Sitting impressively atop the rocky crag of central Edinburgh is the castle. This was definitely a good place to build in those tumultuous times when anyone was likely to attack at any moment and try to take your crown. Three sides of the extinct volcano are sheer drops thanks to once upon a time glaciers, and the black rock gives Edinburgh its distinctive dark and dour mood. If anyone did manage to make it up close enough to attack, then the thick walls of the castle itself would see them off. The last to try were Bonnie Prince Charlie’s army in 1745 but the palace is still headquarters of the Royal Scots Regiment so I suggest you visit in peace.
Once you get inside, the castle is the usual royal mess of buildings and courtyards, narrow stairways and magnificent chapels. Wandering around these places I’m always amazed by how small the doors and windows are. Were people a lot littler then? Or was it just to keep out the cold, or keep down costs? Anyway, it makes for an excellent feeling of exploration. The Scottish crown jewels inside the palace are worth a look. And there is a good historical display of all the different kings and queens and the rather violent soap opera of their lives. St Margaret’s Chapel within the castle walls is the oldest building in Edinburgh dating from around 1130. In August, the Edinburgh Military Tattoo happens in the forecourt so that’s a busy time of year with many men in kilts wandering around. The rest of the year it’s mainly us people in jeans with cameras.