- Edinburgh Castle is implementing COVID-19 safety guidelines in line with government advice.
- Explore vaults, halls, chapels and more inside the Castle, and feel like royalty all day.
- Discover historic weapons, and trace war in Scotland through the ages.
- See a stunning view over Edinburgh from the top of Castle Rock.
Edinburgh Castle is a historic fortress on Castle Rock in Edinburgh, the capital of Scotland. Castle Rock was a great place to build, as even today you are able to see a stunning panoramic view of Edinburgh from its summit. Human occupation has been present there since the Iron Age, and the fortress has been a seat for royalty since the 12th century, with King David I. It is unknown who built the Castle, but the first reference to it was in a poem in 600 AD. This Scottish castle is the country's most visited attraction every year, and is the UK’s second-most popular; hosting over 2.1 million visitors in 2018. With over 70 percent of visitors to Edinburgh visiting the castle, it is a must on any Edinburgh sightseeing trip, and is a great precursor to the Palace of Holyroodhouse.
The Castle has been developed to allow you to follow itineraries or just do your favourite bits. If you only have an hour, there’s still plenty you can look at. Pass through the Portcullis Gate, built 450 years ago after the Lang Siege. Count the Lang Stairs’ 70 steps as you travel to the Castle Rock summit. Explore the oldest building in Edinburgh, St Margaret’s Chapel, built in 1130 in honour and remembrance of David I’s mother. Discover ancient weapons as you stare down the barrel of Mons Meg, a six-tonne siege gun that was a gift to King James II. See the oldest crown jewels in the British Isles and the Stone of Destiny, first used together for Queen Mary’s coronation in 1543. Pretend to be King James IV in the Great Hall, with impressive carvings, stonework, and armour, and hear the tales of pirates and prisoners who were held in the vaults. If you want to listen to an Edinburgh Castle tour, audio guides are available in a range of languages.
If you’d prefer the less structured route, you can go to any exhibits you wish in any order. There are exhibitions that take place throughout the day, as well as special exhibitions that occur every year. For example, the One O'Clock Gun is fired every day at, you guessed it, one o’clock. Initially used for ships to set their maritime clocks, watch how it is fired at the Mills Mount Battery. The Queen’s Embroideries are also available to see; replicas of the pieces created by Mary Queen of Scots during her exile in England. These 37 pictures each tell a story, and were sewn alongside Bess of Hardwick. They took more than 7,300 hours to complete by a team of volunteers using the exact methods Mary would have used herself. Enjoy The Laich Hall as you feel like royalty in the Palace.
There are also museums at the Castle; the Regimental Museums and the National War Museum. The Regimental Museums are made up of the Royal Scots Museum and the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards Museum. The Royal Scots Dragoon Guards were created by King Charles II and stayed in the barracks where the museum is situated. The Royal Scots Dragoon Guards Museum is directly opposite the Royal Scots Museum to help you embrace the 17th-century feel. The National War Museum demonstrates the development of war in Scotland over the centuries with chemical warfare suits to Highland broadswords. Paintings on display include Painter and Limner to the King Robert Gibb’s famous The Thin Red Line, and a research library is also available.
Want a souvenir to remember an incredible day? There are three gift shops available, all with pieces available online. The Portcullis Shop sells merchandise, crafts, toys, and more and is the biggest shop available. The Crown Gift Shop is extra special, with stunning locally crafted jewellery, tapestries and a more royal theme. The Whisky and Finest Food Shop is great for adults in the family, but also can be brilliant for the little ones if you’re looking to have them try some exclusive sweet and savoury Scottish treats.
What to know before you go
- Edinburgh Castle has put new safety measures in places such as required face masks for the inside of buildings; the NHS Test and Trace scheme requiring information; PPE for staff; enhanced cleaning measures; and one way systems and signage for it.
- The Edinburgh Castle opening times are 9.30am - 6pm in summer and 9.30am - 4pm in winter. Closing commences one hour before the actual closing time.
- Public toilets are in the ticketing area. They include baby changing facilities and are accessible for visitors with disabilities.
- Luggage and buggies cannot be stored.
- The Castle is accessible for wheelchairs and buggies, but there may be uneven surfaces.
- There are three eateries on site. The Redcoat Café serves hot and cold beverages and food for a light lunch. The Red Food Truck serves mostly coffee, tea, cakes and snacks if you're feeling a little peckish. The Ice Cream van is also a great option if you feel like having a tasty sweet treat on a hot day.
- You are welcome to bring your own food, or use the eateries above.
- The postcode for the Castle is EH1 2NG.
- The Castle is visible from Waverley Station and is a short uphill walk away. Haymarket Station is to the west of Princes Street.
- The Airlink 100 express bus runs from the airport and will drop passengers off next to Waverley Bridge in 25 minutes, and then the distance can be walked.
- Any buses with the Mound or George IV Bridge on their route will take you to Edinburgh Castle.
- Trams leave the airport every seven minutes, and will take you to Princes Street in 30 minutes, before the necessary walk.
- Please follow the latest government guidelines if travelling by public transport.
- There is no official parking, but Blue Badge holders can request one of the limited number of accessible parking spaces on Castle Esplanade. Castle Terrace NCP is the nearest car park and is £10 for 5 hours.
- There are no bike racks at the castle.
Some images © Mike Pennington and James Eaton-Lee.