The castle is Edinburgh's best known landmark. Castle Rock, as it's sometimes called, is undeniably where the city of Edinburgh began. Early Edinburgh was a small village on the eastern side of the fortification, huddled close to the wall for protection. Through the centuries the castle was besieged many times, badly knocked about, held by the English as well as the Scots, and nearly demolished more than once. Yet it always rose again. The castle is both a historic monument and a working military establishment, being the headquarters of the Scottish Division. Uniformed guards still man the main gate.
One of the most evocative buildings within the castle is the smallest and oldest-Saint Margaret's Chapel, built in the Norman fashion almost one thousand years ago in honor of the wife of King Malcolm III. Because of its religious significance, the tiny chapel survived every military demolition. After 900 years it is still in use, and members of the castle garrison regularly exercise their right to be married within the chapel as do members of the Royal family. Be sure to look at the stained glass window, honoring St. Andrew. It's one of the oldest stained glass windows in Scotland.
Not far away, beneath the Great Hall, stands the most famous cannon in Scotland. Mons Meg, a massive fifteenth century bombard which was reputed to be able to fire a stone cannonball a distance of over one mile.
A unique tradition within the castle is the one o'clock gun. The gun is fired at that hour every day, except Sunday, to enable citizens and visitors to check their watches and clocks.
The castle was the seat of Scottish King and the royal apartments on view to the public include a tiny room in which Mary, Queen of Scots, gave birth to the boy who became King James VI of Scotland and James I of England upon the Queen Elizabeth I of England in 1603.
History of Edinburgh Castle
The great volcanic rock on which the castle stands, rears high above the modern city. There is evidence of a Bronze Age settlement about 1000BC. The Roman army came here later.
- It was natural that a fort should be built on such a commanding and defendable site. We know that the fort was made of stone during the reign of Malcolm III (1058 to 1093).
- Edward I of England, in his efforts to conquer Scotland, took Edinburgh Castle in 1296, but in 1314 the Earl of Moray took the castle back for Scotland in a daring commando raid with only 30 men
- The English took it back in 1335, but in 1341 Sir William Douglas again removed the invaders. He tricked the garrison into thinking his band of men were merchants, they seized the castle and decapitated most of the English garrison
- The castle would now remain in Scottish hands until the Union of the Crowns in 1603. Attempts to take it were unsuccessful. In 1400 Henry V of England besieged the castle but had to withdraw to deal with a rebellion in Wales by Owen Glendower
- 1440 Edinburgh Castle was the site of the infamous "Black Bull's Dinner" where 16 year old sixth Earl of Douglas and his 14 year old brother David were murdered in front of their 10 year old King (James II). The death of Douglas was carried out by the ambitious Chancellor Crichton and was intended to break the Douglas power.
- The castle was further strengthened in 1573 and held out against an attack by the Covenanters in 1640, by Cromwell in 1650 and by the army of William and Mary in 1689.
- It continued to be strengthened and during Jacobite rising in 1745. Bonnie Prince Charlie's lack lustre efforts to take the castle were the last time that the castle came under attack