Edinburgh Castle is considered one of the most intriguing and exciting sites of history in the UK, or the whole of Western Europe, in fact. With more than 3000 years of history, there is so much to learn and be seen. It makes for the perfect daytime activity for your time in Edinburgh! Why not book an Edinburgh castle tour to have expert inside knowledge and skip the queues?!
A couple of facts you might not know… Archaeologists have determined that the volcanic rock the castle stands upon has been inhabited by humans for over 2800 years! Also, Edinburgh Castle is home to St Margaret’s Chapel, the oldest surviving building in Scotland. But now, you need to go visit the castle to find out more…
It is recommended that you purchase your Edinburgh Castle tickets in advance online. Usually, they are priced at around £20 per person, with group booking options and concessions available. When buying tickets online (via https://www.edinburghcastle.scot/), you will be asked to select an intended arrival time window. And then once you’re in, you can explore to your heart’s content!
It might be useful for you to know that there are a few ticket collection machines – right by the entrance to the castle. If you’ve pre-booked, simply enter the details from your booking confirmation and out pop your tickets. Audio guides are available at the entrance for a small fee. These will guide you around the castle, allowing you to learn more than what first meets the eye. Or if you prefer, you can wander around of your own accord!
Which Edinburgh Castle Tour?
There are also a variety of tours you can take around Edinburgh Castle. This one from Get Your Guide offers a 1 and a half hour tour with a ‘skip the line’ ticket and live tour guide. You will start your tour on the Royal Mile and admire the scenes as you walk up to the castle. While learning about monuments and important figures on the way.
Once you’re in the castle (and you’ve skipped the queue) you will walk around all the different parts, while learning the history of this amazing place. It’s interesting to know – something I didn’t realise until I arrived – that unlike lots of castles around the UK, Edinburgh Castle is made up of multiple different buildings! It really feels like you’re walking into a new world, beyond those castle gates. So walking around the site makes for an interesting day.
There are lots of buildings made for different purposes throughout history. You will be going in, out and up and downstairs to discover all the places. Your tour guide will lead you around the castle, sharing knowledge on different aspects of the site. Including St Margaret’s Chapel, Hospital Square, Argyle Battery, and the One O’clock Gun, Crown Square and more.
Make sure you take in the view…
There are different viewing platforms at the edge of the castle, from which you can see (what feels like) the whole of Edinburgh! I would definitely recommend that you take a walk up to one of those and admire the view below. There might be a few steps to go up, but it’s worth it. This is also a good chance to see some relics of the castle’s history like cannons that once rained down on enemies. And the One o’clock Gun. Yes, it goes off at 1 pm every day! (Well, apart from Sundays).
Do you prefer the Royal Quarters? Or the eerie prison cells?
The great thing about Edinburgh Castle is that you can explore all the different moments in history – focusing on the fascinating monarchs or if you prefer, the gross stuff! Personally, as much as I love daydreaming about living in my own castle, I love the gory history of battles, prisons, and even prison escapes! You will definitely find something that sparks your interest and be able to learn all about it. You can also see some amazing artifacts. Including the Scottish Crown Jewels, the oldest surviving set of crown jewels in the British Isles. (Just be warned – depending on the level of crowds during your visit, there may be a bit of a queue for this part!)
How to get there
As for getting to the castle, it is very accessible as it’s right in the centre of the city (trust me, you won’t miss it!). If you’re prepared to pay for parking for as long as you need it, I would recommend that you park on the Castle Terrace car park (EH1 2EW). This NCP car park seems to be open 24 hours a day during most of the year. It charges £26 for you to leave your car there all day (7 hours) to explore. Check more details before you go, here. They also offer an evening tariff of just £8.50, if you arrive between 5pm and midnight!
Alternatively, if you’re saving your pennies for your souvenirs – you can access the castle easily by tram. Why not park at the Gyle Shopping Centre? (Gyle Avenue, South Gyle, Broadway, EH12 9JY). You can leave your car there for free for 4 hours! Then, simply get the tram for £3.50 and walk to the castle from Princes Street.
What to Pack for the UK
To help you pack for your trip to the UK, we created the below list of must-have items.
First of all, you need a plug converter as in England the power plugs and sockets are of type ‘G’: three-pin rectangular blade plugs. Be also aware that in the UK many power outlets have safety switches, so make sure you turn them on before use.
It is also a good idea to get a hanging toiletry bag, which is a fantastic way to keep all your belongings organized; and a practical rolling suitcase like the one below by Samsonite in lightweight polycarbonate.
In order to stay healthy while travelling, activated charcoal helps with stomach distress absorbing toxins that may be in your system; and natural jet-lag remedy pills help you sleeping while boosting your immunity and can avoid you to ruin precious days of sightseeing.