Edinburgh Castle is the most popular attraction in the capital of Scotland and somewhere every traveler should see on their visit. Whether you’re a history lover or just looking for some amazing city views, you’re sure to be blown away by this epic fortress! Here’s everything to know before your Edinburgh Castle tour and all about our own experience.
Why is Edinburgh Castle So Famous?
Before we can get into all the best tips for visiting Edinburgh Castle, you should know how it came to be! The structure actually sits on the enormous Castle Rock which was formed by volcanic activity over 300 million years ago.
The history of settlers atop the rock began in 900 BC and continued to grow during Roman times. However, there is evidence that humans have lived in Edinburgh and the surrounding area since 8500 BC!
The Edinburgh Castle didn’t take on its English name until 7th century AD after an invasion by a Germanic tribe named the Angles. Edinburgh would grow into a larger town down from the castle in the years that followed.
King David I is responsible for building the castle walls in the 12th century which still stand today. During the Middle Ages, it would become Scotland’s royal castle and saw continuous battles and wars thereafter.
It would change hands many times and was an integral part of the Wars of Scottish Independence and Jacobite Rebellions. Edinburgh Castle is actually the most besieged of its kind in Britain, having been attacked an astonishing 23 times.
Our Visit to Edinburgh Castle in Scotland
When planning our trip to Scotland Edinburgh Castle was at the top of our list! Prior to our week-long road trip, we had been living and working from the scenic town of Stonehaven on the northeast coast.
Along our road trip we saw so many incredible castles and historical sites. So it was only right we finished with the best of them all! We ended our Scotland tour in Edinburgh with 2 days to spare. This gave us plenty of time to explore the city with a trip to the castle grounds in the early afternoon.
5 Tips For Visiting Edinburgh Castle
1. How to Get to Edinburgh Castle
There are a couple different ways to get up to the famous Edinburgh Castle gates. The easiest option is to walk directly from the center of town.
You can even take a stroll down the Royal Mile beforehand which is the same route Scottish Kings and Queens would take during processions. The walk up from the shopping street and Grassmarket takes just a few minutes but is on a slight incline.
If you’re not up for the short walk to the castle in Edinburgh you can always hop in a taxi or utilize public transport. There are also bus tours available that include stops to and from the area.
2. What is the Best Time to Visit Edinburgh Castle?
We already mentioned we took our Edinburgh Castle tour in the afternoon. However, the best time to go is actually early in the morning on a weekday. This is especially important in the summer months when the Scottish capital is bustling with tourists. Are you planning a visit in the shoulder season outside of July and August? Even better!
In complete honesty, we probably picked the worst time ever to go to Edinburgh Castle on a Saturday in the middle of July. It just worked out that way with our schedule so there was not much we could do about it. There was even a Rod Stewart concert going on there later that night!
Nevertheless, we still found plenty of room to move around with the sheer size of the fortress. The only time we had to wait in line was to see the legendary Honours of Scotland in the Crown Room.
3. Can You Visit Edinburgh Castle For Free?
Technically, yes… But that’s only if you don’t want to step inside! You can walk up and around Edinburgh Castle in Scotland and get incredible views from other lookout points in the city. Yet, you will have to pay to actually go inside this Scottish castle.
Some days you may be able to walk straight up to the ticket office to enter the castle. Just know that it’s a much better idea to book your tickets in advance.
This is because you will need to pick a designated time slot and are only allowed to go in during these hours. We purchased our Edinburgh Castle tickets about 5 days before and had no problem getting an afternoon time.
Most people take their own self-guided tour of the fortress and you can even rent an audio guide at the ticket office. For a different experience, you can always book a tour that offers skip-the line access as well.
4. How Long Do You Need in Edinburgh Castle?
This is a tough question as you could literally spend all day on an Edinburgh Castle tour! We spent about 2.5 hours exploring the historic site and taking in the many exhibits. Some of our favorite things to see were the Great Hall, St Margaret’s Chapel, the National War Museum, and Stone of Destiny.
In the Crown Room alongside the Stone of Destiny you will find the Scottish Crown Jewels. Also known as the Honours of Scotland, these are oldest crown jewels in all of Britain. They were originally made for King James V who first wore it at the coronation of Queen Mary of Guise in 1540.
The jewels go side by side with the history of Scotland and were even hidden at Dunnottar Castle during times of war. As we’ve said, this was the only exhibit at the castle in Edinburgh there was a line to see on our visit.
If you’re at Edinburgh Castle around 1pm (except on Sundays) you’re in for a treat. This is when the massive cannon called the One o’clock Gun shoots off ceremoniously above the city.
The other amazing part about visiting Edinburgh Castle in Scotland are the stunning views! From the top of Castle Rock, you can see all of Edinburgh and the beautiful scenery in the distance. There are also a couple of different places to eat and even an afternoon tea experience if that strikes your fancy.
5. Where to Stay in Edinburgh Scotland
One of our favorite parts about Edinburgh is that there are accommodations to fit every travel style and budget. We stayed a bit outside of the city centre, but were still just a 15 minute walk to old town. Here’s a few of our favorite hotels near the castle in Edinburgh to help on your search.
Luxury Hotel: Waldorf Astoria Edinburgh The Caledonian – Amazing views of Edinburgh Castle and just 5 minutes from George Street. The Waldorf Astoria is the best place to stay if you’re looking for a little luxury.
Historic Glamour: The Witchery by the Castle – Located right on the Royal Mile, this special accommodation has everything you need for a fun stay in Edinburgh. Enjoy the special features of each suite and being super close to all the main attractions.
Comfortable Apartments: Eden Locke – Apartment style rooms with kitchen, washing machine, and modern amenities. Also, be sure to check out there cultural programs held throughout the week.
Unique Accommodation: The Four Sisters Boatel Houseboat – How about staying on a boat on your trip to Edinburgh?? This self-catering houseboat is moored in the Lochrin Basin and has small rooms with a view.
Hostel Stay: CoDE Pod The CoURT – Budget travelers will love this pod hostel in the heart of the city. Both dorm rooms and private ensuite are available.
More of the Best Things to Do in Edinburgh
After you’re done your Edinburgh Castle tour know that there is so much more to see and do. We felt like we had just scratched the surface of this one of a kind city during our two day visit. Here’s a few of the best things to do on your own trip to Edinburgh!
Explore Old Town: Edinburgh’s colorful old town is the heart of the city, and filled with great bars and restaurants.
Grassmarket: This fun outdoor market is located just below Edinburgh Castle Scotland. Particularly on the weekends, this is a great place to do some shopping for souvenirs and grab a bite to eat.
Walk the Royal Mile: Taking a stroll on the Royal Mile is the best route to take to the castle. We loved passing all the shops and cafes on this historic street.
Take a Hike: We were surprised to find out how many awesome hiking trails there are around Edinburgh. Check out Arthur’s Seat which is on an extinct volcano, or make the short hike up Calton Hill for glorious views of old town.
Visit a Museum: Museum’s are the perfect way to experience more Scottish history and art, especially on a rainy or cold day. Our favorite was the National War Museum inside Edinburgh Castle.
Indulge in Delicious Edinburgh Food: Edinburgh is a city full of both traditional Scottish food and cuisine from around the world. Some of the best meals we had were at Miller & Carter steakhouse and Mother India’s Cafe. For the more popular restaurants, you’ll want to make a reservation a few days before. Also, be sure to check out our Scotland food guide in the link below!
Is Edinburgh Castle Worth It?
Absolutely! It wouldn’t be a proper trip to the city of Edinburgh without visiting its historic castle. It gives you a chance to learn the castle’s history and take a journey back in time.
As the most popular tourist attraction in the city, just make sure you book your tickets in advance. It’s also important to leave yourself enough time to fully enjoy your Edinburgh Castle tour.
The only thing we’d probably change from our own visit was going at different time of day. Still, it didn’t ruin or take away from our experience whatsoever.
Have any questions about this article or want to share tips from your own Edinburgh Castle tour? Leave us a comment below!
Brigitte & Jake
Where in the world are we? Follow our daily adventures on Instagram @nothingfamiliar!
Scotland Travel Planning
Rental Car: The best way to get around Scotland is by rental car! We always use Discover Cars when traveling in Europe and have found some great deals by booking in advance.
Transportation: Omio is a great place to search for trains, buses, and transfers while traveling through Scotland.
Tours: Check out Get Your Guide for activities all over Scotland. You can find everything from a Scottish Highlands tour from Edinburgh to a Loch Ness boat cruise, Harry Potter Magical Guided Walking Tour, and even chocolate making classes.
Travel Insurance: Never travel abroad without protection. We’ve been using SafetyWing for the last few years on the road and they are there when we need them.
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