Edinburgh Castle – The jewel at the heart of Edinburgh
Home to Mary Queen of Scots, the Stone of Destiny and the birthplace of King James VI.
Edinburgh Castle not only dominates the city it takes its name from, its roots spread out across British history.
From its beginnings as a hill fort – the site is believed to have been inhabited since the 9th century BC and King David I took it as his seat in the 12th century – the castle has been a focal point of the Scottish nation.
The Scots and English battled for control of it during the Wars of Independence, and in 1314 Thomas Randolph, the nephew of Robert the Bruce, launched a daring night raid to put it back into Scottish hands.
It has been home to a saint – Queen Margaret of Scotland, an English princess forced to flee across the border after the Norman conquest in 1066.
Margaret married Malcolm III of Scotland, and was renowned as a pious woman whose acts included setting up a ferry across the Firth of Forth for pilgrims travelling to Dunfermline Abbey.
She died at the castle in 1093, but was canonised more than 150 years later in 1250 by Pope Innocent IV.
Mary Queen of Scots gave birth to her son, later King James VI of England and Scotland, in a tiny room in the castle in June 1566.
Her labour was so difficult she even wrote a will in case she died from childbirth.
When Queen Elizabeth I heard that Mary Queen of Scots had given birth to a son she reeled and cried out ‘Alack, The Queen of Scots is lighter of a bonny son, and I am but of barren stock’.
Mary was eventually executed on Elizabeth’s orders in 1587, but when the English queen died without an heir King James’ rule united England and Scotland.
Edinburgh Castle was also the scene of battle for Mary’s great-great-great grandson Charles Edward Stuart – better known as Bonnie Prince Charlie – who captured Edinburgh, but not the castle during the 1745-6 Jacobite Rising.
One of the castle’s most famous displays is the Stone of Destiny, on which kings were enthroned for centuries. It was returned to Scotland in 1996 and can now be found in the Crown Room.
And during the Second World War, the Crown of Scotland was hidden below a medieval latrine closet in David’s Tower to prevent the enemy from finding it.
A jewel was at the centre of the castle – much like the castle itself is to the heart of Edinburgh.