Edinburgh Castle has loomed over Scotland’s capital city for more than 1,000 years. Steeped in history, the former royal residence is now a museum, featuring detailed exhibits and period artifacts that illuminate the castle’s storied past.
Behind the fortress walls you’ll find cobbled promenades, winding stone steps, ancient chapels, dark dungeons, and vast halls. See the room where the macabre 15th-century Black Dinner took place, admire the glittering Scottish Crown Jewels and the Stone of Destiny, take a photo with the massive Mons Meg cannon, see the Great Hall, visit the room where Queen Mary gave birth to King James IV, and find mysterious graffiti left behind by 18th- and 19th-century prisoners of war.
Many Edinburgh city tours include a visit to the castle, whether you want to explore by private mini-bus, vintage taxicab, or on a hop-on hop-off bus tour. Save time with a skip-the-line walking tour of Edinburgh Castle, or delve into the history of this iconic fortress on a private tour. It’s also possible to visit the castle on a day trip from London.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Edinburgh Castle is a must-see for history buffs and first-time visitors to the city.
- It’s possible to spend anywhere from two hours to a full day exploring the castle.
- Visitors are subject to bag searches, and storage is not available for large personal items such as backpacks, luggage, and strollers.
- Photographs are not allowed inside the Scottish National War Memorial or the Scottish Crown Jewel exhibit.
- Parts of the castle may not be accessible to wheelchair users.
How to Get There
Edinburgh Castle is located atop a hill in the Old Town. Parking is difficult in this part of Edinburgh, so the easiest way to get there is on foot, by public transport, or on a guided tour. If walking, head west on the Royal Mile—a high street connecting Edinburgh Castle to the Palace of Holyroodhouse, the Scottish Queen’s present-day residence. The city’s primary train and bus terminal (Edinburgh Waverley) is also within walking distance of the castle.
When to Get There
The castle is open year-round and is busiest in summer. Arrive early to avoid crowds and plan to visit the Crown Jewels first, as lines form quickly and can take over an hour to get through. Afternoon visitors can enjoy the daily firing of the “one-o’clock gun,” while August travelers can sometimes see the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo performing just outside the castle walls.
Best Photo Spots in Edinburgh Castle
The castle’s sweeping Old Town city views are no coincidence—its hilltop position was carefully chosen to protect the city. For great views and equally great photographs, head to the windows near the row of cannons along Half Moon Battery, the grated overlooks across from the military prison, or St. Margaret’s Chapel, the oldest surviving part of the castle.