Many people know of Edinburgh Castle if only for the city that shares the same name, but not many know about the castle's geography, why it's so significant, or the fact that it's not really a 'castle'... By traditional definition, anyway! The towering structure that sits atop a high hill - or so many think - in Edinburgh holds plenty of secrets and nuances that go unnoticed or unrealized by travelers who haven't done their research. The landmark is one of the most popular destinations within the city and is worthy of the title due to its historical presence, and there's much to know about this unique castle.


Within the castle walls, visitors will find any number of activities to take part in, including a museum as well as the grounds themselves. There's so much to see and do, in fact, that it's recommended by many that a multiple-day tour of Edinburgh Castle is the best way to appreciate it in all of its Scottish history and valor.

The First People To Live Within The Castle Walls

Castles are nothing new in Scotland but have always held a tremendous amount of significance both where royalty and military commandment are concerned. Edinburgh, specifically, has been the home of many a monarch as well as military troops, and both the English and the Scottish have dwelled in Edinburgh Castle. With Edinburgh being the capital of Scotland, it was seen as whoever claimed control over the castle and the city would also be in charge of the country, therefore Edinburgh Castle has seen its fair share of battles over territory and political prowess.

Despite many different owners, the castle finally became part memorial and part tourist attraction in 1927. Prior to that, feuding over territory began during the 13th century when Edward the 1st made the first attempt to take over the throne. During the 16th century, Mary, Queen of Scots sat on the throne, and there were attempts to capture her, as well, which lasted a total of two years. After the execution of Charles the 1st, the castle was taken over by the English in the year 1650. From that point on, it was used as a prison for English prisoners and the battles continued into 1757.

Related: Eilean Donan And Its Hallowed Grounds Are Scotland's Most Iconic Image, But Why?

It Was Built On A... What?

That's right, Edinburgh Castle is actually built on top of the remains of a volcano. The volcano in question had actually erupted millions of years prior to the construction of the castle, obviously, leaving nothing but a giant hill on which the original architects saw fit for such a fortress. The castle was built in 1103 and the hilltop on which it sits was appropriately named Castle Rock. Since some of the original construction is still in place today, the oldest parts of the castle span back as far as 900 years. It was built by King David the 1st, who was the son of Saint Margaret of Scotland, and the original structure stood at a height of 433 feet above sea level.

This is where the title of 'castle' gets a bit muddy and confusing. While the basic construction of the castle and its original buildings do resemble that of a castle, the entire thing is actually comprised of other, smaller structures that have been combined into one. Over the centuries, new structures were torn down and rebuilt, with additions from different eras, giving the castle a mixture of different era history as well as unique styles from different ages. The oldest part of the castle dates back to the 12th century and is St. Margaret's Chapel. Therefore, those visiting Edinburgh Castle have the unique advantage of not only seeing a piece of 12th-century history but experiencing architecture from different eras throughout history, not just one.

Related: Skip The Big City And Find Out Why Scotland's Smallest Towns Are So Magical

What To Do At Edinburgh Castle

While there is a number of things to do in the surrounding capital of Edinburgh, there's also an extensive list for Edinburgh Castle, as well. For the most part, the castle opens at 9:30 AM every morning and closes at 5 PM, and during that time, visitors can book tours of the castle or walk the surrounding grounds.

Tickets must be purchased to tour the castle and are well worth the price, considering the sheer amount of history that will be learned about while walking the castle grounds and inside the castle walls. Visitors will have inside access to one of Scotland's most popular tourist attractions, as well as the chance to view Edinburgh from the same heights that so many royal figures throughout history have.

Next: Edinburgh, Scotland: Your Essential Weekend Itinerary