Edinburgh and the Lothians Travel Guide

Edinburgh and the Lothians Sights

Edinburgh Castle

  • Castle Esplanade and Castlehill Map It
  • Old Town
  • Castle/Palace/Chateau
  • Fodor's Choice

Published 05/04/2017

Fodor's Review

The crowning glory of the Scottish capital, Edinburgh Castle is popular not only for its pivotal role in Scottish history, but also because of the spectacular views from its battlements: on a clear day the vistas stretch all the way to the "kingdom" of Fife. You need at least three hours to see everything it has to offer (especially if you're a military history buff), though if you're in a rush, its main highlights can be squeezed into an hour and a half.

You enter across the Esplanade, the huge forecourt built in the 18th century as a parade ground. The area comes alive with color and music each August when it's used for the Military Tattoo, a festival of magnificently outfitted marching bands and regiments. Head over the drawbridge and through the gatehouse, past the guards, and you'll find the rough stone walls of the Half-Moon Battery, where the one-o'clock gun is fired every day in an impressively anachronistic ceremony; these curving ramparts give Edinburgh Castle its distinctive

silhouette. Climb up through a second gateway and you come to the oldest surviving building in the complex, the tiny 11th-century St. Margaret's Chapel, named in honor of Saxon queen Margaret (1046–93), who persuaded her husband, King Malcolm III (circa 1031–93), to move his court from Dunfermline to Edinburgh. The story goes that Edinburgh's environs—the Lothians—were occupied by Anglian settlers with whom the queen felt more at home, as opposed to the Celts who surrounded Dunfermline. The Crown Room, a must-see, contains the "Honours of Scotland"—the crown, scepter, and sword that once graced the Scottish monarch—as well as the Stone of Scone, upon which Scottish monarchs once sat to be crowned. In the section now called Queen Mary's Apartments, Mary, Queen of Scots, gave birth to James VI of Scotland. The Great Hall, which held Scottish Parliament meetings until 1840, displays arms and armor under an impressive vaulted, beamed ceiling.

Military features of interest include the Scottish National War Memorial, the Scottish United Services Museum, and the famous 15th-century Belgian-made cannon Mons Meg. This enormous piece of artillery has been silent since 1682, when it exploded while firing a salute for the Duke of York; it now stands in an ancient hall behind the Half-Moon Battery. Contrary to what you may hear from locals, it's not Mons Meg but the battery's gun that goes off with a bang every weekday at 1 pm, frightening visitors and reminding Edinburghers to check their watches.

Avoid the queues by buying tickets online, which you can pick up from one of the automated collection points at the entrance.

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Sight Information


Castle Esplanade and Castlehill, Edinburgh, Edinburgh, EH1 2NG, Scotland

Map It


0131-225–9846-Edinburgh Castle; 0131-225–9846

Sight Details:

  • £17

Published 05/04/2017


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