Edinburgh Castle


Edinburgh Castle and Terri meeting her five Royal Scots Dragoon Guards »

As my plane circles the Firth of Forth, I wait with breathless anticipation to see her. Majestically occupying the summit of an ancient volcanic rock towering 260ft (80m) between the blue-green sea and Scotland' verdant hills is Edinburgh Castle - a sight that never fails to inspire and welcome me home.

High above the city named for her, long before the Romans invaded Caledonia in AD 80 and again in AD 139, Castle Rock has served as a settlement by some estimates as early as 900 BC. An important fort of the Votadini people, later known as the Gododdin, it was called Din Eidyn. Besieged and captured by the Angles in AD 638, who Anglicised the name to Edinburgh and the name remained after Angles were evicted by the Scots under Malcolm II in 1018. During the reign of David I from 1124 to 1153, Edinburgh Castle started to develop into a royal fortress. Edward I of England took the castle after a three-day siege in 1296. The Scots retook it under Robert the Bruce in 1314 by scaling the rock at night, but the English were back in possession by 1335, only to lose it once more to the Scots by stealth in April 1341.

The centuries have tested the strength of the fortress on no fewer than thirteen occasions. Surviving all the sieges and bombardments for more than 900 years is the oldest building in Edinburgh; a tiny Norman building called St. Margaret's Chapel. Conquerors may have razed the rest of the castle but have always spared the chapel because Margaret is Scotland's only Royal Saint.

Edinburgh Castle has served as the seat (and regular refuge) of Scottish Kings, and the historic apartments include the Great Hall and the tiny room in which Mary, Queen of Scots gave birth to the boy who was to become King James VI of Scotland and James I of England upon the death of Queen Elizabeth in 1603. The Honours of Scotland, re-discovered by Sir Walter Scott as part an exhaustive search of the castle where they had been placed in 1707, are on view in the Crown Room. The Honours are the oldest crown jewels in the British Isles and prohibited by law to be worn by an English Regent.

Be prepared for the One O'Clock Gun located at Mills Mount Battery within Edinburgh Castle. The gun has been fired at precisely 1300 hours, except Sunday, Christmas Day and Good Friday since 1861 to provide an accurate time signal. District Gunner Tom McKay MBE has the distinction of being the longest serving District Gunner of all time, since 1978, and is a wealth of Scottish history should you be nearby to enjoy this tradition.

Managed by Historic Scotland on behalf of the government, Edinburgh Castle retains an active military garrison and serves as the home for the Army School of Piping.