Edinburgh Castle - History and Facts | History Hit

Edinburgh Castle

Edinburgh, Scotland, United Kingdom

Edinburgh Castle is a medieval fortress and royal castle turned national monument and World Heritage site.

Lily Johnson

16 Apr 2021
Image Credit: Shutterstock

About Edinburgh Castle

A royal residence, vital stronghold and iconic structure, Edinburgh Castle is one of the most famous castles in the world. With centuries of history to explore, it is a must-see for visitors looking to explore the United Kingdom’s fascinating past, and has something for history lovers of any era.

Edinburgh Castle history

Known by its English name since the invasion of the Angles in 638AD, the first mentions of Edinburgh Castle occurred in 600 when it was called “Din Eidyn” or “the fortress of Eidyn”.

However, even before the Angles Edinburgh Castle’s location had served as a vital stronghold for centuries. Archaeologists have found evidence of human settlement on the rock on which the castle sits as early as 900 BC, during the late Bronze Age. Over the following centuries, Edinburgh Castle continued to play a role as a crucial defensive structure as well as becoming an integral part of Scotland’s history.

It initially became a royal castle in the Middle Ages and has since been the site of many significant events in royal and military history. As a royal residence, Edinburgh Castle was the site of the birth of King James VI in 1566, later James I of England, whose mother was Mary, Queen of Scots. Visitors can even see the small room where he was born!

Edinburgh Castle’s main role was a military fortification however, and from as early as the 13th century was a focal point in the war between England and Scotland. Captured by Edward I of England following a three-day siege, Edinburgh Castle was then the subject of a tug of war between the warring countries, swapping hands numerous times in the 13th and 14th centuries until the Scots took it back again in 1341.

By this time much of the original castle had been destroyed, and was rebuilt under the order of David II who later died there in 1371. The buildings of Edinburgh Castle were to suffer further destruction however, with David’s Tower – built in honour of David II – razed during the Lang Siege in the 16th century. The final siege at Edinburgh Castle would take place in 1745, during the Jacobite Rising.

In the 18th and 19th centuries, Edinburgh Castle found itself fulfilling a new role: as a prison. It housed prisoners from numerous wars, including the Seven Years’ War, the American War of Independence, the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars.

Edinburgh Castle today

Today, visitors to Edinburgh Castle can explore the castle’s history through a series of guided tours and exhibitions. Amongst its many attractions are the Scottish National War Memorial and National War Museum, that give an insight into Scotland’s fascinating military history.

Other highlights include the Mons Meg, a giant cannon gifted to James II in 1457, and the Great Hall, built by James IV in 1511. Royal exhibitions include The Honours of Scotland jewels which, along with Scotland’s coronation stone – the Stone of Destiny – can be found in the castle’s Crown Room. Edinburgh Castle is also home to the oldest building in the city, the 12th-century St Margaret’s Chapel.

Getting to Edinburgh Castle

Edinburgh Castle is located in the centre of Edinburgh at the top of Castlehill. Edinburgh Waverly train station is a 7-minute walk away, while a number of local bus services run to Victoria Street, a 5-minute walk away.

Edinburgh Airport is also within easy reach of the city centre, with the Airlink 100 bus and tram services heading into Edinburgh on a regular basis. Parking is scarce in the city, therefore visitors are advised to travel via public transport.

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