Edinburgh Castle Facts

By Suman Sengupta

Edinburgh Castle is Scotland’s most famous castle. It attracts over two million visitors annually. 

This castle has a rich and colorful history dating back to the 12th century. 

But how much do you know about this magnificent castle in the heart of Edinburgh?

Parts of the original castle have been destroyed and rebuilt over its long history. 

It has lasted for 1000 years, staying strong despite many challenges.

Here are some amazing Edinburgh Castle facts that you should know before visiting.

The Castle Sits Atop a Volcano

The Castle Sits Atop a Volcano
Image: Britannica.com

Edinburgh Castle is built on Castle Rock, which is an extinct volcano.  

The Castle Rock is a volcanic plug formed after an eruption over 340 million years ago. 

Edinburgh Castle’s location offers a strategic defensive position with panoramic views of the city and surrounding areas.

Is the Edinburgh Castle haunted?

Is the Edinburgh Castle haunted
Image: Gollykim/Getty Images

Edinburgh Castle is renowned for its ghostly tales. After all, the castle is in a city with a long history of paranormal activity. 

In 2001, a scientist decided to experiment and see if he could prove whether its spooky reputation was justified. 

Richard Wiseman recruited over 240 people to explore the castle over ten days and report on anything ghostly they noticed as part of the Edinburgh International Science Festival.

He chose the people unaware of the castle’s reputation for hauntings.

Wiseman was intrigued by the findings – 51% of volunteers reported seeing paranormal activity around the castle.

A Gun Firing is at 1 pm 

The One O’clock Gun is fired from the Mill’s Mount Battery every Monday through Saturday at 1 pm as a time signal for ships passing through the harbor. 

This custom started in 1861. A volunteer District Gunner from Edinburgh’s 105th Regiment Royal Artillery fires the gun. 

This gun was only ever used in self-defense during an air raid in 1916 when it was attempting to hit Zeppelins in vain. 

The gun does not fire on Sunday, Christmas Day, and Good Friday. 

Edinburgh Castle is Renowned for Housing the World’s Most Prestigious Gin

Visitors can find many types of whiskies in the store near St. Margaret’s Chapel. 

This includes a special one called Edinburgh Castle, a 10-year-old single malt.

Magnum Cream Liqueur and the award-winning Edinburgh Gin, exclusively bottled for the castle, are also available to visitors.

Saint Margaret Chapel Is the Oldest Structure in Scotland 

Saint Margaret Chapel
Image: En.Wikipedia.org

St. Margaret’s Chapel was built in the twelfth century. It is the oldest building in the Edinburgh Castle complex and in Scotland. 

King David I built it for his mother, Queen Margaret, who died in 1093. 

The origins of St. Margaret’s Chapel had been lost to history until Sir Daniel Wilson rediscovered them in 1845.

There is a Dog Cemetery on the Grounds of Edinburgh Castle

Dog Cemetery
Image: Commons.Wikimedia.org

Since 1840, authorities have dedicated a small plot of land in Edinburgh Castle to the canine companions of Scottish battalions.

Jess and Dobbler were two canines buried on the castle grounds.

Jess was the beloved mascot of the Black Watch 42nd Highlanders, and Dobbler accompanied the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders from China to Sri Lanka and South Africa. 

They received this honor because of their loyalty and service. It is usually done for nobility and distinguished soldiers. 

Visitors cannot enter the cemetery. They can see the garden from the Argyle Battery.

Edinburgh Castle is the Most Fortified Location in Great Britain

Edinburgh Castle has been attacked by hostile forces 23 times, making it Europe’s most besieged fortress.

One notable example is the Longshanks Siege of 1296, when Edward I stole the castle’s valuables and transported them all to London.

During the Jacobite Rising of 1745, forces last besieged Edinburgh Castle.

At that time, Bonny Prince Charlie attempted and failed to take the Castle.

After learning these fascinating facts, enhance your experience by purchasing Edinburgh Castle tickets in advance. 

A Loch Once Surrounded Edinburgh Castle

After James III had the region flooded as a defensive measure, an artificial loch known as the Nor Loch was formed in 1460. 

It made gathering around Edinburgh Castle impossible after that. 

However, during the 1700s, people demanded emptying the Loch as it was full of dirty sewage. 

The Edinburgh Castle’s Jewels were Lost for Many Years 

The Crown, the Sceptre, and the Sword of State are collectively called the Honors of Scotland. 

The Honors were used in Scottish monarchs’ crowning.  

The Scottish Crown Jewels were hidden in several locations before being brought to Edinburgh Castle after the monarchy was restored in 1660.

After Oliver Cromwell’s invasion of Scotland in the 17th century and Charles I’s execution, Charles II decided to conceal the jewels. 

He did that in case Cromwell and his allies tried to seize and melt them down, as they had done with the English Crown Jewels.

After the Parliament of Scotland was dissolved in 1707 to form the United Kingdom of Great Britain, these jewels were locked in a chest at the castle and forgotten for a century. 

In 1818, the Prince Regent (the future George IV) set a group to search the castle to find the Honors of Scotland. 

The jewels were discovered in a chest inside the Crown Room, where they had been left for over a century.

You can find Europe’s best-preserved medieval gun in Edinburgh Castle.

In 1457, King James II received the Mons Meg. It is one of the most powerful medieval cannons ever made. 

Military experts once considered this gun to be cutting-edge technology and named it after the Belgian town where manufacturers produced it.

Mons Meg was fired over the city to celebrate Mary Queen of Scots’ marriage in 1558. 

Mons Meg now stands outside St. Margaret’s Chapel, just past the Whisky and Finest Food Shop.

There is a Hidden Tower in Edinburgh Castle 

In 1912, workers excavating the Edinburgh Castle discovered the ruins of David’s Tower hidden behind an old coal cellar. 

It was built in the 1370s after King David II (son of Robert the Bruce) commissioned it. 

The tower also witnessed the Black Dinner of 1440, during which the Earl of Douglas and his brother faced accusations of treason. 

They were taken away for execution shortly afterward.

During a siege in 1573, forces destroyed David’s Tower and hid its ruins within another structure known as the Half Moon Battery.

People gradually forgot about David’s Tower until someone rediscovered it in the twentieth century. 

The Ghost of Lone Piper Haunts Edinburgh Castle

According to legend, people discovered secret passageways leading into various parts of Edinburgh beneath the castle hundreds of years ago.

A young piper was sent into the tunnels and told to play his pipes as he walked so those on the surface could figure out where the underground passages led.

When the boy reached Tron Kirk, the sound of bagpipes stopped. 

A search party was sent to locate the boy, who had vanished into thin air. 

When they did not find the boy, the tunnel was closed. 

Today, some visitors and residents claim to hear bagpipes while walking along the Royal Mile near the castle.

His ghost is said to be heard beneath the castle to this day, waiting for a rescue. 

An Elephant Once Lived in the Edinburgh Castle

An Elephant Once Lived in the Edinburgh Castle
Image: Facebook.com(Visitedinburghcastle)

After a long posting in Sri Lanka, the 78th Highlanders returned to Edinburgh in 1838 with an elephant. 

The elephant stayed onsite with his comrades and became the leader of their marching band because the castle was one of the main infantry barracks. 

He also developed a taste for beer and reached his trunk through the canteen window for a pint before going to bed. 

His toes are currently on display in the castle grounds at the National War Museum.

The KGB altered the Edinburgh Castle

King James IV of Scotland had small holes built into the Great Hall of Edinburgh Castle in the 16th century for the conversations of his courtiers. 

These holes were known as the ‘laird’s lugs,’ or the lord’s ears. 

They remained a guarded secret until Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev’s planned visit to Edinburgh in 1984. 

Before he arrived in Scotland, the KGB insisted on filling the holes in preparation for his visit to the castle.

Edinburgh Castle has Housed 1,000 Prisoners Throughout its History

Edinburgh castle jail
Image: En.Wikipedia.org

Aside from royalty, authorities housed some prisoners in the castle, including 21 pirates of the Caribbean whom they sentenced to death by hanging.

During the War of Independence, Edinburgh Castle also imprisoned a lot of Americans.

While imprisoned, one inmate carved the American flag into the walls of the castle’s vaults.

About the author

Suman Sengupta heart lies where greeny mountains meet stretches of beach. he believes getting lost is the best way to explore