Edinburgh Castle is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Scotland. It is situated on the skyline of Edinburgh on Castle Rock. Research shows that it has had habitants since the 2nd century. As one of the most important buildings in Edinburgh this castle has been involved in many historical struggles including the Wars of Scottish Independence and the Jacobite Rising.
Few of the buildings there are at present pre-date the Lang Seige in the 16th century when the defences were destroyed. Some exemptions include the St Margaret’s Chapel, the Royal Palace and the Great Hall. Also some buildings surrounding the castle are home to regimental museums which contribute to the castles success as a popular tourist attraction. It sees over 1.2 million visitors a year and is the most visited attraction in Scotland.
It is not known exactly when the castle was first used as a place to house people. The first record that could possibly be a sign of human habitation is on Ptolemy’s map it showing an area called ‘Alauna’ which means ‘rock place.’ This could be referring to the Castle Rock; however it could also be referring to other hill forts in the area. In the early 1990s there was some evidence of a settlement on Castle Rock which makes it the longest recurrently occupied site in Scotland. However, the evidence was not one hundred percent accurate and no conclusions were made about the scale of this occupation. From a dig that occurred in the 1990s, evidence emerged that there had been habitation in Castle Rock in 1st and 2nd centuries. Evidence included some Roman material such as pottery, bronzes and brooches.
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19th century to present
In early years the castle was used as a prison but in 1811 a prison break occurred and this showed the authorities that it wasn’t a suitable building for a prison anymore. After this the castle slowly became a national monument. The cannon Mons Meg was returned to the castle in 1829. After that the castle began to open to the public in the 1830s. Work on the castle began in 1858 to rebuild it all as a Scottish Baronial. This work was abandoned though and only the hospital was rebuilt in 1897. In 1905, Office of Works took over responsibility from the War Office. When the castle was established in 1991, the responsibility was taken over by Historic Scotland and was selected to be a Scheduled Ancient Monument in 1993.
Outside the castle there is an Esplanade and the present one was created in 1753 and then extended in 1845. On this Esplanade is where the Edinburgh Military Tattoo takes place every year. The Gatehouse is situated at the head of the Esplanade and was simply built for aesthetic purposes.
In 1799 the New Barracks were completed which are south of the Governors House. They house 600 soldiers and replaced the accommodation that was in the Great Hall. They are now home to the Regimental Headquarters of the Royal Regiment of Scotland and the Regimental Headquarters and Museum of the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards. The regimental museum of the Royal Scots is nearby in the old Royal Scots drill hall which was constructed in 1900.
Edinburgh Castle has become one of the most popular tourist attractions in Scotland. Historic Scotland now has responsibility for opening it to the public and keeping up with the maintenance and conservation of the castle and its surroundings. There are many different facilities within the castle that cater for tourists including cafes, restaurants, shops and various historical displays. There is also an educational centre which is very interesting and useful for school and educational groups.