We didn’t have much time in Edinburgh but I knew I must visit the Edinburgh Castle.  The castle is located at the end of the Royal Mile at the top of a hill overlooking the city.  I heard the castle was very significant from a historical perspective and was excited about the great views.  Since there really is a lot to see at the castle, I thought I would highlight my favorites and share some of what I learned about Edinburgh Castle history.

Anisa in front of the entrance to Edinburgh Castle. - "Experiencing History at Edinburgh Castle" - Two Traveling Texans
Anisa in front of the entrance to Edinburgh Castle.
One of the draws of the castle is the amazing views of the city of Edinburgh. - "Experiencing History at Edinburgh Castle" - Two Traveling Texans
One of the draws of the castle is the amazing views of the city of Edinburgh.

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What to See Inside Edinburgh Castle

Edinburgh Castle is actually pretty big and has a lot to see.  We spent half a day exploring it and we got to see everything that we wanted to.  While we explored the castle on our own, you can opt to get an audio guide available for purchase and or take one of the free guided tours.

The Royal Palace

I have been really enjoying reading about Mary Queen of Scots (The Other Queen by Philippa Gregory).  After reading about Mary Queen of Scots, I think she is misunderstood.  I was fascinated by her story and excited to see a place that was so important to her.   In the Royal Palace area, you can visit the room where Mary gave birth to her only son, James, who went on to become King James I of England.  I also enjoyed seeing the portraits.

Edinburgh Castle’s Crown Jewels

Similar to the Tower of London, you can see the Crown Jewels inside Edinburgh Castle.  I would recommend seeing this first because as time went on, we saw a line develop.  The display of the Crown Jewels of Scotland is not as big as the one for England, but it is impressive in its own right.  I thought it was interesting that while there was a castle employee on duty in the vault with the Crown Jewels there was no official guard.  

Inside this building you will find the Crown Jewels. Warning get there early, just look at the line. - "Experiencing History at Edinburgh Castle" - Two Traveling Texans
Inside this building you will find the Crown Jewels. Warning get there early, just look at the line.

You can see the crown and scepter first used for the coronation of Mary Queen of Scots in 1543.  There are other precious jewels on display as well.  It is interesting that at one point during the 17th century they were hidden in David’s Tower (which is like a basement) to keep them safe from the English army.

Another amazing artifact that is on display is the Stone of Destiny.  For the Scottish people, it is very sacred, but Edward I of England took the stone away in 1296 and had it built into his throne.  In 1996, the stone was returned to Scotland and will now only go back to Westminster Abbey for coronations.

Anisa with Mons Meg - "Experiencing History at Edinburgh Castle" - Two Traveling Texans
Anisa with Mons Meg

Mons Meg

Mons Meg is a huge cannon that was cutting edge back in the 1400s.  She was capable of blasting a cannonball 2 miles!  Also, not too far from Mons Meg is the 1 o’clock gun.  As its name suggests, it is fired each day at 1 pm to give ships something to set their clocks to.  The tradition started back in 1861 and continues today (except for Sundays, Christmas, and Good Friday).  Of course, this reminded me of the ball ceremony at the Greenwich Royal Observatory.   Unfortunately, due to scheduling, we didn’t see it this trip, but there is always a crowd to watch it.

The Scottish War Memorial is inside a beautiful building. - "Experiencing History at Edinburgh Castle" - Two Traveling Texans
The Scottish War Memorial is inside a beautiful building.

The National War Memorial

The National War Memorial looks like a church from the outside and it really is a very sacred place.  It is a beautiful tribute to the Scottish that died in both World Wars and other military campaigns since 1945.  Also, you will find each soldier’s name and they take great pride in keeping the memorial up to date.

Anisa in the guard hut in front of the Scottish War Memorial. - "Experiencing History at Edinburgh Castle" - Two Traveling Texans
Anisa in the guard hut in front of the Scottish War Memorial.

St. Margaret’s Chapel

While St. Margaret’s Chapel may not be elaborate it is definitely historic.   It was built around 1130 by David I for his mother Margaret and is Edinburgh’s oldest building.   During the 16th century, it was used for storage and then turned back into a chapel in 1845.  The chapel is still used today for christenings and weddings.

Looking up towards the top section of Edinburgh Castle. - "Experiencing History at Edinburgh Castle" - Two Traveling Texans
Looking up towards the top section of Edinburgh Castle.

Prisons of War

I also really enjoyed the Prisons of War exhibition.  I had no idea that prisoners of war from the US and other countries like France, Spain, and the Netherlands were held here in Edinburgh Castle.  The exhibit gives you insight into what it was like.  Additionally, I was really fascinated by the doors where you could see the graffiti carvings of the prisoners.  Again this really reminded me of the Tower of London.  Across the walkway from the Prisons of War exhibition, there is the Military Prison, which Scottish soldiers served time for various levels of crimes and rule violations.

View from the top of Edinburgh Castle with the city in the distance. - "Experiencing History at Edinburgh Castle" - Two Traveling Texans
View from the top of Edinburgh Castle with the city in the distance.

Honestly, I really underestimated how important Edinburgh Castle history was.  To me, it is kind of like the Tower of London is to England.  So much history has happened here so there was a lot to take in, so I would recommend allocating at least 3 hours for your visit.  Edinburgh castle is very popular and for good reason.  So to avoid long lines, I would highly recommend buying tickets in advance.  

A section of the castle with no people! - "Experiencing History at Edinburgh Castle" - Two Traveling Texans
A section of the castle with no people!

I don’t think any visit to Edinburgh is complete without coming to the castle.  Have you been to Edinburgh Castle? What do you think are some of the Edinburgh Castle highlights? I would love to hear about your experience.


Expert Tips for Experiencing Edinburgh Castle History:

  • Buy your tickets for Edinburgh Castle online in advance to avoid the line when you arrive.
  • Go see the Scottish crown jewels early before a line develops.
  • For more tips on planning your time in Scotland, check out our Pinterest board.

Disclosure: No financial compensation was received, but we did receive complimentary admission at Edinburgh Castle.  As always, opinions are my own.  

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Two Traveling Texans

Experiencing History at Edinburgh Castle
A travel blog about our visit to the historic Edinburgh Castle including seeing the crown jewels and other exhibits that should not be missed.
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56 thoughts on “Experiencing History at Edinburgh Castle

  • Have you watched the castle documentaries on Netflix and Amazon Prime? There is a good one about Mary Queen of Scots. I always love looking at royal jewels, and any castle is worth a look in my opinion. Looks like another fabulous one!

    1. Thanks for the tip Stephanie I will have to check those documentaries out. I love castles too, we saw a few others on the trip, so more castles coming up on the blog.

    1. Kate – Thanks so much! The ones on display are original and they have never been stolen. However, over the course of history they have been hidden in other locations several times.

  • We were in Edinburgh around 8 years ago, and due to budget and time we didn’t go to the castle but saw it from the outside. We’ve been to London so many times and yet again we haven’t visited the Tower of London. However, with what you’ve explained we’ll make sure to pay a visit to both sites next time we visit either place. Thanks!!

    1. Sara – It’s impossible to see everything in Edinburgh and London there is just so much. Edinburgh Castle and the Tower of London are both must see places especially for history fans. You won’t be disappointed.

  • You weren’t kidding…this place has a TON of history! I think it’s on a lot of people’s “must-see” list…but I just like seeing the jewels 🙂 I’m such a girl that way!

  • They just keep the jewels in the open with no guards present? And no one has tried to steal them? I would love to go to Edinburgh one day and I believe you can see a gorgeous view of the city from up here. Thanks for sharing.

    1. There were staff members but I wouldn’t call them guards. I don’t think anyone has tried to steal them but there have been times when they were hidden in other locations to prevent them from being stolen. So glad you enjoyed the post Soumya!

    1. Kristen – You really must go, it is lovely. Lots more coming up on the blog about my trip including more castles and some hiking too. I also started a Scotland board on Pinterest because I want to go back.

  • I have been to Edinburgh a few times and visited the castle and I love the history between the English and the Scots – fascinating on both sides! There is a hill called “King Arthur’s Seat” not far from the castle and when you are at the top, on a clear day you can see the Castle in the distance, it’s lovely. #TheWeeklyPostcard

  • I went to Edinburgh castle years ago, and loved it. Especially the location. I’m also a big fan of Phillipa Gregory’s Tudor series, so glad to find a fellow fan! #theweeklypostcard

  • No, I haven’t been to Edinburgh or its castle. Somehow I’m a traveller who is always attracted to the warmer and sunnier regions in this world. So thanks for making this part of #TheWeeklyPostcard.

    1. Thanks Juergen. You should consider going to Scotland in the summer, as the weather was nice when I was there. I don’t like to visit cold places either.

  • I too want to see Edinburgh Castle (as an adult again) even since I read The Other Queen and learned more about Mary, Queen of Scots! Same with the house she was held captive in in England, which I’m forgetting the name at the moment. #TheWeeklyPostcard

  • I love Edinburgh castle and the “darkness” of the city in general: there’s a bloody story on every corner, it’s fascinating. Yes I recall the queue for the crown jewels: I didn’t manage to get in (=couldn’t be bothered waiting!). I’m sure it’s better early on though. Edinburgh even looks better with bad weather! It’s a stormy city in all ways. I loved Mary King’s Close, the underground street that was closed off because of the plague, it’s worth visiting, quite scary. #TheWeeklyPostcard

    1. Awe too bad you missed the crown jewels, but don’t blame you. I hate lines too. Thanks for the tip about Mary King’s Close I will have to check it out on my next trip.

  • You are right, a visit to a city would not be complete without a visit to its castle. In Europe, I try to visit the castles first. I enjoyed the highlights of your visit to Edinburgh Castle. I haven’t had the opportunity to stop by. but hope I can do it soon.

  • I’ve never been to Scotland and have heard so much about all the folklore and history!!! I am simply stunned that nobody has ever tried to steal those jewels. It’s really cool to hear how diverse the castles are from country to country. The graffiti from the prisoners in the castles must have been haunting to see.

  • Castles have always been some of my favorite places to explore while traveling…the history and the picturesque views are just perfect! Would love to go to Edinburgh someday.

    1. Leah – Thanks. I love castles too, really I am obsessed. If you don’t make it to Edinburgh – there are great castles in and around London (maybe that is easier?). The Tower of London and Windsor Castle are absolute musts. And there are lots more besides those.

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