Scottish Castles Photo Library
- Edinburgh Castle

Edinburgh Castle

Edinburgh Castle sits on top of what was, at one time, a volcano - a 437 feet high plug of basalt rock. It has been used as a fortification for over 2,000 years - there was a hill fort there in the time of the Romans.

The first record of the castle being used as a royal residence occurs in the 11th century when Margaret, wife of Malcolm III died there after hearing of her husband's death at Alnwick in 1093. "Saint Margaret" (she was later canonised) was Saxon-English, a refugee from the conquest of England by the Normans under William the Conqueror. The chapel which bears her name was probably not built until the 12th century.

In the 12th century, David I assembled a group of nobles and clergy which eventually became the first Scots Parliament. It first met as such at the Castle in 1215, convened by Alexander II.

In 1291 Edward I of England took the castle and removed the records and treasures, most of which were never returned. With an English garrison of 350, and despite the successes of William Wallace the castle remained in English hands until 1313. In that year, the Earl of Moray led a party of 30 men who scaled the cliffs and climbed over the walls into the castle. King Robert (the Bruce) ordered all the castle to be destroyed so that it could not be used again by the English. Only St Margaret's chapel was spared.

By the end of the 15th century the castle was not much used as a royal residence, the Palace of Holyroodhouse at the other end of the Royal Mile being preferable. Nevertheless, James IV added to the Castle, including a Great Hall with a magnificent hammerbeam roof.

The young Mary Queen of Scots married Lord Darnley in 1565 and stayed in the Castle until the future James VI was born - the last monarch to be born in Scotland. In 1567, the year Mary's husband Lord Darnley was assassinated, Sir William Kirkcaldy of Grange became captain of the castle, appointed by the Regent Moray. But Sir William decided to support Mary and the castle became beseiged. Sir William held the castle from May 1568 to May 1573.

An attempt to capture the castle during the 1715 Jacobite uprising failed and in 1745 Prince Charles blockaded the castle. During the Napoleonic Wars in the early part of the 19th century, many French and Dutch prisoners were kept in cellars under the Great Hall.

See also Places to Visit - Edinburgh Castle for more information and illustrations.

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