When vis­it­ing Scot­land, vis­i­tors can admire sev­er­al world-renowned attrac­tions. There is not only Loch Ness, where the mys­te­ri­ous Loch Ness Mon­ster sup­pos­ed­ly hides, but also Maeshowe, an out­stand­ing Stone Age tomb built from giant blocks of sand­stone 5,000 years old.

edinburgh castle on high ground

Entry relat­ed to loca­tion: Unit­ed King­dom

But back to Glas­gow City, home to the excep­tion­al Glas­gow Cathe­dral. With its dark and bright inte­ri­or, it def­i­nite­ly resem­bles one of the finest pieces of Goth­ic archi­tec­ture in the world. But no list of attrac­tions would be com­plete with­out the oth­er cas­tles that Scot­land owns, in par­tic­u­lar the amaz­ing Edin­burgh Cas­tle. Its beau­ty is unmatched by any oth­er cas­tle in the British Isles.

castle gate

And there are many more rea­sons why Edin­burgh Cas­tle is con­sid­ered the most famous in Scot­land.
Researchers have dis­cov­ered that the leg­endary cas­tle is locat­ed on the site of an extinct vol­cano 350 mil­lion years old. The vol­canic plug is known as Cas­tle Rock and is locat­ed in the very cen­ter of the city. His­tor­i­cal evi­dence sug­gests that on the site of Cas­tle Rock already in the 2nd cen­tu­ry there was a set­tle­ment “Alu­a­na”, which means “place of the rock.” This is pos­si­bly the ear­li­est known name for Cas­tle Rock.

After archae­o­log­i­cal exca­va­tions in the ear­ly 1990s, it was dis­cov­ered that the site had been inhab­it­ed even ear­li­er, either at the end of the Bronze Age or the begin­ning of the Iron Age. These claims poten­tial­ly make Cas­tle Rock the old­est per­ma­nent­ly inhab­it­ed site in Scot­land.

Edinburgh castle

It is known that there has been a roy­al cas­tle on the vol­canic rock since the reign of David I, a 12th-cen­tu­ry king who first served as Prince of Cum­bria and then as King of Scot­land between 1124 and 1153. This king spent most of his time in Scot­land, although he was once exiled to Eng­land. His court is also known to have been influ­enced by Nor­man and Anglo-French cul­ture.

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Cas­tle Rock remained a roy­al res­i­dence until 1633, but by this time began to fall into dis­re­pair. In the 17th cen­tu­ry, this place was main­ly used as a mil­i­tary bar­racks, which housed a fair­ly large gar­ri­son.

castle view

Through­out its vast his­to­ry, Edin­burgh Cas­tle has been attacked more than any oth­er cas­tle in the world. Involved in numer­ous con­flicts and unrest in the region, he faith­ful­ly served as the last defen­sive posi­tion in Edin­burgh, which is why he is called the “defend­er of the nation”.

Anoth­er com­plex aspect of the castle’s his­to­ry is its name and offi­cial found­ing. Numer­ous sources and ref­er­ences in his­tor­i­cal accounts may intro­duce some uncer­tain­ty into the ori­gin of the roy­al cas­tle. His­to­ri­ans sug­gest that the for­mer name of Edin­burgh Cas­tle was “Maid­’s Cas­tle”. This name was used until the 16th cen­tu­ry, and the des­ig­na­tion “Maid­’s Cas­tle” can be seen in oth­er doc­u­ments, such as the char­ters of David I.


There are oth­er sources that link the name of the cas­tle with the leg­end of King Arthur and the “Cult of the Nine Maid­ens”. Accord­ing to leg­end, this place once served as a shrine and belonged to one of the nine sis­ters, the pow­er­ful sor­cer­ess Mor­gana la Phi.

Anoth­er ear­ly medieval men­tion of Cas­tle Rock can be found in an impor­tant lit­er­ary arti­fact, the epic Welsh poem ‘And Godod­din’, where Cas­tle Rock is referred to as ‘Eid­in’s citadel’. Among all these dif­fer­ent sto­ries and ref­er­ences, Edin­burgh Cas­tle is indeed shroud­ed in many myths and leg­ends.


By the end of the 12th cen­tu­ry, the leg­endary cas­tle was occu­pied by the British, but then returned to King William the Lion and became the main repos­i­to­ry of offi­cial state papers in Scot­land. In addi­tion to the occu­pa­tion, oth­er tur­bu­lent events took place in the cas­tle: the Wars of Scot­tish Inde­pen­dence, the con­struc­tion of the Tow­er of David, the Siege of Lang and the Jaco­bite ris­ing.

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Cur­rent­ly, Edin­burgh Cas­tle main­tains its sta­tus as “defend­er of the nation”, while con­tin­u­ing to serve as a mil­i­tary base. The annu­al high­light of the year is the Roy­al Edin­burgh Mil­i­tary Band Parade, which takes place on the Cas­tle Esplanade in August.

See also: famous cas­tles in scot­land

The impor­tance of the cas­tle as a nation­al her­itage in Scot­land became increas­ing­ly evi­dent in the 19th cen­tu­ry, after which a num­ber of restora­tion pro­grams were car­ried out. Edin­burgh Cas­tle now makes up most of the UNESCO World Her­itage-list­ed Old and New Towns of Edin­burgh and hous­es some of the coun­try’s most valu­able nation­al trea­sures, includ­ing the Crown Jew­els of Scot­land.


You might be for­giv­en for not vis­it­ing Loch Ness, Mayshowe, or Glas­gow Cathe­dral on your trip to Scot­land, but Edin­burgh Cas­tle is sim­ply not to be missed.