Imagine yourself trapped in a squalid, freezing dungeon. Rats scuttle about your feet, while the stink of a dozen other unwashed prisoners assaults your nostrils. You are poorly clothed. Hardly fed. You can barely even see; flickering torchlight your only illumination.
It’s a rather grim picture isn’t it? Well if you can imagine this, then you’ve just experienced what life was like for a prisoner at Scotland’s most feared fortress; Edinburgh Castle!
A Brief History of Edinburgh Castle
First constructed more than 900 years ago, this intimidating castle was built on top of an extinct volcano, looming over the city of Edinburgh. A fierce, heavily guarded stronghold it was the scene of many a bloody battle, political drama and even execution. Witches were burned here, Jacobite rebellions quashed and prisoners of war held in horrendous conditions!
But inside the grand halls and chambers of the inner castle lay a whole other world. One of royal births, lavish feasts and unimaginable splendour! Mary Queen of Scots is among the assorted royals to have once called the castle home, to whom the castle also served as a proud reflection of their wealth, ambition and power.
And today this is a world you and I can enter! No longer home to the royal family, Edinburgh Castle is now open to the public as what is the most historically important attraction in all of Edinburgh.
So what’s it like to explore Edinburgh Castle? Allow me to explain…
Visiting the Castle
While it can be a bit of a climb to get to the castle (depending on where you’re staying) it’s certainly not hard to find. Situated at one end of the Royal Mile, it’s visible from nearly every part of the city and the building itself is absolutely unmistakable!
It was a damp, breezy June morning when I arrived at the castle, and even first thing the queues to enter were still colossal! But even having to wait didn’t damped my mood. It’s incredibly hard not feel excited as you follow the hilly, winding paths to the main castle. And upon arriving there at last – tickets in hand – I was simply blown away by how much there was to see and do!
The list of things to do at Edinburgh Castle seems inexhaustible; simply too much to cover in one post! But these are my personal highlights:
- The Half-Moon Battery: This grand battlement was once used as a vantage point to fire upon unfortunate attackers, and still retains many original cannons today. It’s easy to imagine uniformed soldiers patrolling the battlements, which also offer superb views of the city below!
- The Royal Palace: These lavish living quarters were once home to some of the most power monarchs in UK history! Proudly proclaiming the power and wealth of their former occupants, these luxurious spaces seem a world away from the grim and bloody tales linked to the fortresses’s past.
- Scotland’s Crown Jewels: What visit to a castle is complete without seeing the royal jewels? Tucked away at the top of spiralling stone turret, these magnificent treasures are displayed in all their glory, having only been rediscovered back in 1818!
- Prisons of War: The favourite part of my visit, this bleak but captivating museum explores what life was like for prisoners at Edinburgh Castle. Complete with everything from recreated living quarters to historic artifacts – including the original prison door – it’s an immersive but unsettling experience.
Castle Spooks & Legends
As to be expected of a place with such a complex and violent history, there are a number of resident spooks believed to haunt Edinburgh Castle.
These include the ghost of an old man in a leather apron, a headless drummer boy and the legend of a phantom piper whose music can sometimes be heard in and around the castle. Rumours also tell of a mischievous poltergeist lurking in the castle dungeons. A former inmate, perhaps?
Ghost dogs have also been spotted in the castle graveyard, and brightly colored orbs have supposedly been caught on camera by visitors.
Tickets & Times
So if you too want to delve in to the murky past of Edinburgh Castle, adult tickets can be purchased for £16.50 while children’s are a tad cheaper at £9.90.
Winter opening hours run from 9.30 to 5pm, and you can find out more at Edinburgh Castle’s website.
So if you’re planning a trip to Edinburgh this year then what are you waiting for? Don’t miss out on one of the most iconic attraction in all of Scotland!
And if you enjoy exploring historic places then I recommend my previous post: Behind the Bars of Bodmin Prison!
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