Enjoy one of the best views of the city from the Castle grounds. Good spots to view the city are from the Battery or from the top of Lang Stairs.
Towering over the city centre of Edinburgh is the historic fortress and royal residence, Edinburgh Castle. The castle is built upon Castle Rock, which is the result of a volcano that erupted many millennia ago. There is evidence of people living on top of Castle Rock since the Bronze Age, almost 3000 years ago.
The castle, as we visit it today, was constructed in the early 12th century. Since its’ construction the castle has been under almost constant attack, as whom ever held Edinburgh Castle held control over Scotland.
Walking up the hill, along the Royal Mile, as the castle walls grow closer it is easy to appreciate why this castle, with a complicated building history, is the most famous in Scotland and why it was recently awarded the best heritage attraction in the UK.
Exploring Edinburgh Castle
Traveling from Nova Scotia (Canada) to Scotland, Meaghan didn’t expect to return to Nova Scotia so quickly, but that was exactly what happened when we came across this plaque just outside of the gates of Edinburgh Castle…
The plaque above is found to the right of the castle’s main gate, before you cross the moat, and declares:
“Near this spot in 1625, Sir William Alexander of Menstrie, Earl of Stirling, receiving sasine, or lawful possession of the Royal Province of Nova Scotia by the ancient and symbolic ceremony of delivery of earth and stone from Castlehill by a representative of the king. Here also (1625-1637) the Scottish baronets of Nova Scotia received sasine of their distant baronies.”
This first visit to Edinburgh Castle I was woefully unfamiliar with the details of Scottish history. Growing up in Cape Breton, I (Meaghan) was surrounded with Gaelic culture, traditions and folklore – but admittedly I did not spent time studying the history of Scotland. As such it was a surprise to come across this plaque, before we had even entered the castle.
Like all Canadians, and especially like all Nova Scotians, even though I had just left home I was thrilled to come across this connection to home when I was so far away.
After that visit, I was curious to research this plaque and the connection between Edinburgh Castle and Nova Scotia – which is Latin for New Scotland.
Nova Scotia Territory
In 1621 it was brought to the attention of King James I, by an enterprising Scot Sir William Alexander of Menstrie, that in the Americas there was a New England, a New France, a New Spain, but not a New Scotland. Sir William Alexander proposed that it might encourage the development of a New Scotland if the King were to offer a new order of baronets. Essentially this was a fund raiser for the Crown. Wealthy merchants and others of means would receive large grants of land in Nova Scotia along with a noble title in exchange for money.
Baronets would receive their patents in Edinburgh, rather than London, and therefore an area of Edinburgh Castle (now marked by the plaque) was declared Nova Scotian territory. Which means that day I traveled to Nova Scotia and back again!
To Nova Scotia And Back
However, New Scotland was not meant to be. The harsh climate killed many of the early settlers, but the ultimate fatal blow came in 1632 when King Charles I ceded the lands to King Louis XIII of France and ordered the removal of the colony.
In October 1953, Nova Scotia Premier Angus Macdonald unveiled a plaque at Edinburgh Castle to commemorate Sir William Alexander and the Baronets of Nova Scotia.
Exploring Edinburgh Castle
Following the excitement of our discovery we entered the castle gates to explore the grounds and enclosed buildings. From the Honours of Scotland (Crown Jewels) to the Scottish National War Memorial (built after the First World War), it is easy to to spend an entire day exploring the castle.
The castle website has several itineraries to help visitors make the most of their time exploring Edinburgh Castle, and here are a few of our favourite things.
St. Margaret’s Chapel
This small Chapel on the grounds of the castle is the oldest building in Edinburgh. The chapel was build in the 12th century as a tribute to Queen Margaret. It was said that the Queen performed many acts of charity throughout her life; Queen Margaret was canonised by Pope Innocent IV in 1250 becoming St. Margaret of Scotland.
In a sign of respect there are always fresh flowers in this tranquil chapel.
Crowning of Robert The Bruce
A modern statue commemorating the crowning of Robert the Bruce as King of Scotland at Scone Abbey in 1306.
The Great Hall
Large hall used for banquets, be sure to take a moment and appreciate the intricate wood working on the walls.
Well it may have been the name that originally drew us to the canon (Meg – Meaghan), the canon is seriously impressive. A wedding gift to King James II in 1457, Mons Meg was cutting edge military technology in the 15th century. The canon was capable of blasting a 150kg gunstone for 3.2km.
Edinburgh Castle is the top attraction in Scotland that welcomes over a million visitors each year. As such it can be extremely busy, and you may encounter long lines. To avoid this it is best to buy your tickets online before your visit.
Historic Enviroment Scotland promotes access for all. Review the website for accessibility accommodations including a mobility vehicle available for visitors.
Tip: For visits on a chilly day, purchase traditional hot toddy from the Redcoat Café. Enjoy your bevvy outside taking in the magnificent views of Edinburgh and the Firth of Forth.
Hours: The castle is open year round, Summer Hours (Apr. 1 – Sept. 30) 9:30am – 6:00pm (last entry 5:00pm) and Winter Hours (Oct. 1 – Mar. 31) 9:30am – 5:00pm (last entry 4:00pm).
Time for Visit: Allow 2 – 3 hours to visit the castle.
Address: Castlehill, Edinburgh EH1 2NG Tel: +44 (0)131 225 9846
For more information please visit: www.edinburghcastle.gov.uk
What to See
- The Great Hall
- The Stone of Destiny
- National War Museum
- Crown Jewels
Waverley, in Edinburgh’s centre, is the main station. The castle can be seen from the exits. From Princes Street, go up Waverley Bridge, The Mound, Mound Place, Ramsay Lane to the castle esplanade.
Haymarket Station is at the west of Princes Street.
Check out Edinburgh City Guide via Booking.com for great rates on accommodations.