Edinburgh Castle

Royal Palace Edinburgh Castle was were Mary Queen of Scots gave birth to her son James in 1566. He was later to become James VI. Mary of Guise was French (Marie de Guise) born on 22 November 1515 was the wife of James V and Queen of Scots from 1538 to 1542. She gave birth to Mary later to be Mary Queen of Scots. Also served as Regent of Scotland in her daughter’s name from 1554 to 1560. Mary de Guise died in Edinburgh Castle in 1560.  For security she had a Palace and Chapel built at the foot of Castlehill. Only the facade remains as the University of Edinburgh demolished it to build the New College in 1846. James VI returned To Edinburgh Castle in 1617 for the Jubilee celebrations. Finally the last royal to stay in Edinburgh Castle being Charles I in 1633. The Royal Palace Plaque reads; The residence of the Stewart Kings and Queens in the 15th & 16th centuries. The birthplace of King James VI in 1566 and the home of The Scottish Crown Jewels.

Royal Palace Edinburgh Castle Crown Square
Royal Palace Apartments Edinburgh Castle Crown Square

Edinburgh Castle Birth Room James VI, Antechamber and Laich Hall

The Laich (low) Hall is in the Royal Palace in Crown Square of Edinburgh Castle. This is where many Royal banquets and dances took place. Also can be found there is the antechamber and birth room. Where Mary Queen of Scots gave birth to her son James. Who was to become James the VI of Scotland and James the 1st of England. King James VI was the last King of Scotland and after the Union of the Crowns in 1603 also became King James I of England.

James VI Birth Room Royal Palace Crown Square Edinbugh Castle
Antechamber Royal Palace Apartments Crown Square Edinburgh Castle
Laich Hall Royal Palace Dinning Room Crown Square Edinburgh Castle

The Great Hall Edinburgh Castle

Great Hall, Edinburgh Castle, Crown Square. Built by King James IV circa 1480 and completed in circa 1510 and restored in 1888. This hall is a magnificent architectural sight, with its the original hammer-beam (wooden) ceiling. Certainly the best preserved in any of the Castles of Great Britain. Also the painting of Ensign Ewart is on the end wall with weapons and armour. Finally do not miss the key to Edinburgh Castle also in the Great Hall. Used now by the Royals for State and Royal functions.

Great Hall Crown Square Edinburgh Castle
Great Hall Plaque.JPG
Great Hall Crown Square Edinburgh Castle
Great Hall Ensign Ewart Painting Crown Square Edinburgh Castle
Key to Edinburgh Castle with Royal Tags.

Edinburgh Castle Prisons

 

Thomas III de Grey First Prisoner of Edinburgh Castle


The first prisoners of war known, date back to at least 1355. Maybe, the first being Thomas III de Grey an English knight captured in 1355. While captive he began to write the “Scalacronica” the history of England from 1272 – 1362 furthermore he used the Castle library for reference. Another was Brigadier William Mackintosh, Laird of Borlum Inverness (Mackintosh of Borlum) one of the leaders in the Jacobite uprising of 1715 who spent his last 20 plus years a prisoner in Edinburgh Castle.    

Foreign Prisoners


French prisoners were held in Edinburgh Castle in 1757 from the 7 years war and soldiers of America, Italy, France, Spain, Netherlands and Poland were held prisoner here circa 1760. Many of the prisoners scratched their names into the doors and walls of the vaults. Finally in 18811 when 49 prisoners escaped from Edinburgh Castle Prison it was deemed unsuitable and no further prisoners were placed in Edinburgh Castle.

Prisons of War Edinburgh Castle Prisoners
Prisons of War Edinburgh Castle Prisoners

Edinburgh Castle Military Prison


Edinburgh Castle Military Prison first of all opened 1842  and finally closed 1923. This small Victorian prison was built as a result of offending soldiers from the castle garrison and those of visiting regiments.

Military Prison Plaque Edinburgh Castle
Military Prison Cells.Upper Floor Edinburgh Castle
Military Prison Cells on two floors.JPG

Queen Anne Building Crown Square Edinburgh Castle

The Queen Anne building was built circa 1710 after the Jacobite uprising of 1708. The main function was barracks for officers and Castle gunners. Also this site previously was where the royal gun house stood and furthermore the position where Mons Meg first stood.

Queen Anne Building Plaque Edinburgh Castle
Queen Anne Building  _ Edinburgh Castle.

Field Marshal Earl Douglas Haig

First of all, Douglas Haig was born a son of famous whisky distillers in Edinburgh on 19th June 1861. He finally died in 1928 and was buried at Dryburgh Abbey.  His grave stone stands beside the family grave of Sir Walter Scott. Finally he founded the Haig Fund (who make the Poppies) and the Royal British Legion.

 

Douglas Haig Military Career

Firstly, in his military career he was enrolled in the Royal Military College at Sandhurst in 1884. In June 1899 Haig went to South Africa to serve in the Boer War. Douglas Haig became major-general, certainly the youngest officer to hold the rank in the British Army. He also was responsible for training the Indian Cavalry. Furthermore in 1909 Haig was appointed as chief of staff in India. Most noteworthy In 1910, Douglas Haig took command of the 1st Army Corps of the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) based in Aldershot. Consequently Haig and the (BEF) went to France in August 1914. He became commander in chief of the (BEF). Finally, General Haig after a long and bloody battle over several months (July –December) brought an end to the Somme Offensive. As a result in that time, it is estimated, the British army suffered over 400,000 casualties, the French 200,000 and Germans circa 500,000 casualties. Because of his actions Haig was nicknamed “The Butcher of the Somme”. He used human life with no regards to consequences.

 

Douglas Haig Honours 

He was finally knighted (Knight of the Order of the Thistle) in July 1917 and consequently became Sir Douglas Haig. Furthermore, in 1919 he was made Earl Haig then finally in 1921 Baron Haig of Bemersyde.  The statue of of Douglas Haig is in the square outside the Hospital in Edinburgh Castle.

  

Finally the plaque on the statue in Edinburgh Castle reads; This statue was present to the City of Edinburgh by Sir Dhunjibhoy Bomanji of Bombay. In admiration of the service rendered to the British Empire by the Field Marshal.  Also the engraved stone on the house in Charlotte Square Edinburgh reads; In this house Douglas Haig was born 19th June 1861. Douglas Haig’s grave stone in Dryburgh Abbey have the words; Douglas Haig born in Edinburgh June 19th 1861. Departed out of this world Sunday Jan 29th 1928.

Earl Haig Staue Hospital Square Edinburgh Castle
Field Marshal Earl Haig Statue Edinburgh Castle
Earl Haig Plaque Edinburgh Castle

Edinburgh Castle Hospital

The Edinburgh Castle hospital buildings in Hospital Square were built in 1753 as two ordnance storehouse for arms and military equipment. They were converted into the Garrison Hospital in 1897.

Edinburgh Castle Hospital
Edinburgh Castle Hospital.JPG

Ordnance Storehouse, National War Museum and Hospital

The Ordnance store house was one of two warehouses for arms and military equipment. Built to a design by General William Skinner chief engineer in north Britain in 1753. He was also the creator of Fort George the Garrison fortress of the Scottish Highlands. This ordnance store house now houses the Military Museum. Previously was converted from a 60-bed hospital that cared for German Prisoners of war during the First World War.

Ordnance Storehouse Plaque Hospital Square Edinburgh Castle
National War Museum of Scotland _ Edinbu

Edinburgh Castle Key to the Door

The Edinburgh Castle Key with tags of the keeper of the key click to magnify and read the tags.

© 2016 by All About Edinburgh. 

started 16 / 03 /2017

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The Gate house and gateway over drawbridge from inside Edinburgh Castle