A majestic landmark which dominates the capital city's skyline just as it has dominated Scotland's long and colourful history, Edinburgh Castle is best known and most visited ot our historic buildings. Perched on an extinct volcano and offering stunning views, this is instantly recognisable fortress is a powerful national symbol, and part of Edinburgh's World Heritage site.
The Castle's story is that of Scotland. 'The strong hold of Eidyn' was first recorded before 600AD and by the Middle Ages it had become a mighty fortification and the royal residence of Scotland's kings and queens. Since the Royal Bronze Age it has witnessed much of the nations rich past including the birth of Mary Queen of Scots only child - James VI, who united the crowns of Scotyland and England - to Cromwell's Roundheads and the Jacobite Risings.
A rich mix of Architectural styles reflects the castle's complex history and the role as both stronghold and seat of kings. The tiny St Margaret Chapel, Edinburgh's oldest building, dates from the 1100's; Crown Sqaure, the Principal courtyard, was developed in the 15th century; the Great Hall with its impressive hammerbeam roof was built by James IV, and the Scottish National War Memorial was added after the First World War. The medieval roots of the castle are exposed in David's Tower, parts of which are now open to the public.
For visitor's today, the castle offers a wealth of attractions to explore. Just opened is the Prisons of War experience within the castle vaults. Edinburgh Castle was a prison for sailors from many countries in the 18th and 19th centuries, including crewmen who sailed with John Paul Jones, founder of the American Navy. Their graffiti, hand-made ships and other items are on display at the end of a capivating tour that recreates the sights and sounds of these prison vaults.
There are also the magnificent Laich Hall; the National War Museum of Scotland; The 'Honours of the Kingdom' exhibition telling the story of Scotland Crown Jewels -saved from Cromwell to become some of the oldest surviving regalia in Europe; the Stone of Density - taken to Westminster Abbey in 1926 and returned to Scotland 700 years later; the One O'Clock Gun and a display on the history of time guns and timekeeping; and the giant medieval siege cannon Mons Meg, once again standing proudly on the castle ramparts.
Castle stewards provide guided tours and you can also hire an audio guide in six languages. As well as gift and book shops, the Crown Jewel shop offers exclusive, specially designed jewellery and other unique peroducts for sale. Visitors can take a break in the castle's cafe. A courtesy vehicle for visitors with a disability ( sponsored by the Bank of Scotland) is available from the esplanade.