If there is one thing Scotland is never short of, it is castles. And while Edinburgh Castle may be at the top of most Scottish-loving travellers’ must-see list, there are a number of equally fascinating and awe-inspiring castles near Edinburgh that are well worth a visit. So to help you uncover the fascinating past of torrid history of ancient Scottish royalty, we have put together a brief overview of 4 our favourite castles in and near Edinburgh.
1. Edinburgh Castle: A Fortress Of Fascinating History
Perched atop a volcanic rock, towering over the city below, sits Edinburgh’s iconic Castle. A natural military fortress, this beacon of Scottish strength and power is as formidable today as it was thousands of years ago. With a rich and bloody history that goes back centuries, Edinburgh Castle has been sieged, sacked, stormed and taken more times than we care to remember. Home to Scotland’s earlier kings and queens, the medieval castle has played an important role in Edinburgh history. But despite a turbulent and violent past, the sheer wonder of Edinburgh Castle has endured.
Its history can be traced as far back as the Iron Age, where a band of fearsome warriors built a hilltop fort on what is today known as Castle Rock. Before it was turned into a military base with a large garrison in the 1600s, hundreds of supposed witches were burnt at the stake. Later it was home to prisoners of war, and the Crown of Scotland was hidden beneath a medieval latrine during the Second World War. Today, parts of the castle are still used as a military base. But the castle is better known as a world-renowned tourist attraction and a key element in the Edinburgh World Heritage Site.
Visitor Tip: The Castle is full of fascinating facts and interesting tidbits. Be sure to catch the one o’clock gun – a cannon that is fired from Edinburgh Castle almost every day at exactly one o’clock.
2. The Palace of Holyroodhouse: A Right Royal Treat
From one ancient seat of power to another, the Palace of Holyroodhouse is just as significant as its medieval counterpart. Situated on the opposite end of the Royal Mile, Holyroodhouse has been the chosen residence of kings and queens since the 15th century when Edinburgh became the formal capital of Scotland. Today, it is the official residence of the British monarch in Scotland. And unless the Royal Family is in town, you can visit the palace, see the royal chambers of Mary Queen of Scots, tour the gardens and search for the naked ghost said to roam its walls.
Visitor Tip: Plan your trip to Holyroodhouse carefully. The palace is closed to the public each year from the end of June until the beginning of July when the Queen is in town. So unless you are attending her Garden Party, you will have to marvel at its beauty from outside its walls.
3. Linlithgow Palace: Its Beauty Lies In Ruins
A quick 25-minute train ride will take you to the Royal Borough of Linlithgow. Here you will find the holiday home of choice for the royals of yesteryear – Linlithgow Palace. Once a royal residence for the Stewarts (not to mention the birthplace of Mary Queen of Scots), Linlithgow Palace’s elegant design and stunning surrounds made it the ideal royal stopover for kings and queens travelling between Edinburgh Castle and Stirling Castle. Today, the palace lies in ruins. But despite its charred and battered exterior, Linlithgow Palace’s beautiful décor and extravagant courtyard continues to inspire visitors every year. It is home to wonderful events, and was one of the filming locations in the first series of Outlander, along with Blackness Castle down the road – another wonderful castle near Edinburgh.
Visitor Tip: Take a stroll around Linlithgow Loch, before grabbing a bite to eat at one of the local watering holes. If you are feeling brave, try your luck at the Linlithgow Mile – a mile-ling pub crawl through the village.
4. Stirling Castle: A Favourite Amoung Castles Near Edinburgh
Outside of Edinburgh Castle, Stirling Castle is one of the better-known castles in Scotland. A strategic Scottish stronghold where the Highlands meet the Lowlands, Stirling Castle has played a significant part in Scottish history for centuries. Home to some of Scotland’s best-known monarchs and battles, the castle is today one of Scotland’s must-see visitor attractions. It is where William Wallace defeated the English at the Battle of Stirling Bridge. It is said to be the site of King Arthur’s Round Table. And it even has a secret binary code on one of the Stirling Heads of musical notes for a lost 16th century requiem. In short, Stirling Castle is simply sterling.
Visitor Tip: Stop in at the National Wallace Monument, climb the 250+ spiralling stairs, see the incredible long sword of William Wallace and enjoy the most spectacular panoramic views of Scotland.
So there you have it. 4 fascinating castles in and near Edinburgh every traveller should visit. To book your Edinburgh city break, take a look at our wonderful Internet Special Rate and save up to 35% off your Edinburgh Accommodation when you book in advance.