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Five Things to See at Edinburgh Castle

12th Aug 2021
Five Things to See at Edinburgh Castle

Five Things to See at Edinburgh Castle 

1. The One o’ Clock Gun – In a tradition going back to 1861, the Castle fires a gun from its battlements at one o’clock every afternoon except on Sundays. This was originally for ships in the harbour to set their chronometers and coincides with a ball dropped from the mast of the Nelson Monument on Calton Hill. The gun was fired in anger just once, in 1916, when German Zeppelin airships attacked Edinburgh during the First World War.

Today visitors to the Castle gather at the gun with their fingers in their ears, waiting for it to be fired. The famous tourist question, “What times does the one o’clock gun go off?” is a running joke in the city.

2. Mons Meg – Staying on the theme of guns, further up you’ll find a massive siege cannon called Mons Meg. Built in 1449, it was a gift from the Duke of Burgundy to James II. It was used in sieges until the 1540s, after which it was only fired for ceremonial purposes. On one such occasion, in 1680, the barrel burst rendering the cannon unusable. Mons Meg was moved to the Tower of London after the 1745 Jacobite uprising to prevent its use in any future rebellion. But Sir Walter Scott campaigned for its return, and in 1829 Meg was restored to Edinburgh Castle, where she now sits outside St Margaret’s Chapel.

3. The Great Hall - With its original wooden hammerbeam roof and walls lined with old weapons, the Great Hall is another highlight of the Castle. Dating from the early 16th Century during James IV’s reign, it’s an atmospheric, awe-inspiring space. One wall features a large painting depicting Ensign Ewart capturing a French Eagle standard at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815. Ewart is buried on Castle Esplanade, and there’s a pub named after him on the Lawnmarket. 

4. St Margaret’s Chapel – This tiny building is the oldest in the Castle, and the oldest in Edinburgh. Built in the 1100s by St Margaret’s son, David I, it is still used today as an Episcopal chapel and can be booked for weddings – if the guest list is very small! During the Scottish Wars of Independence, the Castle was recaptured from the English in 1314 and Robert the Bruce, a guerrilla fighter who disliked fixed fortifications, ordered it to be torn down. Mindful of his immortal soul, however, he spared St Margaret’s Chapel.

5. Scottish Crown Jewels and Stone of Destiny – Officially called the “Honours of Scotland”, the Crown, Sceptre, and Sword of State are the oldest in the UK. After the Treaty of Union in 1707, the jewels were locked away and forgotten about. But they were rediscovered by Sir Walter Scott in 1818 and have been on display in the Castle ever since. Beside the Crown Jewels sits the Stone of Destiny, the ancient crowning stone of the Monarchs of Scotland. During the Scottish Wars of Independence, the stone was plundered by Edward I of England and fitted into a coronation chair in Westminster Abbey in London, where it remained until 1950, when it was briefly liberated by Scottish students.

In 1996, it was finally returned to Scotland. However, rumours persist that the stone displayed is not the original – either that Edward carried away the wrong stone in 1296 or the students returned a copy in 1950. There are plans to return the stone to Perth, near its original home of Scone, so time might be running out to see it during on our Secrets of Edinburgh's Royal Mile tour with fastpass Edinburgh Castle Tickets.

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