Our guide to visiting Edinburgh Castle

Edinburgh Castle is one of Britain's most popular tourist attractions and is inextricably linked with Scottish history. Perched 400 feet over the city on a long extinct volcanic rock, it also provides Edinburgh with an icon of its famous skyline.

The existence of a settlement at Edinburgh Castle dates back to around 600 AD, however the castle as we know it today was first constructed in the late 11th century during the reign of David I. It is easy to see the strategic importance of its location as a royal stronghold with its lofty position and flanked on three sides sheer rock face or steep terraces, a challenge for any attacker. The Castle was, and remains today, most accessible from the East where a softer slope rises to the crag along what is now the bustling Royal Mile.

Entry to the Castle is gained via the Esplanade which acts as vehicle parking for the most part of the year but which springs to life throughout August when it hosts the magnificent Edinburgh Military Tattoo as part of the Edinburgh Festival. Passing through the Gatehouse you then cross the drawbridge to some of the Castle's original and impressive military defences including the Portcullis Gate and the Half Moon Battery from where you can gain stunning views over the city. Don't miss the ritual of the firing of the one o'clock gun on Mill's Mount Battery.

Within the grounds of the Castle you'll discover a number of interesting areas. What was once a castle hospital now houses the National War Museum of Scotland a fascinating collection of medals, uniforms and other military memorabilia detailing 400 years of Scottish military history. St Margaret's Chapel, is believed to be one of the oldest structures not only within the Castle grounds but within Edinburgh and dates back to the 11th century.

On one side of Crown Square lies the Palace which dates back to the 1400s but was later renovated considerably in the reign of Mary Queen of Scots. Within the Palace one of the main attractions is the Honours of Scotland containing the Scottish crown jewels which were last used in the coronation of Scottish Monarch Charles II. Also amongst the honours is the Scottish Stone of Destiny surrounded by myth it was stolen by the English and placed in Westminster Abbey for nearly 700 years until its return to Scotland in 1996. On the other side of Crown Square you'll find the fitting Scottish National War Memorial commemorating Scottish men who fought and died for their country in the First World War.

A visit to Edinburgh Castle will be a highlight of any Edinburgh city break or Scottish vacation.

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