Edinburgh Castle is one of the most exciting historic sites in Western Europe, Set in the heart of Scotland’s dynamic capital city it is sure to capture your imagination. The scenery will take your breath away.
Over the centuries Edinburgh Castle has been continuously adapted to meet the military needs of the day. And over the centuries its strength has been tested on no fewer than thirteen occasions, successfully or unsuccessfully, by siege or by stealth.
Edinburgh Castle is a large and complex structure. On this page you find the story of the castle from ancient times until today.
The Edinburgh Castle: Lower Castle page looks in more detail at the Lower and Middle Wards of the castle; and the Edinburgh Castle: Upper Castle page covers highlights of the Upper Ward and Crown Square. We also have a feature on the National War Museum housed within the castle. Prices and opening hours for Edinburgh Castle are linked from the Visitor Info section on tis page.
The site of Edinburgh Castle was occupied as early as 900BC. By the time the Romans made their brief visits to Scotland in AD80 and AD139 (see our Historical Timeline) it was an important fort of the Votadini people, later known as the Gododdin, who called it Din Eidyn.
Din Eidyn was besieged and captured by the Angles in AD638. They Anglicised the name to Edinburgh, which is how it stayed after they were evicted by the Scots under Malcolm II in 1018.
Edinburgh Castle started to develop into a royal fortress during the reign of David I from 1124 to 1153. Edward I of England took the castle after a three day siege in 1296. The Scots retook it in 1314 by scaling the rock at night, but the English were back in possession by 1335, only to lose it once more to the Scots by stealth in April 1341.
Edinburgh Castle remains a military base today. And while few would begrudge the Army School of Piping its inspirational home, having the country’s most popular tourist attraction and a military base under the same roof inevitably leads to compromises, including the excavation in the 1980s of a tunnel through the castle rock to allow military traffic access to the barracks without endangering tourists.
What this means for the visitor is that parts of the castle are out of bounds. As a result you don’t really get the total experience you find, for example, at Stirling Castle.
Neither is it as easy to form a connection with the real people who have lived and fought here over the past three thousand years. Rather than experiencing the castle in its entirety and as a castle, the sense is more of a range of attractions housed within the wider structure. Nonetheless, Edinburgh Castle remains an unmissable part of any visit to the city, not least for the unsurpassed views of Edinburgh itself.
But wouldn’t the views be even better from a restaurant or visitor centre on the top floor of the New Barracks? Restoration of Stirling Castle to the beauty and the deep sense of history you experience there today had to wait until the military moved out in 1964. As a visitor you are left with a strong sense that Edinburgh Castle’s vast potential will only fully be tapped after a similar process has taken place here.