Standing proudly above the city of Edinburgh, Edinburgh Castle is one of the most iconic castles in the UK. Formerly home to Scotland’s monarchy, the castle is packed full of Scottish history, both before and after it became part of the UK. Basic tickets include a short introductory tour and access to all the different rooms and exhibitions.
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Edinburgh Castle: Skip-the-Line Guided Tour
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4 Tips for Visiting the Edinburgh Castle
Edinburgh Castle | Photo: Gary Campbell-Hall CC-BY 2.0
The castle is built into a hill and the paths are largely made of cobblestones, so wear comfortable shoes for walking!
Edinburgh Castle | Photo: Mario Sánchez Prada CC-BY-SA 2.0
Try a free guided tour, they take about 30 minutes and are a great introduction to the castle! Tours depart from the meeting point through the Portcullis Gate every 30 minutes in summer and once every hour in winter.
Wrap up warm! Even though a lot of the castle’s exhibits are inside, the hilltop is exposed to the wind and it’s going to be cool on top of the hill, even on sunny days.
An audio guide is available for £3.50 for adults, £2.50 for concessions, and £1.50 for children, in English, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Mandarin, Russian, and Spanish.
Frequently Asked Questions
What will I see at Edinburgh Castle?
There are several different routes you can take through the castle depending on how much time you want to spend there. The hour-long itinerary takes you through Portcullis Gate, up the Lang Stairs, and into St Margaret’s Chapel, the oldest part of the castle. After that, you’ll head up to the battlements to see Mons Meg, a 6-ton siege gun which could fire shots within a range of 2 miles. From the battlements, you’ll also have time to enjoy a stunning view of Edinburgh before heading to see the Honours of Scotland (the Scottish Crown Jewels) and the Stone of Destiny, also known as the Scone of Stone. After visiting the treasures, you can stop off in the Great Hall, which was built in 1511 and houses an exhibition of weaponry, before visiting the Prisons of War Exhibition in the room below the Great Hall. Finally, you can learn about the One O’Clock Gun in a special exhibition, or time your visit so that you’re in the grounds when the gun goes off. Longer routes include a visit to the Argyle Tower, the Military Prison, the Royal Scots Museum, the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards Museum, the New Barracks, the Governor’s House (exterior only), the National War Museum, and all the different sets of defenses.Read more.
Does the Queen spend time in Edinburgh Castle?
It’s very unlikely that you’ll see the Queen at Edinburgh Castle. Her official Scottish residence is the Palace of Holyroodhouse, and Scottish monarchs have been using Holyrood Palace since it was built in the 15th Century by James IV. After King James VI (or James I of England) moved to England to take up his throne there Edinburgh Castle was predominantly used as a military fortress and prison until 1814. From 1814 onwards it was already being treated as a national monument and the castle began to open to visitors in the 1830s.Read more.
When can we see the gun salute?
The One O’Clock Gun is a tradition that takes place every day at 1 pm, except on Sundays, Good Friday, and Christmas Day. Originally the gun was fired to help ships in the harbor of Leith and the Firth of Forth set their timepieces, but because sound travels slowly a map had to be produced which calculated exactly what time it was when the gun could be heard in different parts of the city, with the difference being as much as 15 seconds. The gun is fired by the District Gunner from the 105th Regiment Royal Artillery (Volunteers), and visitors may spot the Gunner in their uniform shortly before and after the gun goes off.Read more.
What’s the Edinburgh Tattoo?
The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo takes place every August during the Edinburgh Festival. A military tattoo is essentially a ceremonial evening entertainment performed by military musicians, featuring a range of traditional and modern, Scottish, British, and international music. The first Edinburgh Tattoo took place in 1949 at the Ross Bandstand in Princes Street Gardens, but since 1950 it’s been held on the Edinburgh Castle esplanade, with special stands being erected for the audience. Over 220,000 people watch the Tattoo every year, with tickets selling out well in advance. 35% of viewers are from overseas, and many of them travel just to see the Tattoo! Tickets can be bought via the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo's website, their box office at 1-3 Cockburn Street, or via phone. More details can be found at www.edintattoo.co.uk.Read more.
How long should I plan for a trip to Edinburgh Castle?
The shortest itinerary allows for you to see all of the castle’s highlights within an hour, but in order to really explore thoroughly, you’ll need to take at least 2 to 3 hours. It’s a good idea to start with one of the free guided tours, which will take about 30 minutes, before taking your time to roam the different exhibits and mini-museums in your preferred order. You also have a choice of 2 cafés, the Redcoat Cafe or the Tea Rooms, if you want to stop for a delicious lunch or afternoon tea.Read more.
Edinburgh Castle is open daily from 9.30 am. From 1 April to 30 September the castle closes at 6 pm, with the last entry at 5 pm, and from 1 October to 31 March the castle closes at 5 pm, with the last entry at 4 pm. The castle is closed on 25 and 26 December.
Tickets for Edinburgh Castle cost £15.50 for visitors aged between 16 and 60, £12.40 for visitors aged over 60, and £11.50 for children aged from 5 to 15.
Edinburgh Castle Castlehill Edinburgh EH1 2NG
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How to get there:
The Castle is accessible by foot from Waverley Station, Edinburgh’s main train station. Buses to the airport also stop at the station, and the castle will be visible from the station when visitors arrive. Reduced price parking is available at the Edinburgh Castle Terrace car park, parking tokens must be validated at the castle’s audio booth during your visit.