Intrigues, murders, royal births and military fights: Edinburgh Castle has a troubled but fascinating history. Perched on the top of volcanic rock high above the city, the centuries-old castle is an important landmark of Edinburgh's skyline. And should you lose your bearings, the castle serves as an important orientation point.
The castle was not originally built in its current form. The oldest part is the St. Margaret's Chapel, which was built around 1130 and served as the royal church. Throughout the centuries, Edinburgh Castle gradually expanded. Around 1510, King James IV commissioned the building of the Great Hall, and the Scottish National War Memorial was added after World War I. A tour through the castle will show you the crown jewels, royal chambers and, as befits any half decent medieval castle, its sinister dungeons.
The castle is quite large so allow at least a few hours for a visit. A few of the most important buildings, including the Royal Palace, are found around Crown Square. The Royal Palace was once the home of Queen Maria Stuart, also known as Mary, Queen of Scots. It was in the small birthing room that she delivered her son, King James VI, in 1566.
The Honours of Scotland Exhibition is also housed inside the walls of the Royal Palace. Here you can admire the impressive Scottish crown jewels, such as the crown from 1540 and the Sword of State that King James IV received as a gift from Pope Julius II in 1507. Another special feature is the Stone of Destiny; for many centuries the Scottish kings were crowned on this stone. In 1950, 4 Scottish students stole the stone from Westminster Abbey in London, where it had been kept since 1296. Three months later, the stone or at least a very similar-looking stone, reappeared. It was transferred to Edinburgh in 1996. The resemblance is striking, but some still doubt whether this is the real Stone of Destiny.
“The ghost of a piper still haunts the castle’s underground tunnels”
Edinburgh is one of Europe's most haunted cities, boasting a large number of ghost stories, many of which are set in and around Edinburgh Castle. One such story tells the tale of the piper who haunts the hidden tunnels that run from the castle to the Royal Mile. When the tunnels were discovered a few hundred years ago, a piper went down to explore them. As he navigated through the tunnels, he played music on his bagpipes so that the people above could hear where he was. But halfway down the Royal Mile the music stopped. A rescue team went down to look for the piper but he had disappeared without a trace. It is said that the lonely ghost of the piper still haunts the tunnels. You can sometimes still hear his music in the castle or on the streets above the tunnels.