Edinburgh CastleApprox. Time: 2 hours
Activity Level: Easy to Moderate

The castle is Edinburgh's best known and most popular visitor attraction. It is, therefore, a good idea (particularly if your stay in Edinburgh has to be brief) to visit the castle first. The magnificent panorama from the battlements provides a splendid idea of the city and the surrounding terrain. The Edinburgh Castle was of strategic importance during Scotland's wars of independence. One of the most evocative buildings within the castle is also the smallest and oldest - Saint Margaret's Chapel, built in the Norman fashion almost 1,000 years ago in honour of the saintly wife of King Malcolm III. Because of its religious significance, the tiny chapel survived every military demolition. After 900 years it is still in use, and members of the castle garrison may exercise their right to be married within it. The castle was the seat of Scottish kings, and the royal apartments on view to the public include a tiny room in which Mary, Queen of Scots gave birth to the boy who became King James VI of Scotland and James I of England upon the death of Queen Elizabeth I of England in 1603. The castle is also the home of the most famous cannon in Scotland: Mons Meg, a massive fifteenth-century bombard, which was reputed to be able to fire a large stone cannonball a distance of one-and-a-half miles. Its devastating effect earned Meg the alternative name, `the Muckle Murderer'. Salutes from the castle these days are fired by more modern artillery, when, for example, Her Majesty the Queen celebrates her birthday or enters Edinburgh on an official visit.

Courtesy of the British Tourist Authority