Edinburgh Castle: Defender of a Nation
Edinburgh Castle sits high and mighty on Castle Rock dominating the city’s skyline. Castles were military strongholds both to defend and attack. As ‘the most besieged place in Great Britain and one of the most attacked places in the world’ , Edinburgh Castle has lived up to as the ‘defender of a nation’.
Recently I was able to visit the historic fortress as a part of a university trip. Today the Castle protects many national treasures including the Scottish Crown Jewels. From the Castle’s stone walls you have a breathtaking view of the Old and New towns of Edinburgh.
Walking into each of the buildings is like stepping into a piece of history. From St Margaret’s castle to the National War Museum. My favourite exhibition was the stone vaults beneath the Great Hall where the prisoners of war were kept. The Prisoners of War exhibition does an amazing job of recreating the foul, cramped and just downright grim conditions the prisons were subjected to.
I also enjoyed the Half Moon Battery. Not only is this an amazing place to view the city from, it also has cannons! The cannons were made during the Napoleonic Wars in 1810. The position of the cannons on the Battery allowed then to fire down those approaching the Castle.
There are also many cafes in the Castle where you can taste traditional Scottish food. My veganism was truly tested after seeing the amazing selection of shortbread. Honestly, I almost broke!
But I was more interested in the gift shop, where I gifted myself a few souvenirs.
Edinburgh Castle was an amazing experience. If any of you get the chance I urge you to go and explore this beautiful historic place.
Here are 10 facts about the history of the Castle:
Castle Rock has been inhabited by people since the Bronze Age.
The Castle is built on a plug in a dormant volcano called Castle Rock. Although no one knows exactly when the first settler arrived in Edinburgh, we do know that Castle Rock has been inhabited by people since the Bronze Age. Since the Reign of King David I there has been a Royal Castle on the rock.
Margaret’s Chapel is the oldest surviving building in Edinburgh.
Many buildings were destroyed during various sieges of the castle and very few pre-dates the 16th St, Margaret’s Chapel was built by David I after his mother- Saint Margaret of Scotland’s death in 1093. The Chapel withstood Robert the Bruce’s 1314 siege where he burnt down all of the buildings within the Castle and the Lang siege of 1571-1573.
The Castle has also been known as ‘The Castle of Maidens’.
According to urban legend, the Castle was a shrine to ‘Nine Maidens’. This may have been derived from the ‘Cult of Nine Maidens’ mythology. One of these was Morgan le Fay, a character in the King Arthur legend. Morgan was a benevolent character and was portrayed as a Fay or a sorceress.
Burn the Witch!
More witch burnings were carried out on Castle Hill than anywhere else in the country in the 16th Century. King James VI- who was famously obsessed with witchcraft and the dark arts, believed that witches were possessed by Satan and should, therefore, be killed. Scotland was the biggest prosecutor of these alleged witches. The Witches Well was erected to commemorate the women and the men who lost their lives during these horrific trials. The plaque reads:
“This Fountain, designed by John Duncan, R.S.A.
Is near the site on which many witches were burned at the stake. The wicked head and serene head signify that some used their exceptional knowledge for evil purposes while others were misunderstood and wished their kind nothing but good. The serpent has the dual significance of evil and wisdom. The Foxglove spray further emphasises the dual purpose of many common objects.”
Prisoners of War.
The first prisoners were French privateers who were captured soon after the outbreak of the Seven Years War. The prisoners were held in vaults underneath The Great Hall. During the 18th Century, Edinburg Castle was home to prisoners from all across Europe and America. The Castle vaults stopping being used as prisons in 1814 after a massive prison break in 1811 where 49 prisoners escaped.
Lost and Found.
For over 100 years the Scottish crown jewels thought to be lost. The Scottish crown jewels consist of a sword of the state, a crown remodelled by James IV in 1504 and sceptre. After the unification Scottish crown jewels were locked away in a chest in the Castle and forgotten about. The Honours were recovered in 1818 when a search party that included novelist Sir Walter Scott found them.
Many people think that Edinburgh Castle is one of the most haunted places in Scotland.
Many people have reported seeing ghosts throughout the Castle over the years. Former prisoners are said to haunt the dungeons. One of the more famous ghosts is a piper who was sent to explore the tunnels. He kept playing his pipe so he could be tracked halfway through the tunnel the music stopped. The piper’s body was never found. It is said that you can still hear the faint sound of the piper’s music from inside from inside the Castle. Maybe he’s just trying to keep the City safe from rats…
Still a Military Base.
The Castle has been a military base from the 1600’s onwards. Parts of the Castle are still a military base, which means that some of the Castle cannot be accessed by visitors.
Outside St Margaret’s Chapel, there is a small grass area. This area has been a dog cemetery for soldiers’ dogs since the 1840’s.
One O’clock Gun.
The One O’clock Gun dates back to 1861. It helped ships to set their maritime clocks in order to navigate the oceans.
Other Places to Visit in Edinburgh
Edinburgh is a beautiful historic City with many places to visit.
Museum of Scotland.
This museum has artefacts from all around the world. It has many collections on Scottish culture and history. Check out or Instagram to see pictures from our Museum Monday visit.
The Scott Monument.
The monument to novelist Sir Walter Scott. It is a beautiful Victorian Gothic in Princes Street.
The Elephant House Café.
A no-brainer for Potterheads. Called the birthplace of Harry Potter. Located in Edinburgh’s Old Town, many believe that JK Rowling wrote much of the first Harry Potter book the Philosopher’s Stone.
Burials have taken place here since 16th Century. One of the most popular attractions is Greyfriars Bobby. A local myth told to tourists about a loyal dog who guarded his masters grave.
This is Edinburgh’s main hill. From here you will have the most stunning view of the city. On the hill you will see the unfinished Athenian Acropolis. Nelson’s monument is also on Carlton Hill. It was built to remember Admiral Nelson. There are also two observatories; the Old Observatory House and the City Observatory.
Have you been to Edinburgh, or are you planning on going? Tell us in the comments below.