Edinburgh Castle is situated on Castle Rock in the city of Edinburgh, Scotland. Castle Rock formed after a volcano erupted over 340 million years ago. The first castle that existed on the rock was known as “The Castle of the Maidens”. According to legend, the castle had been a shrine to the “Nine Maidens”, one of whom was Morgan le Fay.
Castle Rock had been a military base and royal residence for centuries. However, the edifice that is known as Edinburgh Castle was built during the 12th century by David I, son of Saint Margaret of Scotland.
The tensions between the English and Scottish monarchies nearly always centered on Edinburgh Castle. He who held the castle held rule over the city of Edinburgh and, therefore, over all of Scotland. Consequently, the castle was almost constantly under siege.
The first major battle the castle witnessed was during the late 13th century when Edward I of England attempted to seize the then vacant Scottish throne. From 1296 to 1341, the castle bounced from English to Scottish hands several times during the First and Second Wars of Scottish Independence.
After the Wars of Independence, the castle was in great need of repairs. Most of the construction was overseen by David II. In his honour, David’s Tower was erected.
In 1571, English forces laid siege to the city of Edinburgh in an attempt to capture Mary, Queen of Scots. The siege, which lasted for two years, became known as the “long” or “Lang” siege. By February of 1573, all of Mary’s supporters had surrendered to the English. During the Lang Siege, David’s Tower was destroyed.
The castle, again, witnessed strife when, in 1650, Oliver Cromwell executed Charles I and led an invasion of Scotland. In August of that year, Edinburgh Castle fell into English hands.
During the Jacobite Risings (1688-1746), the Scots attempted, several times, to recapture their castle. Unfortunately, they were never able to overpower the English. The final attempt was in 1745 when the Jacobite army was led by Charles Edward Stuart (Bonnie Prince Charlie). Although the Scots were able to capture the city, they were never able to lay siege to the castle. In November of that year, the Jacobites were forced to retreat.
From the late 18th century to the early 19th, Edinburgh Castle was used to hold military prisoners from England’s many wars. The castle became a national monument in 1814 after a mass prison break proved that the castle could not hold prisoners. During the 19th and early 20th centuries, the castle was slowly restored. Military ceremonies began to be held there and, in 1927, part of the castle was turned into the Scottish National War Memorial.
Edinburgh Castle is now one of the most popular tourist attractions in Scotland. The more than one million people who visit the castle each year witness military ceremonies, historical re-enactments, and can visit sites such as St. Margaret’s Chapel and the Great Hall of King James IV.