The first thing that comes to mind when referring to Scotland is its Scottish castles and heroism of the many Scottish chieftains who fought against the British to gain independence. The Edinburgh Castle attracts one million people in a year. Sitting atop the ancient Edinburgh rock,the Castle is a treasure trove of history of the earliest inhabitants in Edinburgh. The city of Edinburgh started to grew outwardly from the castle and the first houses in the area were just outside the castle gate what is today known as the Lawnmarket.This trail passes through the High Street and The Cannongate towards the Royal Palace. The Old city tour is concentrated in the Royal Mile trail as it is popularly known by tour operators in the city.Inside the castle one is transferred to a bygone era. Also you get to see the most of the Scottish highlands from the high parts of the castle. Just take a look on the northern side of the castle and you will be greeted with the view of the kingdom of Fife and the Princes Street Gardens.
At first you will be confused whether it is a castle or a fortress. High walls surround the castle from all possible angles. The base rock is said to be volcanic in origin. Records of settlement here go back to the 9th century BC. The site has always ben associated with Royalty. Perhaps the name Royal Mile outside the castle is apt and kings and queens always traveled through these trails. The first known castle here was built by David I in the 12th century. Significantly it was also one of the most popular fortress in Scotland and was engaged in some of the historical warfares of the country (Wars of Scottish Independence and the Jacobite Rising). From the latter part of the 17th century it was used as a military base. A large garrison was stationed here permanently. In the 19th century various restoration took place asits importance as a historical monument became more pronounced. It is not only a landmark for the city but also a landmark for the Scottish independence.
While going through the many labyrinths of the Edinburgh Castle one is bound to be confused. Some of the must see things here are the St Margaret’s Chapel which was constructed in the 12th century and is the oldest surviving building in Edinburgh, the Royal Palace with its exquisite décor, and the Great Hall.It also has two museums in the complex- Scottish National War Memorial, and National War Museum of Scotland. If you see a military presence here don’t come to conclusion that there is again a war brewing between England and Scotland. The military is purely ceremonial. The castle is a part and parcel of history and heritage. The vaults of the castle use to hold prisoners of war during the Seven Years War and the American War of Independence. You might feel a little spooky here but that’s understandable.
Originally in front of the Edinburgh Castle there was a 16th century hornwork or better known as the Esplanade. Presently it is a parade ground where the Edinburgh Military Tattoo ceremony takes place. You can see the Half Moon Battery and the Royal Palace from here. The Gatehouse here is an architectural wonder with its statues of Scottish heroes like Robert the Bruce and William Wallace. There is a ditch in front of the gatehouse. The Middle ward or the Portcullis gate was built in 1571 mainly to replace the Constable’s Tower. You will see the Argyle Battery inside the gatehouse. The Governor’s House is an addition done in 1742 used for the residential purpose of the governor but was left vacant after the 19th century. The nurses of the hospital briefly resided here for sometime. National War Museum of Scotland covers the mlitary history of Scotland chronologically for 400 years. There is a wide display of military artifacts like medals, weapons and uniforms,and coat of arms.
All important dealings and state assemblies were organized in the Great Hall of the Edinburgh Castle. The distinguishing architecture here is the Renaissance pattern. The original hammerbeam roof is still intact. Oliver Cromwell used it as a barrack for his troops. Much later it was used as a military aiding center.
Though Edinburgh Castle is the most popular of all Scottish Castles there are some ruins of other castles nearby it that might interest you. The Craigmillar Castle dates from the 15th century and was once the seat of Mary Queen of Scotts. You get a magnificent view of the surrounding city from the top of the castle. The Tantallon Castle is in a derelict condition but was once the stronghold of the prestigious Douglas Family. In Smailholm Tower you will see period actors enacting the incidents from Sir Walter Scotts life. Hw was one of the greatest poet of English and a precursor of the Romantics.
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