Edinburgh Castle: then and now
09 July 2020
Gazing down over the city from its perch atop Castle Rock, Edinburgh Castle is the Scottish capital’s most magnificent landmark. Alongside The Balmoral’s iconic clocktower and the striking Scott Monument, it dominates the city skyline. If its walls could talk, they would speak of its Iron Age origins, medieval battles and countless royal christenings and coronations. We chart its rich history…
The first fort here was built on the remains of an extinct volcano, back in the Iron Age. Its strategic advantages were clear, with sheer cliffs falling away to the sides and only one approach to its grand gates. The town of Edinburgh sprung up around the castle, as houses were built along the slope of Castle Rock, forming the grand boulevard that we know today as the Royal Mile, so-named because this was the road that kings and queens would tread to and from the fortress. In 1130, King David I began to construct some of the buildings that are still standing today, most notably the chapel built for his mother Queen Margaret, still Edinburgh’s oldest surviving building.
The medieval years
Over the next couple of hundred years, the castle was besieged no fewer than 26 times, earning it the moniker ‘the world’s most besieged castle’. It changed hands numerous times throughout the War of Independence, and David’s Tower was built as part of the reconstruction works following extensive damage as a result of these battles. Even when the War of Independence eventually ended, peace was not yet on the cards. The Jacobite rebellions of the 18th century saw the castle almost taken. However, while Holyrood Palace fell, the castle remained unbreached.
Edinburgh Castle today
Today, Edinburgh Castle sees no such strife. This symbol of Scotland is a fascinating place to visit with artefacts from its rich history on display for all to see. Highlights include: The Chapel of Queen Margaret, which is not only still standing, but frequently hosting weddings and christenings; The Great Hall that was built in 1511 for King James IV and features elaborate wooden beams, antique panelling and a grand display of historic armour and weapons; and Scotland’s Crown Jewels. Known as ‘The Honours of Scotland’, the ornate crown, sword and sceptre were first used at the coronation of a nine-month-old Mary Queen of Scots in 1543. Additionally, the castle houses the Scottish National War Memorial and hosts the Edinburgh Military Tattoo.
Visit it with us
Just a short walk from the hotel and overlooked by many of its rooms and suites, Edinburgh Castle is easily reached from The Balmoral. Its steep walls and ramparts are strikingly lit up by night, and there’s no better viewpoint from which to admire its glory than while staying in one of our Junior Suites with Castle Views.