Visit Edinburgh Castle

Edinburgh’s crowning glory

https://www.scotland.greatraveling.com/Amongst the many sights and experiences Edinburgh has to offer its visitors Edinburgh Castle is surely the crowning glory. This magnificent edifice perches nearly 300 feet above the city on the ancient volcanic plug of Castle Rock, an extinct volcano which dominates Scotland’s capital and makes the castle visible for many miles away.

Because of its strategic position Castle Rock has been occupied since 900bc and, when the Romans first came this way in about AD80, they found that the local Votadini people had the well-established fort of ‘Din Eidyn’ looking balefully down at them – and the Romans wisely left it alone!https://www.scotland.greatraveling.com/

Since then the castle has been rebuilt, expanded, fortified and altered. It has been bombarded, besieged, captured and recaptured (it is the most besieged castle in Britain). It has been a fortress, a barracks, a prison, a hospital, a royal residence, a museum and a treasury.

https://www.scotland.greatraveling.com/The Crown Jewels of Scotland, known as ‘The Honours of Scotland’ (the oldest crown jewels in the UK) are housed in the castle and are made from gold that was mined in Scotland. The Stone of Destiny, sitting upon which monarchs of both Scotland and England have been crowned for centuries is also there.

Within its walls is the oldest building in Edinburgh – St Margaret’s Chapel – which still hosts weddings and christenings to this day. Every day at one o’clock precisely (excepting Sundays, Good Friday and Christmas Day) a cannon is fired from the Mills Mount Battery – originally a time signal for ships in the River Forth but nowadays just one of the many traditions associated with the castle.https://www.scotland.greatraveling.com/

Still a military garrison, Edinburgh Castle is now a world-famous visitor attraction and an iconic part of the Old and New Towns of Edinburgh World Heritage Site. It houses Scotland’s National War Museum and, of course, it is host to the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo, that magnificent spectacle of military skill which takes place every August on the castle Esplanade. The first tattoo took place in 1949 and attracted about 100,000 spectators in total. The last time the tattoo was held was 2019 (the 2020 event was cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic) when 220,000 people watched the various live events and many, many more watched it on television. The 2021 event is expected to happen as normal.https://www.scotland.greatraveling.com/

Edinburgh Castle is a large and complex place and it houses so much of interest: the Lang Stairs, The Portcullis Gate, The Half Moon Battery, The Argyll Battery, The Mills Mount Battery, the huge cannon of Mons Meg, The Great Hall, The Argyll Tower, Foog’s Gate, the Castle Vaults and the two small museums of the Royal Scots Regiment and the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards. A full day is needed to do this place justice!

As you wander through the castle keep in mind that you are treading in the footsteps of kings and queens, princes and princesses, rebels and saints, writers and poets, and rogues (including the architect who restored the Great Hall – and then refused to hand over the keys!).https://www.scotland.greatraveling.com/

Edinburgh Castle offers guided tours by castle stewards or you may choose to follow the audio guide at your own pace. Whichever you choose you can’t fail to be impressed – witnessing or indeed being a central character in much of Scotland’s history it could be said that, in many ways, the history of the castle is the history of Scotland.

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Edinburgh Castle on YouTube:

Castle of Mey Scotland – – Royal Holiday Home

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Stefan Serena Flickr Public Domain

In 1952, just after the death of her husband King George VI, Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, better known as ‘The Queen Mother’, bought the 450-year-old abandoned Barrogill Castle in the far north of Scotland as a place where she could relax away from prying eyes. She oversaw the restoration of this remote castle on the north coast of Caithness just six miles from John O’Groats for use as her holiday home. Stefan Serena Flickr Public Domain

Choosing many of the fixtures and fittings herself she returned the castle to its original name of The Castle of Mey and took vacations there for three weeks in August and ten days in October each year until her death in 2002. Some years before she died she had the foresight to establish the Queen Elizabeth Castle of Mey Trust to oversee the future affairs of the castle and it’s because of her forward-looking attitude that it is possible today for the public to visit the castle and explore the wonderful gardens which she designed.

https://www.scotland.greatraveling.com/The Castle of Mey is the northernmost castle on the British mainland and, protected by a 12-foot high wall known as ‘The Great Wall of Mey’, is now under the care of The Prince’s Foundation, an educational charity established in 1986 by Charles, Prince of Wales. The castle stands on a slight rise about 400 yards from the sea with magnificent views over the Pentland Firth to the distant Orkney Islands. Once the seat of the Earls of Caithness the castle is open every day from the beginning of May to the end of September with a break of 10 days in July/August when His Royal Highness Prince Charles (president of The Prince’s Foundation) and his wife Camilla Duchess of Cornwall often visit.

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Edward Tenny Flickr Public Domain

A new visitors centre was opened in 2007 and, in its first year, some 29,000 visitors explored the castle and the extensive gardens, particularly the shell garden where the Queen Mother used to sit with her corgis in the afternoons, and sampled the home-grown fare in the award-winning tearoom – much of which comes from the castle gardens and adjacent lands. In the walled garden you will find a lookout tower which is a great place to take in the scenery. There is also a small museum and quite a large gift shop.

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Edward Tenny Flickr Public Domain

The castle is still very much as the Queen Mother restored it and has seen little update since then (her motto was ‘if it works don’t fix it’!). The knowledgeable guides will do all they can to make your visit interesting and enjoyable and are happy to answer any questions you may have. It must be kept in mind that the Castle of Mey is an historic building and disabled access is not possible to all parts of it although the shop, tearoom and toilets are fully accessible.

A big part of the castle’s attraction, especially for children, is the animal centre. Its relaxed and welcoming atmosphere can be enjoyed by adults and children alike and gives the opportunity to see how animals should be cared for. https://www.scotland.greatraveling.com/Visitors to the animal centre in the east woods can interact with some of the animals, providing an enjoyable and educational visit. There is a colourful collection of unusual and eye-catching poultry breeds, various waterfowl including ducks and geese and unusual sheep breeds in the paddock. The different sizes, shapes and colours of all these creatures make a curiously wonderful display. At the right time of year bottle-feeding of young lambs is a highlight and, with a little luck, your visit will coincide with a new hatch of chicks – fluffy, yellow balls of new life!

Two unusual features of the animal centre experience is the opportunity to try your hand at spinning fleece from the castle’s flock of cheviot sheep or attempting to milk Daisy the wooden cow! These are both popular activities and, depending on how busy it is, you may have to wait a while for your turn. Demonstrations are normally held three days a week during opening hours.

A ROMANTIC WEDDING VENUE

For a romantic wedding with a difference the castle visitor centre offers itself as a wedding venue with facilities for up to 60 guests in the grounds of the castle overlooking the Pentland Firth. Photographs can be taken in the visitors centre, the castle or the gardens. It is also possible to hold the wedding ceremony elsewhere and have the photographs taken in the castle and gardens. Weddings are confined to those months when the castle isn’t open to the public but, considering that the castle is only open for part of the year, that still leaves a good choice of dates.

THE CAPTAIN’S HOUSE

Only a few hundred yards from the castle the Captain’s House offers quiet self-catering accommodation. It is the only property on the castle estate which is used as a holiday let and was a favourite picnic spot of the Queen Mother. A large conservatory overlooks the enclosed garden and gives excellent views over the Pentland Firth. It’s a great place for reading, painting or simply chilling out and appreciating the solitude and the breathtaking views.

Castle Of Mey Video

For those of a more active nature the Captain’s House is perfectly situated for walking, bird watching or fishing with sheer cliffs and sandy beaches all around and Gills Bay, from where you can take a ferry to Orkney, is just a mile away. Equipped to a very high standard the Captain’s House has one double and two twin rooms and can sleep six people.

THE GRANARY LODGE

Opened in 2019 the Granary Lodge offers luxury bed and breakfast accommodation on the castle grounds. This is an ideal place to witness the impressive sunsets visible here and, if you are lucky, the evening sky may be enhanced by an appearance from the ‘Heavenly Dancers’ – also known as the Northern Lights or the Aurora Borealis to help make you stay just that little bit more special. Be it a day trip or a longer visit, the Castle of Mey and its surroundings cannot fail to impress!

URQUHART CASTLE

Between Fort William in the east and Inverness in the west lies the geological fault of the Great Glen – a deep, diagonal slash in the land. 62 miles in length, it cuts Scotland in half separating the Grampian mountains from the northwest highlands.

https://www.scotland.greatraveling.com/Lying within this glen is Loch Ness and on the shore of the loch about halfway along you will find the ruins of Urquhart Castle. Close to the village of Drumnadrochit and located in a prominent position surrounded on three sides by water Urquhart Castle is famous for being the place from which the Loch Ness monster has most often been seen and photographed and, perhaps for this reason, it is one of the most visited castles in Scotland but the existence or otherwise of this legendary creature isn’t the only reason for visiting Urquhart Castle.https://www.scotland.greatraveling.com/

Now under the care of Historic Environment Scotland the castle is steeped in history – there is evidence of a castle of some description on the site as far back as the reign of King Alexander II (1214-1249). One of the largest castles in Scotland in total area Urquhart Castle is easily accessible from the main A82 road which runs alongside the loch. The castle has witnessed some of the most significant chapters in the history of Scotland and, with a wild natural beauty and centuries of history behind it, offers a taste of the highlands at their most dramatic giving a glimpse of life in a medieval castle complemented by stunning views over Loch Ness.

https://www.scotland.greatraveling.com/Overlooking the castle and the loch and discreetly hidden by the sloping hillside below the main A82 a new, modern visitor centre was opened in 2002. Accessed from the car park by steps or elevator the visitor centre comprises three main areas: the shop, leading to the viewing terrace and the path to the castle; an exhibition area which includes a large model of the castle and an audio-visual theatre.

https://www.scotland.greatraveling.com/Be sure to visit the cafe for the views from the outside terrace are quite spectacular which is why it was once a popular wedding venue. Sadly, weddings are no longer conducted at the castle but happy couples are quite welcome to take photographs. Once into the castle grounds proper there is much to see including a full-sized replica trebuchet (a bit like a catapult), a fine example of a truly impressive siege weapon from a time before gunpowder.

Also in the extensive grounds you will find the remains of several buildings including those of the kitchens and the great hall. The Grant Tower, the best-preserved part of the castle, can be explored by a narrow and rather restricted spiral staircase. At busy times this can be quite congested and you may have to wait your turn but the view from the top over Loch Ness makes it worthwhile.

Even though there are many castles in Scotland larger or more complete than Urquhart Castle there are few with quite such a depth of history and even fewer located in such magnificent surroundings nor is there the possibility anywhere else, however unlikely, of taking a photograph which proves that a certain mythical creature does in fact exist. Can you imagine a wedding photograph with the Loch Ness Monster in the background?

More information on Urquhart Castle.

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All photographs on this page were sourced from Pixabay

And a Youtube video

Travel Scotland

 How to Plan Your Scotland Tour

There are many attractions that will take your breath away when you travel to Scotland. You’ll travel through some breathtaking scenery, see the historic towns and castles, and enjoy the food and drink of Scotland. Visitors have many options to choose between when planning their Scottish vacation. There are so many things to do when you travel to there.

Your first stop might be in the famous Inverness region. https://www.scotland.greatraveling.com/Inverness is a city in the Scottish Highlands and is regarded as the capital of the Highlands. It is the most northerly city in the United Kingdom and lies within the Great Glen where the River Ness enters the Moray Firth. https://www.scotland.greatraveling.com/

This area has many forests that are easily explored, some even with the use of mobility scooters. The six main forests are Reelig Glen (with Big Douglas, at one time the tallest tree in Britain), Craig Phadrig, the nearest to Inverness and with an Iron Age hill fort, Ord Hill, with another Iron Age fort and arguably the best views over the Moray Firth, Little Mill, a small wood with features formed in the last ice age, Daviot Wood, which is accessible by mobility scooter and has wide paths suitable for cycling, and Culloden Wood, which lies over part of the battlefield of Culloden and includes a wishing well for healing.

If you would rather go by water, you can cruise the Caledonian Canal, and sail on Loch Ness, though there is no guarantee that you will see the Loch Ness monster! This trip also takes in Urquhart castle.

A day trip you can take from Inverness will take you to the famous Isle of Skye to see Eilean Donan Castle and the Old Man of Storr.

For more information on what to do and see in Inverness, check out this site.

All images are available under the Creative Commons CC0 licence