WITH more than a dozen fascinating attractions to be discovered, a tour around Edinburgh Castle can take the best part of a day, so it’s well worth doing a little research before you head along.
While guided tours are included in the Edinburgh Castle ticket price, some of us prefer to go at our own pace when we visit historic attractions.
We’ve broken down the Castle’s main points of interest and arranged them in the order you might encounter them as you walk round the site.
One o’clock Gun - ‘Witness the firing of the One o’clock Gun, a much-loved Edinburgh tradition’
One of the first attractions you will encounter after you pass through the Castle’s main gate is the One O’Clock Gun, which has been responsible for scaring the bejaysus out of tourists and locals alike, every day at 1pm sharp, since 1861.
The time honoured tradition was originally used to allow ships in the Forth to set their maritime clocks correctly and has survived to the present day. The idea was brought to Edinburgh by John Hewitt, who first heard of such an innovation in Paris.
National War Museum - ‘Discover 400 years of Scotland at war through personal accounts, military artefacts an treasured collections’
Scotland’s National War Museum is filled with exhibits pertaining to the nation’s long and rich military history. Collections range from Highland broadswords to chemical warfare suits.
The museum is situated within a former ordnance storehouse and was constructed in the 18th century as a military hospital.
Regimental Museums - ‘From king versus Covenanter to Napoleon and Waterloo’
The next stop is actually two stops in one: the Regimental Museums. The museums are dedicated to Scotland’s proud regimental history which includes The Royal Scots Dragoon Guards - raised in the 17th century to fight religious dissenters by order of Charles II - and the Scots Greys, whose fierce bravery was best illustrated during the Battle of Waterloo.
The Great Hall - ‘Built to dazzle – its walls echoed to the sound of royal celebrations and ceremonies’
Completed in the early 16th century for King James IV, this royal hall is a sight to behold. Ancient weapons and suits of armour are dotted around the room while the spectacular wooden roof will leave you stunned. National symbols such as the thistle are carved into its beams.
Below the Great Hall lies a series of cavernous stone vaults where once there were incarcerated prisoners of war from across the world.
The Royal Palace - ‘The luxurious palace witnessed many dramatic moments in the lives of Scotland’s royalty’
Another stunning space within the Castle is The Royal Palace, which by the nature of its very name, has hosted kings and queens and witnessed many major events in Scottish history.
For example, it was in the Royal Palace that Mary, Queen of Scots gave birth to James VI in 1566. The future Scottish king would go on to unite the crowns in 1603.
The Stone of Destiny - ‘For centuries the kings of Scotland were enthroned upon this enigmatic stone’
This unassuming lump of stone was used in coronation ceremonies of Scottish kings at Scone before it was stolen by Edward I in 1296 and kept beneath the coronation chair at Westminster Abbey for the next 700 years. It was officially returned to Scotland in 1996, where it has remained in the Crown Room at Edinburgh Castle.
Crown Jewels - ‘Crown, sceptre, sword of state – the oldest crown jewels in the British Isles’
These beautiful regal items were first used for the coronation of Mary, Queen of Scots in 1543, these crown jewels boast quite a history. They were locked away following the 1707 Act of Union during fears that their presence might incite a Jacobite revolt. In 1818 the novelist Sir Walter Scott sensationally rediscovered them.
The Queen’s Embroideries - ‘Exquisite replicas of embroideries created by Mary Queen of Scots during her exile in England’
A set of replica embroideries that were created by the hand of Mary, Queen of Scots during her brutal English exile.
Scottish National War Memorial - ‘Solemn and beautiful, the Scottish National War Memorial honours those who gave their lives for our nation’
Stark and poignant, the Scottish National War Memorial commemorates those who made the ultimate sacrifice during both World Wars. Scenes from the First World War are depicted in stone and glass.
Half Moon Battery - ‘The great curved wall of the Half Moon Battery is a dominant feature of the city skyline’
The Half Moon Battery was an engineering marvel at the time of its construction in the early 1500s. It was built following the Lang Siege of 1571-3 that toppled the ancient David’s Tower.
St Margaret’s Chapel - ‘Edinburgh’s oldest building – a royal place of peace and prayer’
The city’s oldest building is also one of its smallest. It dates from around 1130 was built to honour the mother of David I. There was a period when the chapel was used an ammunition store, but today it has reverted to its original purpose and hosts wedding ceremonies once more.
Mons Meg - ‘Mons Meg was among the greatest guns in medieval Europe’
The last port of call on our tour of Edinburgh Castle is the 15th century cannon Mons Meg. During her pomp she was one of the most powerful guns in Europe and capable of launching a 150kg gunstone more than two miles.
• For more information visit Edinburgh Castle’s website.