Edinburgh Castle, mighty epicentre of Scotland's capital city, and historic seat of Scottish Kings sits proudly as a landmark above the city it has dominated for more than a thousand years. It is the best preserved and most historic castle in Scotland and, without doubt, the long colourful history of the castle has yet to be eclipsed by any other castle in the British Isles, save perhaps for the Tower of London or Windsor.
Perched nearly 300 feet above the streets of what is now a vibrant modern city, the view of the castle on approach is simply overwhelming. On the one side is the amazing assembly of the castle buildings behind a deep moat and on the other side the rock falls precipitously from the castle walls. The differing architectural styles of the castle truly reflect its complex history as a daunting fortress and home of Scottish Kings and Queens. The small St. Margaret's chapel, Edinburgh's oldest building, dates from the 1100's and is a rare example of Scottish Romanesque architecture. Crown Square, the principal courtyard was developed in the 15th-century and on the eastern side of this is the palace. The palace building as we look at it today is mainly a restoration of the early 17th-century, though a few older parts do still exist including the small room on the ground floor where Mary, Queen of Scots gave birth to James VI and I. The palace also contains the regalia of Scotland, which includes the 16th-century crown made for James V. The dramatic Great Hall with its impressive Hammerbeam Roof, was built in 1511, by James IV. The great bastion east of the palace known as " Half Moon Battery " is from 1573, it was enlarged in the 17th-century, and in the 20th-century it was discovered that it stands on the remains of a tower built by King David II, the son of Robert Bruce, in the 14th-century. The Scottish National War memorial was added after the First World War.
Today, the castle recalls for visitors the turbulence of Scottish history from the earliest times through to the last Jacobite rebellion, in 1745 when Bonnie Prince Charlie was refused admittance within and with no means to assault or blockade, the Prince retired to hold court at Holyrood. Since then the castle has played no part in state affairs, but once a year it springs to life forming a dramatic backdrop for the military spectacle of the Edinburgh Tattoo, held on the castle esplanade. Presented at dusk when clever lighting heightens the mystique of the castle, this annual stirring event ends with massed bands of pipes and drums and a lone piper on the castle battlements.
Edinburgh Castle, strong reminder of Scottish national pride, is visited annually by approximately one million people. Castle stewards provide guided tours and there are audio tours in six languages. Visitors will find attractive gift and book shops, as well as the Crown Jewel shop, which sells a wide range of exclusive designer jewellery. There is a pleasant castle cafe, ideal for relaxing and taking in dramatic views of the city. Fine views can be enjoyed from almost every part of the castle, particularly from the ramparts when Edinburgh's dramatic skyline, wedged between sea and hills, can be seen to best advantage.
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