Edinburgh Castle

 
Jörg Angeli

A castle, a prison, a garrison, a national treasure — for over 900 years, Edinburgh Castle has refused to be missed, and it won't start now.

 

Originally an Iron Age settlement, the 12th century fortress on what is now Castle Rock — the plug of an extinct volcano — later served as a royal residence, a military garrison, and a prison. Today, the castle is the most recognizable monument to Scottish heritage, the country’s most popular tourist attraction, and the host to the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo (a series of performances, why would you assume otherwise?) From the haunting medieval torture relics to the moving National War Memorial, few landmarks hold a candle to the heart of Scotland’s capital. 

Best things to see at Edinburgh Castle

 
The Royal Palace

 

Tour the former home of Scotland’s sovereigns, which has been wonderfully maintained (and decorated with old portraits). In use by the monarchy until 1633, the Palace holds Scotland’s collection of Crown Jewels and the room where Mary Queen of Scots birthed the future King James VI (King James I, to the English). You can also see the legendary Stone of Destiny, brought to Edinburgh in 1296, which is said to hold the key to Scottish rule and has blessed many a coronation ceremony.

 
The Scottish National War Memorial

 

Honoring more recent Scottish history, the National War Memorial was dedicated in 1927 to those lost in the First World War. Today, it honors all Scottish soldiers who have fought or died in conflicts since the Great War, in a repurposed garrison building, resplendent with stone and stained glass, in the heart of the castle. 

 
The Scottish National War Museum

 

The War Museum, housed in a former hospital building, honors a longer tradition of Scottish military might, from Highlands broadswords to the present. The museum holds over 400 years worth of military history as well as Robert Gibb’s famous painting “The Thin Red Line.”

 
St. Margaret’s Chapel

 

The oldest building in Edinburgh, St. Margaret’s Chapel was built in 1130 by David I for his mother. Though some of the chapel has been renovated — it served as a gunpowder storage room, after all — the original chancel arch remains. 

Edinburgh Castle FAQs

When is Edinburgh Castle open?

 

The Castle is open daily from 9:30am to 6pm April through September, and from 9:30am to 5pm October through March. Last entry is one hour before closing. 

 
How long should I plan to spend at the Castle?

 

History buffs could probably spend the whole day exploring, but most visitors find 2-3 hours to be sufficient. 

 
Can I see everything on Castle Rock with one ticket?

 

Yes, a ticket includes all attractions at Edinburgh Castle. 

 
Is the Castle handicap accessible?

 

Most of the Castle grounds are handicap accessible, with the exception of the Royal Apartments, David’s Tower, Prisons of War, and the Military Prisons. A limited number of cars are available to transport disabled guests from the esplanade to the Castle’s highest point; ask for service upon arrival.