With its impressive scale, commanding hilltop location and centuries of dramatic history within its sturdy walls, it’s no wonder Edinburgh Castle is the number-one tourist attraction (with an admission price) in Scotland. From the Great Hall to the Royal Palace, there’s so much to absorb, so don your most comfortable shoes and get ready for an epic journey through time.
The spectacular Edinburgh Castle sits atop Castle Rock, dominating the skyline and looking over the city below. You’ll want to set aside a good couple of hours to explore. Be sure to take advantage of the complimentary guided tour included with entry; the tour guides are knowledgeable stewards who can give you the lowdown on all of the castle’s intriguing tales. Self-guided audio tours are also available for a fee.
The castle has been not only a military stronghold, but also the royal home to a number of Scottish monarchs, including Queen Margaret and Mary, Queen of Scots. The oldest surviving structure within the castle walls – and all of Edinburgh – is charming St Margaret’s Chapel, which dates back to 1130 and was built in honour of Queen Margaret. Other stars of the show here include the crown jewels of Scotland – the oldest in the British Isles – which you’ll find within the Royal Palace, and the medieval hammerbeam roof of the Great Hall.
The castle is open daily in summer (9:30am to 6pm; April through September) and winter (9:30am to 5pm; October through March). The closest train station to Edinburgh Castle is Waverley, where the fortress is clearly visible from its exits. After your visit, you can follow the historic Royal Mile from the castle to the other end to find another popular Edinburgh attraction: the Palace of Holyroodhouse. Stop for food, refreshments or a spot of retail therapy at the many shops and eateries along the way.