Edinburgh Castle dominates Scotland’s capital city from its location on top of an extinct volcano. Sometime in the Middle Ages Edinburgh became the most important Scottish castle from a political point of view. It was at once the seat of royalty, headquarters of the sheriff of Edinburgh, a military garrison, and repository of the Scottish crown jewels and state records.
The castle has been scene of many significant events of Scottish history. For example, in 1566 the royal palace within the castle was the birthplace of the future James VI of Scotland. The tiny bed-closet can still be seen during a visit. The Jacobite siege of the castle in 1745 was the last major action that the castle has borne witness to; since then its military role has been largely that of a military garrison.
It is home to two Scottish regiments, the Royal Scots and the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards, both of which have regimental museums within the castle. The Scottish National War Memorial can also be seen here.
Edinburgh Castle also houses two national symbols of Scotland, the Scottish Crown Jewels (the Honours of Scotland), and the Stone of Scone. The latter is used in coronation ceremonies for British monarchs.
The castle’s military history is further exemplified by “Mons Meg”. This is a huge cannon weighing over 6,000kg and which fired cannonballs weighing about 150kg. Mons Meg can be seen atop the battlements of the castle. Still on the subject of guns, visitors to the castle at 1pm will have a close encounter with the One o’clock gun. The firing of this gun from the battlements of the castle is a tradition dating from 1861 when it was a time signal for ships in the Firth of Forth and the port of Leith.
The castle has 3 gift shops within the grounds where traditional Scottish gifts and souvenirs can be purchased. The main gift shop can be accessed without buying an admission ticket to the castle.
There is good wheelchair access to many of the major attractions within the castle including Mons Meg, the Great Hall, St Margaret’s Chapel viewpoint, the National War Museum of Scotland, the Scots Dragoon Guards Museum, Royal Scots Museum, Crown Square, the Crown Room, Scottish National War Memorial, restaurant and shop. There are a limited number of wheelchairs available for loan but it should be borne in mind that the castle has many steep, cobbled roadways which are difficult to negotiate.
Steeped in the history and traditions of Scotland, Edinburgh Castle has much to offer its visitors.
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