Project is changing public views of the Castle and beyond

IT is probably the most famous cannon in the country and now its colourful history has been uncovered for the first time.

A new project delving into the secret past of Edinburgh Castle has revealed that Mons Meg was originally bright red.

The detail emerged as part of a £40,000 Historic Scotland project which has seen stories about the history of Edinburgh Castle rewritten following consultation with archaeologists, historians and other experts to create a “new interpretation”.

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More than 30 specialists contributed to the project over seven months, with huge amounts of written material and images studied to produce nine illustrations that bring the story of the Castle to life.

The experts also uncovered evidence that the famous red coats of the British Army were, at one stage, actually blue.

The details are revealed in a range of new graphic panels on display at the Edinburgh Castle. An illustration from one of the nine new “timeline” panels features the arrival of the giant Mons Meg at the Castle in 1457, right, which shows the famous barrel in its original red colour.

Head of visitor experience at Historic Scotland, Lorna Ewan, said: “That may surprise people because generally the perception was that it was black.

“We also have an image of warriors who left the hill fort around the year 600AD to ride to battle. Generally when people show Celtic warriors, they have swirling patterns on their shields, but our research shows that they would’ve been much more based on Roman shields.”

Dr Ewan added: “These panels are seen by up to 1.3 million visitors a year, so we were very keen when we were replacing them to put in a set of panels which set out the history of the castle and the Castle Rock from the first century AD up to 1818 in headline fashion, so visitors can understand the story very quickly.

“We had some panels 
there before but they had very simple outline illustrations of some of the key events in the Castle’s history. Our aim here was to do something that’s highly detailed and based on expert knowledge.”

Stephen Duncan, director of commercial and tourism at Historic Scotland, said certain aspects of the new illustrations may change the public’s preconceptions concerning the Castle.

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“The new interpretation offer a surprising amount of detail,” he said. “Each reconstruction focuses on a key episode in the history of the Castle.”

Staff from the National Museums of Scotland, Glasgow Museums and Edinburgh, Dundee, Glasgow and St Andrews universities, as well as the Royal Artillery Museum, were among those who helped create the panels.

Nine new panorama illustrations showing views of Edinburgh have also been installed.

Two show the same never-before-seen views of the New Town under construction in the late 18th Century when many familiar landmarks were being built.