One of Europe’s Greatest Castles- Edinburgh Castle

One of the most iconic images of Scotland’s beautiful capital sits perched atop an extinct volcano in the center of town. There’s loads to do in Edinburgh from hiking picturesque Arthur’s Seat to a diverse selection of cultural interests and museums, and of course, whisky, lots of high quality single malt stuff. You should absolutely partake in some whisky “tasting” when strolling around town, but don’t overdue do it or you might miss one of Europe’s greatest castles. And have no fear, you can also purchase and drink whisky at Edinburgh Castle so you don’t have to go without for too long!

Edinburgh Castle
Despite the blue skies depicted in the photos here, on the morning of the day we visited Edinburgh castle we awoke to the sound of intense wind and rain lashing on the bedroom window of our bed and breakfast. The only thing that got us out of bed was that breakfast was only being served for another 20 minutes! However, by the time we slowly ate, and leisurely got ready, the sun was precariously beginning to break through the heavy grey storm clouds. We were relieved that we could go outside without taking an outdoor shower.

The history of Edinburgh Castle is actually a little confusing, but dates back to the 12th Century, when King David I erected a chapel and gathered an assembly of nobility and clergymen. Subsequent years saw additions to the castle and fortress as it changed hands back and forth through many wars and battles between the Scots and English (Cue Mel Gibson). The ‘Union of Crowns’ in 1603 saw the first Scottish King, James VI ascend to the throne of Britain following the death of Elizabeth I. These days Edinburgh Castle is no longer an official residence of the British monarchy, as Queen Elizabeth II resides at the Palace of Holyrood during official visits to Edinburgh. The House of Windsor also has another official residence in Scotland, at Balmoral Palace in the Highlands, in Cairngorms National Park…Not a bad life!

Edinburgh Castle
 

castle16
These days Edinburgh Castle is one the most popular tourist sites in Scotland. Along with great views of town, highlights of the castle include the former Royal Palace (which still houses the Scottish crown jewels), War Museum and Scottish National War Memorial, among several key and interesting buildings. Also within the castle walls, tiny St. Margaret’s Chapel is the oldest building in Edinburgh still standing, dating back to the 12th century. Religious services continue to take place and you can even get married there! Though we would advise enquiring about this well ahead of time, and consider stocking up your parents with aspirin if they are footing the bill.

Chapel - Edinburgh Castle
 

Edinburgh Castle

As previously mentioned, there are several opportunities to continue drinking whisky! The castle has its own whisky shop that is very well stocked and apparently sometimes gives free samples, though we missed that. There is also the tea room where we sat for a coffee and tea in quite an elegant atmosphere, for about the same as what you’d spend at Starbucks. While we took a break from whisky, you don’t have to! The Edinburgh Castle Tea Room also has quite a nice selection from various distilleries around Scotland. There is also a cafeteria called the Red Coat cafe which has seating with beautiful views of town. We just popped in to have a look, as we ate before arriving at the castle.

Edinburgh Castle
At 1pm each day a single cannon shot is fired. This used to signal the time for ships that arrived in the Harbour of Leith, now it’s just for show. While we missed this, it apparently draws a good sized crowd. Among many things, we particularly found the history on “The American War of Independence” to be fascinating. Prisoners were housed at the castle and kept in good condition so that they could be traded for prisoners on their side. Touring the old prison quarters with a recreation of their bedding is definitely worthwhile to any American with an interesting in the founding of the United States.

Edinburgh Castle
Admission to the castle is £16 (around $25 USD). It’s not cheap, but most definitely worthwhile. In the summer it’s apparently a good idea to purchase your tickets online rather then stand in a long line. And while regular admission doesn’t include the audio guide (additional £3.50), it does include a free 30 minute guided tour that runs frequently. Bell and I did not do the audio tour and instead opted for the free tour, included in the regular price of admission.

Our tour guide was an absolute gem. Along with being informative and enthusiastic, she was extremely comical and really added to the experience of not just the castle, but being in Scotland in general. She loved bringing up how “frugal” Scots are and how some visitors ask if the land across the bay is Norway or other random countries… nope, still Edinburgh. When she pointed out the cemetery for regimental mascots and soldiers dogs, she told us when visiting as a child this was her favorite part of the castle. Living in Ireland we know the Irish are great story tellers, and we discovered that the Scots are also great in the regard.

Dog cemetery - Edinburgh Castle

 

Edinburgh Castle
Edinburgh Castle

Opening Times:

  • Summer
  • 9:30am – 6pm
  • (1 Apr – 30 Sep)
  • Winter
  • 9:30am – 5pm
  • (1 Oct – 31 Mar)
  • Last entry is 1 hour before closing time

Disclaimer: We received regular admission to Edinburgh Castle free of charge, thanks to VisitScotland, who provided us with passes to better highlight their wonderful country. However, the photos and opinions are solely ours and this hasn’t influenced this review.   

5 thoughts on “One of Europe’s Greatest Castles- Edinburgh Castle

  1. fantastic and the castle will be on the bucket list. Not sure about the Scotland weather. We have a lot of Scots living in Aus and escaping that weather is the reason. I love their whiskey, we are happy to import that to Aus.

    1. Of all the castle tours we’ve done this may be my (Bell’s) favourite. There is so much to see and it is preserved so well. The views are amazing from up there and it is something not to miss if you are in Edinburgh! As for the weather, well living in Ireland a few years has taught us that you just have to get out there!!

    2. *Alex* chiming in on Scottish whisky exported to Australia. I already liked Scotch, Bell really didn’t. She gained an appreciation for the taste in Scotland. I gained an appreciation for learning about the different regions and styles at the Scotch Whisky Experience. I’d love to visit the Speyside region, in the north, on a future return visit to Scotland (this area is the most densely populated region for distilleries). Various regions are known for different styles, and it was really cool learning about this in Scotland!

    1. On behalf of Bell thanks for the hair compliment!…We’d love to get back for the fringe festival in Edinburgh. But it would be great to return and see the Highlands and maybe pop over to Glasgow too. I had a doctor’s appointment yesterday and the nurse was from Scotland. I told her we’d just been in Edinburgh and she said “Everyone goes there instead of Glasgow. The people in Glasgow are friendlier and we have pretty buildings too!” It certainly piqued my interest about Glasgow. We did think the people in Edinburgh were friendly though. We received good service in the pubs, and the establishments were unaware of this blog 🙂

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