on August 4, 2012
Edinburgh city skyline is dominated by the castle which is Scotland's top tourist attraction and the most visited site in Britain, outside of London. It sits atop a volcanic plug with steep cliffs on three sides.This site has been constantly fought over because of it's strategic position. It's closeness to England has meant that it was always under threat of attack. It was occupied by the English in 1174 for 12 years and again by Edward 1 in 1296 until it was liberated by the Earl of Moray in 1314. the castle has withstood many sieges since then and occupied in 1650 by Cromwell.These days it is regularly 'invaded' by hordes of tourists.You really can't miss it, it sits in the centre of the city at the top of the Royal Mile.Entrance is through the esplanade, a large parade ground where the Military Tattoo is held annually, and across the drawbridge. The drawbridge is flanked by statues of William Wallace and Robert the Bruce and the path climbs steeply to the battery where the one o'clock gun is fired. This has occurred everyday for 150 years.There are marvelous views from here across the New Town to the Firth of Forth and over to Fife.The path climbs on to the New Barracks which date from the 1700's as do a lot of the buildings within the castle walls. The path then continues on to the summit of the rock and St. Margaret's chapel, the oldest surviving building in the castle. In front of the tiny chapel is the Half Moon Battery which affords the best views of the city from the castle.South of the chapel is the Palace where in 1566 Mary Queen of Scots gave birth to James V1 who was later to unite the Scottish and English crowns. This building also houses the Honours of Scotland - that is to say, the royal crown, sceptre and sword of state.Also in the crown room is the recently returned Stone of Destiny on which the Kings of Scotland were crowned. The stone was stolen by Edward 1 and only returned a few years ago although some would say that Edward stole a fake.Nearby is the Great Hall with a display of arms and armour and the Scottish National Monument, dedicated to the many tens of thousands of Scottish soldiers killed in the First world war. As a percentage of her population, Scotland lost more soldiers than any other country in the Great War.From there you can descend to the vaults, once used as a prison for French soldiers during the Napoleonic wars.From here it is literally all downhill.
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