In the first century AD, local people built a great fort on the site where Edinburgh Castle now stands, as a defendable home and a symbol of strength.
Legend has it that, around 600AD, three hundred soldiers rode to their doom after a year drinking in the castle rock. This story was told in the ancient verses of Y Gododdin, which includes the earliest mention of Din Eidyn or Edinburgh.
In approximately 1140, the nation’s most powerful men gathered at Edinburgh Castle to enact laws and pass judgements. David I’s first recorded assembly of nobles and clergy was a precursor to today’s Parliament.
In 1314, a small force of men loyal to King Robert the Bruce climbed the northern rock face in a night attack that overwhelmed the English defenders who had taken the castle. The castle repeatedly changed hands during the Wars of Independence.
In 1457, crowds gathered to watch the arrival of the Giant Bombard Mons Meg, the ‘big gun’. The addition of this fearsome cannon to the arsenal of King James II declared Scotland to be a strong and confident kingdom. The weapon was a gift from the Duke of Burgundy and was kept safe in the castle.
In 1566 the first king of both Scotland and England was born in a small chamber in the Royal Palace. When Mary Queen of Scots was forced to abdicate in 1567, her only child became James VI of Scotland. In 1603, he inherited the English throne as James I of England, moved to England and returned to Scotland only once. His birth is commemorated in the chamber with a painted panel.
Less than a decade later, in 1573, cannons smashed the medieval defences in the “Lang Siege”. Government forces besieged the castle for more than a year after the garrison declared support for the overthrown Mary Queen of Scots. The defenders eventually surrendered after enduring intensive cannon fire.
In 1745 the garrison opened up to the city to drive out Jacobite soldiers who wanted to return a Stuart king to the throne. This was the last time that the castle’s guns were fired in anger. After this date the castle remained in government hands. The Government House was built just before the Jacobite Rising and is still used by the army today.
In 1818 the state crown, sword and sceptre were found in a secure vault by Sir Walter Scott. His books and poems nurtured a passion for Scotland’s heritage while his discovery helped turn the castle into a tourist attraction.
- Information signs at Edinburgh Castle