Posted by: christinelaennec | May 3, 2011

Edinburgh Castle at the end of April

On Saturday we travelled to Edinburgh to visit our son.  I was inspired by Linda of Occasional Scotland, who posted photographs of the castle brazier and reflected that although she walks by the castle often, she hadn’t been to visit it.  So I suggested to my family that we should splash out and go.  We could not have chosen a more perfect day:  there was a chilly breeze up there, but unrelenting sun and amazing views.  I wanted to share our visit with you!

Edinburgh Castle seen from The Mound. 30 April 2011.

If, as we did, you start out from Waverly Station, there is a beautiful and gentle climb up The Mound and from there to the Royal Mile, which leads you to the esplanade in front of the main entrance to the castle.  You cross the moat and the slats of the wooden bridge (not looking down, if you’re me) and pass under a portcullis built into an extremely tall and thick rampart.  You then queue for tickets for a bit, and once you’ve got right of entry, you proceed to climb up through what the leaflet calls the Castle Gates:

Going up through the (second) Castle Gates of Edinburgh Castle.

You soon find yourself coming into a very wide cobbled plaza (probably not the official term for it).   It might surprise you to see mature trees growing from the rock.  And it also might surprise you that some people actually live in the castle.  Below is a photo of the Governor’s House.  One of the brass plates says “Private Residence”:  according to the official website (link at the end of this post), it’s where the Master Gunner and the Storekeeper live, and is the entryway to the Army Officers’ Mess.  Also according to the website, it’s haunted!

The Governor's House, built in 1742. Edinburgh Castle, 30 April 2011.

We happened to arrive here not long before the 1:00 salute, and watched the Master Gunner (I presume) fire it off.  We all waited, and then when it went Bang, we all jumped and went Oh!  And then everyone laughed.  From here, the cobbles take you gently upwards, and you pass under the innermost gateway, called “Foog’s Gate”.

Climbing further up to go through "Foog's Gate". I believe the building behind the wall is part of the Scottish National War Memorial.

Once through the gate, you’re on the uppermost level of the castle, high above the city.  It is amazing that even up here there are a lot of things growing:

A quiet corner once you've come through Foog's Gate

Ahead of you are a number of buildings, including the massive quadrangle where the Scottish Crown Jewels are stored.  We queued and went through the exhibition to be able to see the Scottish Crown Jewels.  We were particularly interested to see them, as during Cromwell’s reign they were hidden near Aberdeen, first at Dunottar Castle near Stonehaven, and then at Kinneff Church a bit further south.  (I visited Kinneff Church with my friend Gay last June.)  But I was also interested to see a relatively small building, which stands by itself:  St. Margaret’s Chapel.  It was built in 1130 by David I of Scotland, and according to Historic Scotland it’s the oldest building in Edinburgh.

On the top level of the castle: extreme gardening, and St. Margaret's Chapel.

The chapel itself is very beautiful, with modern stained glass of some of Scotland’s saints (Columba and Ninian) and Saint Margaret herself.

Inside St. Margaret's Chapel

Who was St. Margaret?  According to the Edinburgh Castle website, she was born into the royal family of England in about 1045.  After the Norman invasion in 1066, she came to Scotland where she fell in love with, and married, King Malcolm III of Scotland.  Margaret was very religious, and well-known for her acts of charity.  In 1093, Malcolm and their son Edward were both killed fighting the Normans, and Margaret died of a broken heart.  Her youngest son, King David I, built the chapel to her honour in 1130.  She was canonised in 1250.

How amazing to think of what Scotland and the world was like in those days – almost everything was covered in forest, and the sea was the main highway.  It’s quite incredible what people managed to accomplish, and how erudite and accomplished they were.  St. Margaret’s prayer book – copied and illustrated by hand, of course, as she lived more than 300 years before the invention of the printing press – was on display in the chapel, but it was so crowded that I didn’t get to see it.

We enjoyed the views from the top level of the castle – not only looking across the city, but also looking down onto the Dog Cemetery, which you can see below.  This is where officers’ pets are buried.  One headstone that we were able to read said:  “Winkie, dear and faithful friend of Lady Gow and the Governor.  Died 1980”.

View from the top level of the castle, across the Dog Cemetery, with beyond, Princes Street Gardens, the National Gallery, the Scott Monument, Waverly Station and Calton Hill further away.

Coming back down, we had a great view across the Firth of Forth to Fife (try saying that quickly!):

Back down through Foog's Gate and enjoying the view across to Fife. The Governor's House is to the left.

If you want to find out more about Edinburgh Castle, this link will take you to their website, which includes a virtual tour (click on “Tour the Castle”).  Thank you Linda, for the nudge to go.  It really is a great place and I’ll appreciate it more now when I see it from a distance.



  1. Lovely, lovely post, Christine. You have brought back memories from 2000, when I was attending a conference at the Heriot-Watt University. Then, I took full advantage of a ‘free’ Sunday, to take the bus into town, and explore.

  2. I enjoyed the tour, Christine! It’s the easy way to do it, subcontracting visits in your own city!

    Round about the time you were enjoying your castle visit I may have been shopping unsuccessfully for shoes. I think you had the more enjoyable time all round although mine was redeemed by the company of my daughter. There’s nothing quite like mum and daughter shopping – or castle visiting. Hope you had a good visit with your son. Coincidentally mine popped through from Glasgow in the afternoon to deliver something to a friend.

    I’m going to be a typical Edinburgher and wait until winter for my visit when there are fewer tourists. It will be interesting to compare views

  3. Thanks for this lovely walk Christine, I enjoyed it very much..The weather looked great, beautiful photos…

  4. great post, Christine. it brought back memories of how fantastic it was and also how steep the climb was! it was interesting that you mentioned the greenery around; it’s a little different from Stirling Castle that way … there it feels more grey. i think it’s a lovely addition to plant a few trees, etc. thanks for sharing your visit with us and i hope you had a nice day with your son.

  5. Lovely version of your visit- & what evocative photos too. I went to Edinburgh in January on a sunny day & it’s so picturesque.

  6. Dear All,
    Thank you so much for your comments, it’s always such a pleasure to read them. I’m glad you enjoyed the little tour, and yes we did have a good visit with our son. We are still experiencing sunshine in Aberdeen, after weeks of it – all very odd, and now we badly need rain!

  7. What a beautiful day! Everything is sharp and on focus. I’ve only been to Edinburgh once and very briefly, so it was a pleasure to revisit it through your beautiful photographs. Thank you!

    • Thank you Luciana – I’m glad it brought back some happy memories for you!

  8. So pretty. After watching snippets of the royal wedding, I told my husband we need to plan a trip to London. Maybe Scotland as well?!

    • Oh yes, Kelly – in fact, you could just stop by London briefly on your way to a wonderful few weeks in Scotland! ajb47’s blog, Journeys to Scotland, will help you plan. 😉

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