on June 21, 2012
Edinburgh Castle sits on an extinct volcano rock which was formed around 340 million BC. The actual castle was built around the year 1130. Edinburgh Castle has witnessed many seiges including being taken over by Edward 1 of England and recaptured by Robert the Bruce over a period of several years. Over the years, the castle has been used for Royal engagements. Mary Queen of Scots gave birth to a child here. More fights followed and prisoners were held in the castle. The Millitary Tattoo was first held in the grounds of the castle in 1950 and still is to this day. Today, Edinburgh Castle attracts more than 1.25m visitors each year which makes it the most popular attraction in Edinburgh. Concerts and other events are also held at the castle. See www.edinburghcastle.gov.uk for more details.Edinburgh Castle cannot really be missed as it dominates the city. To reach the castle by foot, there are paths up the side of the rock or you can follow the signs up past the shops in the side streets. Waverley train station is quite a walk away and this involves a lot of uphill walking! Buses run from Waverley train station. At the moment, there is no onsite parking but cars can pay to park in the nearby NCP car park. Coaches can drop off at Johnston Terrace and visitors will need to walk up to the castle from there.*Adult - £16.00*Age 5 to 15 - £9.20*Concessions - £13.00*Under 5s - freeAs well as the historical background of Edinburgh Castle itself, there are several exhibitions and museums that are included in the ticket price. A map can be obtained allowing you to find your way about and the various areas are well sign posted. The majority of areas are fully accessible. I will discuss them further in this review but attractions include :*National War Museum of Scotland - 400years of Scottish military history.*Royal Scots Regimental Museum - medal collections and army life.*National War Memorial - opened in 1927, this memorial is based in the building formally St Marys church. A tribute to those who died in the First World War.We can then add other exhibitions to the list including St Margaret's Chapel, the 'Prisons' and The Great Hall amongst those notable and open for public viewing. The One O'Clock gun blasts each day (except a Sunday) which is a long standing castle tradition. Toilets are dotted around the park as are picnic benches and bins. There are a few gift shops (one is at the entrance of the park) which sell lots of Edinburgh and Scottish memorabilia and another in the castle grounds selling Whisky and the likes and a further within the castle grounds. Audio tours are available for £3.50. If you do not wish to take a picnic, Edinburgh Castle does offer cafe facilities. The castle itself is simply stunning and steeped in history due to the rugged, ruined exterior - very au natural as far as historical casltes go! The castle looks amazing from the shops and Princes Gardens below but you really do need to be fit for the long walk up! Whilst the castle welcomes disabled visitors and those with prams, it isn't full accessible to those with mobility issues. We actually went to the first gift shop on arrival due to having a tight agenda to keep to. It was expensive but not moreso than museums and the like. The shop offers nick nacks like little teddies, shortbread (obviously - it is Scotland after all!), toys etc. We took a packed lunch but did visit the Redcoat Cafe which was very clean and tidy. I bought a soup which was tasty and cost a few pounds. It goes without saying that you should be keeping an eye on wandering children anyway and this was really important given how low some of the walls are around the castle! The views are simply stunning but much appreciated on a nicer day to the one we had today. Despite now having aching legs, we got to see quite a lot of this wonderful castle which reminds me of how proud I am to be Scottish! This was my sons first time at the castle so I was determined that he was going to learn a bit about the history of the castle. We took time to visit the less noted parts of the castle but the parts which would have been essential during wars. Cannonballs peeked through some open (and low) wall gaps and some were simply positioned for display behind gated wall gaps. We enjoyed visiting the museums which are confined within their own individual buildings and my favourite was the Regimental Museum. It didn't take us long to wander around as my son was wanting his lunch but we did like to look at the collection of medals in particular. Onwards and upwards and we eventually came to Crown Square. Crown Square is the perfect place to relax and take some pictures and has an enclosed feel - less exposed than the outer areas of the castle but plenty of room for tourists to flow around freely. Our first stop was the Great Hall which has witnessed Royal ceremonies. The wooden beams, low lighting and red velvet window benches created the perfect interior appearance for the hall. Myself and my son sat here for our sandwiches and drink and witnessed two lovely ladies in full Royal costume happy to pose for pictures.We took time to remember the soldiers killed at war in the Memorial which was quite a sad experience. The church was respectfully arranged with stain glassed windows and stone features to mark the bravery of the soldiers - a very fitting tribute. A steep set of stairs led us to the 'Honours of Scotland' exhibit which was quite interesting but took an age to get around due to there being around 100 people in front of us wishing to take pictures of everything! The displays were of great interest to us as we discovered how the crown, sceptre and sword used to coronate Mary Queen of Scots was created. Whilst we were able to take pictures in this display, the final display was not allowed to be photographed. This was disappointing as it held the most stunning crown display which dates back to the 15th century - simply stunning and breathtaking for all in the room.I think it is excellent that tours are free and depending on how busy it is, they are quite regular. Our tour had already being booked as an 'Educational Tour'. Our tour guide was a buzzing lady called Heather and she was more than happy to show us certain areas of the castle. We only had an hour or so to spare so our tour was shorter than regular tours. Like any other staff we met, Heather was very friendly and knew her history. She was excellent with the children and very fun.Heather took us to the 'dungeons' which we hadn't spotted on our first trip around the castle. The dungeons actually form the 'Prisoners of War' exhibition and despite being dark and a little 'cold' feeling, the children seemed unfazed. This prison was home to many pirates, traitors and those accused of witch craft many moons ago. They were placed here until they met their death. Foreign prisoners were also held captive. Some areas were cordoned off as they were took dangerous for tourists to enter. The main area of the dungeons featured high, wooden beds with dirty looking sheets, clothes hanging from the ceiling and disgusting food displays which gave an idea of the living conditioners prisoners were forced to sleep in - a huge difference to the prison conditions today!We were taken to a special adapted building for school and nursery groups and the children (and some adults) were given the chance to dress up as knights, kings, jesters and the likes. There were plenty of costumes for all the children and this was their favourite part of the tour!Whilst I wouldn't visit Edinburgh Castle regularly, it is definitely a must visit attraction. £16.00 may seem expensive but there is a lot to see and do and the added bonus of a guided tour is enough to tempt many! To be honest, I didn't expect my son (and the other children) to appreciate the true, historical value of the castle so young but they all thoroughly enjoyed it. Edinburgh Castle is historical, educational and visually stunning in my opinion. The castle has been well maintained with the original appearance of remaining authentic and realistic. Recommended!
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