on March 3, 2010
Edinburgh is one of the most beautiful European cities, and its most stunning feature is Edinburgh Castle, which sits high atop a hill overlooking the Old Town. Much of the history of the city (as well as the country) encircles this Medieval castle, including Princes Street, the Royal Mile, the path to Holyrood Palace (once the home of Mary Stuart), and the lovely gardens below, which the castle overlooks.Sitting atop what was once the collapsed crater of a volcano (known as Castle Rock), Edinburgh Castle’s history dates back to the Bronze Age (900 BC) according to archaeologists, who have found evidence of human activity in this area. The castle and its function as a royal seat, however, date to the Middle Ages, with the oldest structure on the current site being the 12th century Chapel of St. Margaret, a building today renowned as the oldest in the city. Other Medieval structures that remain include David’s Tower (from the 14th century) and the Great Hall of James IV from the 16th century.The castle has taken on many functions throughout its history, including as fortress, prison, and military garrison. Its most exalted, of course, was its function as the royal palace. In the 17th century, James VI (born in the castle) became King James I of England, and the castle’s function as royal seat diminished greatly. The Scottish Royal Court took their place in London, and eventually the castle returned to its role as a military function (army base).Today, Edinburgh Castle remains a source of historical record, as a tourist attraction and the home of the Scottish National War Memorial. Together with other parts of Edinburgh’s Old and New Towns, it is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. With its long history as a fortress during times of war, it should be little surprise that is remains a military stronghold. The castle is home to the Royal Scots and the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards, two currently functioning military regiments. Their historical roles can be explored in museum exhibits within the castle grounds today.Among the Edinburgh Castle highlights, in addition to the structures already mentioned, are the Honours of Scotland (its crown jewels), Mons Meg (a Medieval siege gun, which was the cutting technology of its time), and the Stone of Destiny (the coronation seat of ancient Scottish kings, which has only recently been returned to Edinburgh from London after an absence of 800 years).The biggest draw to the castle comes each August, when it functions as the site of the legendary Edinburgh Military Tattoo, a spectacle of pipe and drum bands, fiddlers, and Scottish Highland dancers. What may be surprising to many, however, is that Edinburgh Castle has an active schedule of events year round, with costumed performances, pop concerts, and even holiday events, such as a "Wine and Dine" for Valentine’s Day. Who said chivalry is dead?
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