You can’t fail to notice Edinburgh Castle when you arrive in the Scottish capital. This fortress domineers the Edinburgh skyline and is a must-visit on your trip to Edinburgh. It stands proud and imposing on a volcanic rock above the city.
The castle has been present since the 12th century and a great deal of the medieval structure was destroyed during one the 26 sieges that happened in the castles 1000-year history. The castle walls have however managed to withstand the violence of the Jacobite rising and the long and bloody Wars of Scottish Independence.
Read on for some of our top tips for your visit to Edinburgh Castle.
Getting to Edinburgh Castle
Edinburgh Castle is located in the city centre at the top end of the Royal Mile – you can’t miss it! The best option is take public transport to the city and to walk up the Royal Mile to the castle.
If you’re arriving by train Waverley train station, follow exit signs for Edinburgh Castle. There are a lot steps to climb and steep lanes to walk up so take your time.
The Hop on Hop off tourist bus makes a stop at the castle and is a great option if you’re planning on going on the bus.
You can also come by car, however, parking can be expensive and busy. There is reduced price parking at NCP’s Edinburgh Castle Terrace car park. You will need to validate the parking token at Edinburgh Castle’s audio booth. Unsurprisingly there is no special discounted parking in August.
Where to buy tickets to Edinburgh Castle
We strongly recommend that you buy your tickets in advance online. You will save both time (no queueing to purchase tickets) and you’ll save money (about £1.50 per ticket). You’ll be allocated a specific time slot for your visit.
Alternatively you can buy a 3 day or 7 day explorer pass which will give you access to all Historic Scotland sites over a 5 day or 15 day period. This is definitely worthwhile if you’re planning on visiting several Historic Scotland sites during your visit.
Opening hours change depending on the time of year. In the summer season, the castle opens at 9:30am and closes at 6pm and in the winter season, it opens at 9:30am and closes 5pm. There is a café on site should you feel the need for a recharge.
You might also want to purchase a special skip-the-line ticket that includes a guided tour by clicking here.
Best time to visit Edinburgh Castle
Edinburgh castle is incredibly popular and has recently broken the 2 million visitors barrier. As you can imagine, the queues can get long and the site can get crowded – especially during peak season. We would recommend that you visit the castle during shoulder season and avoid the month of August and Christmas/Hogmanay time.
The one o’clock gun is very popular and draws in large crowds so again, an early morning visit would be advisable.
Edinburgh Castle Highlights
One O’Clock Gun
Back in 1861 somebody had the idea of firing a gun from the castle every day at one o’clock. This allowed ships in the Firth of Forth to set their clocks by it and this tradition continues today.
Top tip: attending the 1 o’clock gun is obviously very popular so be prepared for the crowds! It’s also worth noting that there are times when the 1 o’clock gun does not take place so don’t get caught out! There is NO 1 o’clock gun on Sundays, Christmas Day and Good Friday.
Stone of Destiny and Scottish Crown Jewels
A must-see are the Stone of Destiny (a sacred object used for the coronation of Kings) and the 15th Scottish crown jewels. The Jewels are the oldest in the Britain – yes, even older than the crown jewels kept at the Tower of London! They consist of a gorgeous gold crown complete with pearls and gem stones, while the sceptre and the sword were a gift from the pope and made in Italy.
Sticking with the theme of guns don’t miss out on seeing Mons Meg, an ancient cannon from 1460 which could send 150kg 3.3km! It was even famously fired at the celebrations of Mary Queen of Scots wedding.
National War Museum of Scotland
Given its history it’s no surprise that there is a strong military presence at the castle even today. Within the castle boundaries visitors can experience the National War Museum of Scotland and the Scottish National War Memorial.
Don’t overlook the Prisons of War recreation which is designed to show you just how gruesome prison life was. Lovely.