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Edinburgh Castle/Caisteal Dhùn Èideann

A Scheduled Monument in City Centre, City of Edinburgh

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Latitude: 55.9487 / 55°56'55"N

Longitude: -3.2001 / 3°12'0"W

OS Eastings: 325152

OS Northings: 673497

OS Grid: NT251734

Mapcode National: GBR 8MH.91

Mapcode Global: WH6SL.TRB1

Entry Name: Edinburgh Castle/Caisteal Dhùn Èideann

Scheduled Date: 17 May 1993

Last Amended: 15 November 2019

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM90130

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: 20th Century Military and Related: Artillery mount; Ecclesiastical: chapel; Prehistoric domestic and

County: City of Edinburgh

Electoral Ward: City Centre

Traditional County: Midlothian


The monument comprises the remains of Scotland's most important medieval royal castle. It occupies a volcanic outcrop which commands the centre of the City of Edinburgh. As a site it has been occupied from the late Bronze Age to the present day. The castle is complex but comprises three internal and two external areas. Internally these are: the Upper Ward in which is The Palace, Great Hall and St Margaret's Chapel; the Middle Ward housing structures mostly built for the British army including the New Barracks and Governor's House; and the Lower Ward with the main entrance including the Gatehouse and Old Guardhouse. Externally the castle comprises The Esplanade, which was originally part of Castle Hill, and an area which comprises the castle rock, part of Princes Street Gardens, including part of Castle Bank and the Wellhouse Tower.

The component areas contain a number of different spaces, buildings and features. The first area is the Upper Ward, where some of the most significant buildings are located. This is the highest point of the Castle, accessed via Foog's Gate on its western approach and by the Lang Stairs on the north. The summit of the Rock is marked by the Crown Square, an open area which is almost entirely enclosed by the Scottish National War Memorial (north), the Palace (east), the Great Hall (south) and the Queen Anne Building (west).  Beneath the Palace, Great Hall and Queen Anne Building are a series of medieval vaults which date to the 14th/ 15th centuries. An opening in the north-east corner of Crown Square leads onto the Half-Moon Battery, which sits over the ruin of David's Tower. To the north of Crown Square but also within the Upper Ward is St Margaret's Chapel.

St Margaret's Chapel stands on the highest part of the Castle Rock, to the north of Crown Square and is the oldest upstanding building within the castle. It is broadly rectangular on plan, and its walls (particularly externally) exhibit a complex development history. Internally the barrel vaulted nave is separated from the apse by a chancel arch which has fine Romanesque detailing. By at least the 17th century St Margaret's was used as a store for some of the Castle's artillery supplies. It was restored in the 1850s and again in the 1880s.

Immediately to the north-east of Crown Square, and adjacent to the Palace, is the Half-Moon Battery and David's Tower. David's Tower (known initially as 'the great tower') was built in the later 14th century, part of David II's reconstruction of the castle which had been largely destroyed by his father, Robert I (Bruce), in 1314. It is one of the first of the new style of later medieval tower houses to be constructed in Scotland. It served as the royal lodging in the castle and was originally built as an L-plan tower house which stood at least three storeys high, with a re-entrant angle in the south-east corner. A short stretch of the contemporary curtain wall, incorporating a postern, survives to its south. At a later stage, probably in the earlier 15th century, the L-plan was converted into a rectangle, so creating more living space. David's Tower was in time replaced as the royal lodging in the castle by the Palace, and downgraded in status. It continued, however, to play an important role in the defence of the castle. Its wall-head served as a gun battery, and a new gun-emplacement was built immediately to its north in 1546. The tower was brought to the ground during the Lang Siege in 1573, and the Half-Moon Battery built on its remains. The tower was rediscovered and cleared of rubble and soil in 1912-13.

On the south side of Crown Square stands the Great Hall. It was built in 1509-11, over earlier stone vaulted undercrofts, and established the layout of the square. It is the smallest of the Great Halls built for James IV (the others are at Falkland Palace and Stirling Castle). It served as a barracks from 1650 until it was restored in 1887–91 by the architect Hippolyte Jean Blanc, and much of what exists today internally dates from that time. Of the interior, only the hammer-beam roof is, for the most part, original. The external elevations mostly date to the 16th century and retain evidence of the original pattern of windows and doors. The present entrance doorway and windows are the work of Blanc. Between the Great Hall and Palace is Register House built by John Merlioun in 1542.

The Palace Block occupies the eastern side of Crown Square. It is almost rectangular on plan and dates from the 15th century, although incorporating earlier fabric. The complex has been subject to numerous alterations and additions including a major reconstruction during 1615-17 for the visit of James VI. It occupies the site of the King's Great Chamber (built 1434-35) and rests on vaulted undercrofts. Inside, in the southeast is a closet in which Queen Mary gave birth to James VI. In 1617, John Anderson who was paid £100 Scots for painting 'the rowme quhair his Majestie wes borne' – this is the earliest reference to this small room. The ceiling is decorated with thistles and roses and crowned monograms IR and MR, while the walls have the Royal Arms of Scotland and the date 19 June 1566.

The west side of Crown Square is formed by the Queen Anne Building. It was built in 1708–13 to house officers and gunners serving in the castle garrison in the immediate aftermath of the abortive 1708 Jacobite Rising. It is located on the site of a late 14th/ 15th century multi-storey range with vaults at its southern end. The vaults are the only part of this earlier building to survive. After becoming ruinous, the site was repurposed as a gun battery, which in turn was replaced by the Queen Anne building. Its southern part incorporated gun-ports, to complement another gun battery below and to its west. The barracks and adjacent battery were both designed by Captain Theodore Dury, military engineer, whose name lives on in that lower battery, named Dury's Battery. Dury's barracks was two storeys and an attic high, and ranged around a narrow central open courtyard.

The Scottish National War Memorial completes the square. It was designed by Sir Robert Lorimer and built in 1924-27 to commemorate all those who fell during World War I. It stands on the site of the North Barracks, built 1755, which replaced an earlier storehouse, as shown on Skinner's Plan of 1750. The storehouse, in turn, had replaced a medieval chapel dedicated to St Mary. Lorimer retained the shell of the North Barracks while adding the porched entrance and five sided apse that contains the Shrine. The Scottish National War Memorial comprises two main elements, the Hall of Honour and the Shrine. Within the latter lies a steel casket with the complete Roll of Honour of the Scottish dead of World War I.

Downhill to the southwest of St Margaret's Chapel is the entrance to the Upper Ward; Foog's Gate. This gate is likely to date to the 1680s and was designed by Captain John Slezer, a Dutch military engineer. It marks the position of an earlier entrance to the Upper Ward which may date from the 15th century. The masonry flanking the gateway appears of different builds and the form and detail of the arch is unusual for late 17th or early 18th century military design. The arch itself is a plain, slightly pointed-arch with a length of moulded drip course some way above it. Adjacent to Foog's gate are two cisterns disguised as defensive towers (one a squat round tower, the other a Greek cross) for the adjacent 19th century Fire Station (now a shop).

The Middle Ward is located below the Upper Ward and contains many buildings connected with the British Army's use of Edinburgh Castle. Amongst the most important of these buildings are the New Barracks, the Governor's House, Mill's Mount Cart Shed, Ordnance Stores and the Military Prison. The Portcullis Gate/ Argyle Tower mark the boundary between the Middle and Lower Wards.

The Middle Ward is dominated by the New Barracks, a massive six storey building built in 1796-99. From the east, the barracks is a three storey and attic structure with a simple classical treatment. From the west, the building is a monumental six storey structure with only a cast iron verandah (added 1893) to break the elevation. To the north and in front of the New Barracks is the Governor's House. This building was built in 1740–42, on the site of the Deputy Store Keepers House to provide residences for the Governor of the castle and his two most senior staff officers. Designed by Dugal Campbell, Board of Ordnance engineer, it is two storeys and attic above a two storey basement. The building has a main five bay block with lower, three bay wings. The building is externally little altered, although the two wings were raised by a storey during the later 18th century.

To the south-east of the New Barracks is the Military Prison. This building was built in 1840-42 and comprises two main phases of development. The original phase comprises the lower two storeys of the main eastern block, consisting of two tiers of solitary confinement cells to either side of a central open hall. The original building was heightened and extended to the rear (west) in 1880. The new top floor housed accommodation and offices for the provost-marshal. Of the ancillary buildings erected against the west side of Dury's Battery, only the latrine block survives. Built of buff sandstone, it projects out from the early 18th century curtain wall at the south-west corner of the battery, thereby reducing the number of gun bays from five to three.

North of the New Barracks is Hospital Square which is enclosed to the north, south and east by the former military hospital. The western side is formed by a raised walkway which is near the site of the original postern gate. The square is entered through a gateway on its eastern side, flanked by stone sentry boxed linked overhead by a cast iron overthrow. The hospital buildings were built as a pair of store houses in 1753-54 on the site of an earlier powder magazine and were at that time two storey, pitched roofed structures. The buildings were converted to a military hospital in 1893-97 and were much altered internally to create accommodation for wards and ancillary facilities. A statue to Earl Haig, formerly on the Esplanade (and separately designated) now occupies the centre of Hospital Square.

To the east of Hospital Square is the former Mills Mount Cart Shed (now the Redcoat Café). Mills Mount Cart Shed was built in 1746, beside the late 17th century Mills Mount Battery, in the immediate aftermath of the battle of Culloden. It was extended and converted into an armoury, ordnance store and ammunition magazine around 1810, at the height of the Napoleonic Wars, and converted to a barracks by the 1870s, but reduced to its original size in the 1890s as part of the remodelling of the north Ordnance Storehouse into a military hospital. The present north extension was added in 1992 as part of its conversion into a restaurant.

To the east, marking the boundary between the Middle and Lower Wards, is Argyle Tower, Portcullis Gate and the Lang Stairs. The Portcullis Gate dates from the rebuilding of the castle by Regent Morton in the aftermath of the Lang Siege of 1571–73 and is located on the site of an earlier tower; the Constable's Tower. The Portcullis Gate's superstructure was rebuilt twice, in 1584 and c.1750, but this upper part was completely replaced in 1886–87 by what is known as the Argyle Tower. The original structure is associated with the architect William Schaw, James VI's Master of Works. It was designed not only to defend but also to impress, and fine classical detailing survives from this period. The superstructure, the Argyle Tower, is the creation of Hippolyte J Blanc. Blanc consciously ignored the 16th century Portcullis Gate and created what he felt approximated to the late 14th century Constable's Tower that preceded it on the site, using a comprehensive range of features drawn from late medieval Scottish architectural vocabulary. The Lang Stairs, although comparatively recent in its present form, perpetuate the oldest access to the summit in medieval times, which passed through the Constable's Tower.

The Lower Ward marks the entry to the castle from the Esplanade and is the smallest of the three internal areas of the castle. It is entered from the Esplanade via a modern drawbridge across the dry ditch which was constructed sometime between 1725 and 1742. Access is through the Victorian Gatehouse which opens out into a small open courtyard space, bound on the west by the Castle Rock and Half Moon Battery and south by the modern public toilets. The road up to the Middle Ward and beyond runs uphill to the north-west by the Inner Barrier and Guardhouse.

The Guardhouse and Inner Barrier is located to the east and downhill of Portcullis Gate and is the oldest building in the Lower Ward. It originated in the later 17th century as a flanking defence to help cover the main entrance to the castle and specifically the late 17th century Inner Barrier which had originally a ditch and drawbridge. Remodelling of the area in the 1720s saw the ditch and drawbridge removed and two casemates erected. In 1853 Guardhouse was formed in the shell of the flanker by Lieutenant-Colonel Richard Moody of the Royal Engineers. Moody embellished the flanker's rubble mass in a revived older Scottish style, including a wide-mouthed gunport of 16th century form. In 1866–67 prison cells were added to the rear (west), and a little later stables were constructed in the yard beyond, for the Commanding Officer's use. The Guardhouse was substantially altered internally in the 1990s for the formation of a shop.

At the lowest part of the Lower Ward is the Gatehouse dating to 1886-88, with later work by Sir Robert Lorimer. It is latest of a series of gatehouses which guarded the entrance to the castle replacing an earlier, simpler structure. It is built in the Scots Baronial style, two storeys high over a series of low stone vaults. The exterior elevation has a crenellated parapet with corbelling and cannon spouts. The entrance pend has a roll-moulded round-arched entrance with flanking canopied gothic niches designed by Robert Lorimer (1929). These house bronze statues of William Wallace and King Robert I, erected to commemorate the 600th anniversary of King Robert's death. The structure housed guardrooms at ground level, to either side of the entrance pend, and a two room courts-martial suite on the upper floor. Prison cells were housed in a lower south range with an exercise yard beyond. In the entrance pend there are two earlier stone panels carved in high relief depicting artillery and other items of military equipment stored in the castle's royal gunhouse. Mons Meg is depicted on a gun cart and Mons Meg's present gun carriage, made in 1935, is based on this carving. Numerous other guns, mortars and equipment are also depicted. The panels were retrieved from the later 17th century gateway, but could well be earlier in date and made for another structure, possibly James V's 16th century Munition House (which occupied the site of the Scottish National War Memorial).

The castle is enclosed within a series of fortifications built and added to from the 16th century onwards. These include the Half-Moon Battery and Forewall Battery, built after the Lang Siege of 1573 and subsequently modified, the last time in 1695. The north, west and south sides of the Castle Rock are protected by with less formidable defences. These date mostly from the first half of the 18th century, built in response to the Jacobite threat. The northern and western defences, with their characteristic zig-zag lengths of wall topped with domed sentinel boxes, are associated with Major-General George Wade, and the architect William Adam.

Outside and across the Dry Ditch from the castle gate is The Esplanade. It is the only access route into the castle and was created in its present form in 1816–20 to celebrate victory over Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo. Along its northern edge are set of military monuments of various regiments and famous soldiers. Most of these monuments are Listed Buildings and have separate designation records. The Esplanade was originally a narrow strip of land connecting the castle with the Old Town. In the 1540s an Italian military engineer, Migiliorino Ubaldini, oversaw the building of 'the forte of the castle hill', better known as the Spur, an innovative trace Italienne artillery fortification, to help the Scots defend the castle. The spur was damaged during warfare in the 16th and 17th centuries and eventually covered over in the 1750s when the area was levelled up to form a parade ground. Remains of the spur survive beneath the Esplanade.

To the north of the Esplanade the ground falls away steeply to what is now the main Edinburgh to Glasgow railway. This area is parkland, with the remains of the Wellhouse Tower below the Castle Rock by the railway. The Wellhouse was built around 1362 but relatively little is known about the original form of the building. It served as both a well-house and a gatehouse. The Wellhouse Tower sits at the foot of the castle bank, which was landscaped during 1820s as part of the works to create Princes Street Gardens.

The scheduled area is irregular to include the remains described above and an area within which evidence relating to the monument's construction, use and abandonment is expected to survive, as shown in red on the accompanying map. It specifically excludes the above ground elements of the Statue of Earl Haig, the Statue of the Duke of York, the Monument to Colonel Mackenzie, the Scottish Horse Memorial, the 72nd Highlander Memorial and the 78th Highlander Memorial and the railed enclosures around them, the two K6 telephone kiosks in the Lower Ward, the modern interiors of all shops and cafés, all structures, fixtures, fittings dating from after 1990, the top 300mm of the esplanade and top 300mm of all paths in Castle Bank to allow for maintenance, the stone retaining walls and steps in Castle Bank to allow for maintenance, the top 300mm of the access road by Wellhouse Tower and the public toilets located off North Castle Wynd (under the Esplanade).

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Statement of Scheduling

The national importance of the monument is demonstrated in the following ways (see Designations Policy and Selection Guidance, Annex 1, para 17):

a. The monument is of national importance as Scotland's most significant Royal castle and pre-eminent national monument. It has a central place in Scotland's national consciousness and as a symbol of Scotland as a nation. The castle had a role in many of the great events or movements in Scotland's history; the creation of Scotland as a nation in the early medieval period, the Wars of Independence, the development of the Stewart Monarchy, the Wars of the Three Kingdoms and the Jacobite Risings. It also makes a significant contribution to our understanding of medieval royal castles and palaces, their chronology and development sequences as well as the cultural and social influences that may have informed their development and architecture. As such Edinburgh Castle makes a significant contribution to our understanding and appreciation of Scotland's past.

b. The monument retains structural, architectural and decorative attributes which make a significant contribution to our understanding and appreciation of the past. The castle has surviving fabric from the 11th century through to the 21st century. This fabric contributes to our understanding of:

 The development of Royal Palaces in Scotland under the later Stewart kings.
The role of Edinburgh castle in significant historical events, including a number of significant sieges.
The development of fortifications from the 11th century to the late 18th century
 the development of the castle as an army garrison from the 17th century
 The castle's later incarnation as national monument, place of remembrance and visitor attraction.
In addition, archaeological investigations have shown that there is also very high potential for the survival of important buried archaeological remains, from the Bronze Age onwards, including structures within and around the castle and artefacts and environmental evidence that can enhance our understanding of how such buildings functioned, as well as adding to knowledge of the daily domestic life of the inhabitants and their society and economy.

c. The monument is a rare example of a multi-phase power centre which has functioned as such over millennia. Its specific development from Bronze Age settlement, to Iron Age hill fort, to a medieval castle and Royal Palace, and then a military garrison before becoming a national monument, place of remembrance and visitor attraction, is unparalleled.

e. The castle has research potential which could significantly contribute to our understanding or appreciation of the past in relation to its archaeological, architectural, historical and social interest.

f.  Edinburgh Castle dominates the City of Edinburgh and has fundamentally shaped its development since the 11th century. Views to and from the castle are significant in the appreciation and understanding of the city as a whole. The Old Town of Edinburgh with its medieval morphology and street pattern, together with significant buildings such as St Giles Cathedral and Holyrood Palace provide important context for our understanding of the castle and its role in the making of Edinburgh. The monument makes a significant contribution to today's city/landscape and our understanding of the development of the historic landscape through time.

g. The monument has significant associations with historical, traditional, social and artistic figures, events and movements. The castle has close historical associations with the Scottish Monarchy, European royal houses, Scottish nobility and many events of historical importance for Scotland. It has long associations with the British Army and a place in the National Consciousness of Scotland. It houses the Honours of Scotland (the Scottish Crown Jewels) together with the Stone of Destiny, and is the site of the firing of the One 'clock Gun and home to the Edinburgh Military Tattoo.

Assessment of Cultural Significance

This statement of national importance has been informed by the following assessment of cultural significance:

Intrinsic characteristics (how the remains of a site or place contribute to our knowledge of the past)

Edinburgh Castle was the most important royal castle in medieval and early modern Scotland; the seat of power within Scotland's principal burgh.  It has become Scotland's preeminent national monument and is an outstanding example of a medieval royal castle with later alterations and additions. The Castle Rock has been occupied since the late Bronze Age and archaeological and historical evidence shows that it was the site of a hill fort in the Iron Age. The castle dates from at least the 11th century with a significant phase of remodelling during the 16th century under the Stewart monarchy and later 18th and 19th century additions when the castle served as one of the British armies' major bases in Scotland. Later buildings demonstrate the late 19th century transformation of the castle from an army base into an iconic symbol of Scotland. Its fabric and archaeology chart royal and aristocratic power and changing defensive and domestic requirements, reflecting wider societal change as well as developments such as the increased use of artillery.

The Castle Rock, named as Din Eidyn, is first mentioned in the poem Y Gododdin by the Welsh poet Aneirin, which may refer to historical events around 600AD. A Class 1 Pictish Stone symbol stone found near the base of the castle rock in the 19th century may relate to the late Iron Age occupation of the Castle Rock (Canmore ID 52135).  The Pictish Chronicle refers to the Scots taking oppidum Edin from the Angles in the reign of Indulf (around 954 to 963). The earliest certain reference to a royal castle concerns the death of Queen Margaret, wife of Malcolm III (Malcolm Canmore) in November 1093 in the 'Maidens' Castle', an event chronicled by John Fordun in the 14th century. The first contemporary record of the castle is in a charter of David I around 1127.   

The surviving fabric and buried archaeological remains demonstrates the development of fortified and domestic architecture from at least the 12th to 19th century. From at least the 11th century onwards, Edinburgh Castle became a Royal residence and important administrative centre, as well as a strategically important fortification. Little is known of the physical design and layout of the castle between the 12th and 14th centuries, but it is likely that it was centred on the highest part of the Castle Rock. Many of the castle's earliest structures were probably built from timber and earth, although some buildings within the castle were probably stone built as early as c. 1130 when St Margaret's Chapel was endowed by David I. The castle is said to have been 'razed to the ground' in 1314, after Robert I took it from the English. Only St Margaret's Chapel survives from this period and there appears to have been no immediate rebuilding, as it is recorded by in 1335 when captured again by the English that there were no buildings save the chapel and a 'new' stable within the castle. Although much altered, the chapel is highly significant as the earliest building surviving at the castle.

The castle was recaptured in 1341 during the reign of David II and under his direction a large scale rebuilding of the castle took place, of which only fragments survive. The most significant structure was 'David's Tower', although it is not named as such in documents until the mid-15th century. Although this tower was badly damaged in the siege of 1571 and subsequently the Half Moon Battery was built over its ruins, the surviving remains are significant as the earliest surviving residence at the castle. The prominence and size of this tower, situated on the east of the summit of Castle Rock facing the burgh would have served as an outward display of David II's kingship. David's Tower also helped established a model of royal and aristocratic building in Scotland; tower houses became the predominant form of elite residence from the mid-14th century until the late 16th.

A number of other towers were built as part of redevelopment of the defences and accommodation of the castle. These included one at the entrance gate which may have been Constable's Tower on or close to what is now Portcullis Gate and the Wellhouse Tower at the foot of the Castle Rock. David's Tower along with a number of others were badly damaged during the Lang Siege (1571-73) and the surviving remains of David's Tower (within the Half Moon battery) evidence the destruction of the castle at this time. The Constable's Tower was also badly damaged and the Portcullis Gate was built to act as the castle's new main entrance.

The defences of the castle are one of the chief physical features of Edinburgh Castle, dominating the castle-scape and the skyline of the city of Edinburgh. The earliest remains of defence pre-dates these and is a fragment of the later 14th century curtain wall entombed in the Half-Moon Battery, attached to the south side of David's Tower. Pre-16th century defences may also survive fragmentarily embedded in later works such as the Forewall Battery. In the mid-16th century the 'forte on the castle hill' (later known as the Spur), was built to bolster the eastern defences of the castle. This defensive structure in the trace italienne style was a high pointed forework with demi-bastions on either side that occupied much of the Castle Hill. It remained an important part of the castle's defences into the 17th century until a parliamentary decree of 1649 stated that '…the outmost fortification of the said castle called the spur be demolished, razed and levelled…'. Archaeological excavations have shown that, although some stonework was removed, significant evidence of the spur survives buried within The Esplanade. At Stirling Castle archaeological work suggests that a spur also protected the approach and bore a great similarity to that at Edinburgh. Together they provide important information that mid-16th century defensive architecture was influenced by ideas developed in Continental Europe. 

The group of buildings in the Upper Ward are important as evidence of the castle at its height as a Royal residence under the Stewart monarchy. The castle was altered and adapted by the Stewart kings throughout the 15th and 16th centuries. A major development was the creation of a new principal courtyard, placed to the west of David's Tower which became the focal point of the castle. It was formed on a series of stone vaults the created a level platform on the summit of the Castle Rock, known as Palace Yard and later Crown Square. The square, inspired by Renaissance planning, created a focal point for government and served as the backdrop for pageantry and court spectacles, befitting a Renaissance monarch. The important royal buildings were arranged around the square – St Mary's Chapel (on the site of the Scottish National War Memorial), the Palace, Great Hall and House of the Artillery. The layout of these buildings highlighted the role of the monarch and served as an architectural statement on the might and majesty of the Stewart kings. Although the buildings within the square have been significantly altered since the Stewart occupation, this layout is remains readable, and gives a sense of castle during this period.

Great Hall played an important role as avenue for state functions where its scale and architecture could be used to impress upon visitors the status of the Scottish kings as European monarchs. The hall has been much altered through its use as a barracks and then during its restoration. However, its original hammer beam roof survives and is of particular significance as one of only two late medieval timber roofs remaining in Scotland (the other being at Darnaway Castle: Listed Building LB2283). The roof's stone console-brackets also survive and are richly carved, not only with the royal cipher but also, with images of Italianate Renaissance character, making the roof one of the earliest examples of Italian-inspired architecture built in the British Isles. Externally, the front elevation, facing onto Crown Square, retains original details, although with significant restoration and intervention by Blanc (the restored crenelated parapet, the entrance doorway and mullion and transom windows). Although much altered, the Great Hall still gives some a sense of the mid-16th century form of the core of the Royal accommodation around Crown Square.

The Palace has a particularly complex history and many aspects of its early development and internal arrangements remain unclear. The structure retains fabric from many different phases and provides evidence of the earlier Royal accommodation on this site. It is likely to have been the site the Great Chamber built for James I in the 1430s. The surviving fabric also suggests that by the early 16th century, the royal accommodation was designed to give the grouping an architectural unity, as was the case with James IV other building projects such as at Stirling Castle.

The mid-16th century saw an important development in the castle as it transformed from royal residence to a garrison fortress. By the Reformation in 1560 the castle had been replaced as the chief royal residence by the new Palace of Holyrood. The Lang Siege (May 1571 to May 1573) badly damaged the castle, including the Palace Block which then lay unused for over 40 years before James VI ordered a major reconstruction to mark his homecoming in 1617 and his 50th anniversary as King of Scots. These major works included the re-facing and heightening of the Crown Square elevation of the Palace in a castellated form with a crenelated parapet with cannon spouts and turrets, while the east façade was given pedimented windows carved with James' initials – IR6 – and Royal emblems. Internally the works also included the painting of 'the rowme quhair his Majestie wes borne'. This interior is significant as the only pre-19th century interior to survive at the castle. It is also a demonstration of the secular cult of kingship that was developing in the early 17th century. The work to the Palace at Edinburgh was not to create a residence for the King as that was at Holyrood. Rather it was a statement of kingship and a demonstration of the ancestry of the Stewart's.

From 1660 onward Edinburgh Castle's main function became that of the chief garrison of Scotland and this role transformed the castle, leaving a very significant collection of military buildings and defences dating from early 18th century to the mid-19th century. In 1708 a new officers' barracks was built on the west side of Crown Square on the site of the Royal Gunhouse. This was the first purpose-built barracks building erected within the castle. In the aftermath of the 1715 Jacobite Rising, alterations were made under Captain John Romer and William Adam. This scheme added the angled lengths of perimeter wall with the characteristic domed sentry boxes that survive today. The garrison itself was larger than at any time before and this led to a need for additional accommodation. As a consequence the Palace and Great Hall were altered in the 1730s and saw the erection of the new North Barracks in 1755 on the site of what is now the Scottish National War Memorial. At the same time the Governors House was built, with wings to accommodate the master gunner and storekeeper. In the aftermath of the final Jacobite Rising in 1745, further works were carried out. Behind and to the west of the Governor's House in what is now Hospital Square, two new storehouses and a powder magazine were built (1748-56) along with a new Sallyport Guardhouse beside the now blocked postern gate on the western defences. These works were carried out by William Skinner, who had designed the garrison fortress of Fort George on the Moray Firth (Listed Building, LB1721). Skinner was also responsible for the levelling of the Castle Hill where the Spur was located to form what was to become the Esplanade. These were the last large scale redevelopments of the fortifications and only two further garrison buildings were constructed; the New Barracks (1796-99) and the Military Prison (completed 1842).

The later 19th century saw the emergence of the castle in a new role, that of a national monument and visitor attraction. This was a consequence of a growing sense that the castle had been damaged by its use as military garrison at the same time as there was a developing interest in the distinctiveness of Scottish history and architecture. This stimulated a desire to restore the castle to a more 'authentic' form even if that form was ill-defined. These ideas led to a number of developments at the castle which transformed it from garrison to monument. This included the restoration of St Margret's Chapel and the Great Hall, the construction of Argyles Tower and the building of the Gatehouse. These works were by significant Scottish architects and reflect a growing interest from the mid-19th century onwards in medieval architecture as a 'national architecture'.

The castle has been subject to only limited archaeological excavations and building surveys. However, despite the continued occupation and reworking of the Castle Rock over millennia, the limited excavations that have taken place have uncovered deposits from the Bronze Age to the present day demonstrating the continuing archaeological potential of the castle and the castle rock. It is likely that further evidence of the earliest occupation of the Castle Rock and the earliest medieval fortifications of the castle will survive as archaeological deposits and environmental evidence. 

The earliest deposits were found during excavations in the late 1980s/ early 1990s as part of work to create a vehicular tunnel from the Esplanade into the castle. The deposits were fragmentary and buried around 4m below the present day ground surface. They consist of pits, cobbled surfaces, soil hearths, a stone drain and artefacts dating to the Bronze Age. Although fragmentary, the survival of late Bronze Age deposits provides evidence of settlement on the Castle Rock for at least 3,000 years. The remains are overlain by later Iron Age deposits comprising the partially remains of three large timber roundhouses and extensive paved surfaces. Excavation at the Coal Yard to the north of the Gatehouse have found evidence of two ditches (up to 13m wide and over 10.7m deep) which were probably part of the defences of a hill fort on the castle rock. They continued to form part of the fortifications of the castle until the later Middle Ages. Finds of Roman material, including a Trumpet Brooch and a Dragonesque Brooch, is evidence of contact with the Roman Empire and suggests a relatively high status site was present during the Roman-Iron Age period.  In places, the Iron Age deposits have been sealed by middens dumped by British, Anglian and Scottish inhabitants from the 2nd to 11th centuries.

There is also the potential for the survival of archaeological deposits relating to the early castle prior to David II's remodelling in the early 14th century. Excavations at David's Tower have provided indications of an earlier, pre-14th century curtain wall and excavations in the Mills Mount area have revealed material spanning from the 11th to 14th centuries including well-preserved evidence for a blacksmiths workshop. Excavation elsewhere has revealed that evidence for the pre-16th century buildings around Crown Square are preserved below and incorporated within later buildings.  Outwith the castle itself, excavations on the Esplanade have shown that remains of the 16th century Spur survive. There may be further evidence of earlier outlying fortifications and land-use under the Esplanade. This evidence could provide information about the contemporary environment and landscape within which the castle was built. There is also the potential for evidence relating to the various sieges of the castle within and outwith the perimeter of the castle's defences, which could enhance our knowledge of their conduct. The areas of land, beyond the fortifications, may contain evidence of daily life within the walls in the form of midden and other dumped material.

Contextual characteristics (how a site or place relates to its surroundings and/or to our existing knowledge of the past)

Edinburgh Castle is located at about 130m above sea level. It was constructed to take advantage of the natural topography of the Castle Rock. The castle is an iconic landmark which dominates the skyline of the Edinburgh and can be seen from many miles around. The views to the north and east were an essential element in the amenity of its occupants from at least the 14th century. The view to the east towards Holyrood Park (scheduled monument SM13032) and down what is now The Royal Mile to Holyrood Abbey (scheduled monument SM13031) were important as both were royal sites. There are panoramic views out from the castle, particularly to the north over the Georgian New Town and out to the Firth of Forth. Although fortification and issues of defences were important in siting of Edinburgh, its commanding presence in the surrounding countryside was an important feature of its location.

The Castle Rock was of strategic importance from as early as the Iron Age through to the medieval and early modern periods. The Castle Rock occupies a position where the coastal strip of the Lothians is almost at its narrowest; a naturally east-west route. In the Iron Age, the Castle Rock was one of a series of enclosed prehistoric settlements in the local area, four located on and around Arthur's Seat (scheduled monument SM13032) and others on Blackford Hill (scheduled monument SM5818) and Wester Craiglockhart Hill (scheduled monument SM3193).

Edinburgh Castle may be seen as one of a range of medieval and later medieval castle types that are found in Scotland. Varying in form, they chart royal and aristocratic power and changing defensive and domestic requirements, often reflecting wider societal change as well as developments such as the increased use of artillery. There is great potential to compare the standing structures and buried archaeology at Edinburgh Castle with those of other major Scottish royal palaces at Holyrood Linlithgow, Falkland, Dunfermline and Stirling. Together, these structures and their buried archaeology can provide invaluable information about late medieval and early modern kingship, and demonstrate the transition in royal accommodation from castle to palace (and for Stirling and Edinburgh the transition from place to military garrison).

Edinburgh Castle has shaped the development of Edinburgh, Scotland's capital city from at least the 15th century. As a political and economic power centre, the early fortress or castle is likely to have given rise to a settlement on the ridge running down from the volcanic outcrop. The principal burgh street ran down from the Castle Rock towards Holyrood (Castle Hill, Lawnmarket and High Street) and although altered, the Old Town of Edinburgh retains the medieval herringbone street pattern of narrow closes, wynds, and courts leading off the spine. The burgh ended at the Netherbow Gate and beyond was the Canongate which finished the route downhill to Holyrood Abbey (scheduled monument SM13031), founded in 1128 by King David I. The Abbey was an important administrative centre which functioned with the castle as a seat of Royal Power and by 1542 had replaced Edinburgh Castle as the main royal residence.

Associative characteristics (how a site or place relates to people, events, and/or historic and social movements)

Edinburgh Castle has a close historical associations with the Scottish monarchy, European royal houses, Scottish nobility and many events of historical importance. Throughout its history Edinburgh Castle was linked with the reigning Scottish monarch and, with Stirling Castle, was one of the principal seats of Royalty throughout the medieval period. This link with Royalty is strongest with the Stewart kings who were responsible for the construction or redevelopment of Crown Square and continued after the Union of the Crowns, with the refurbishment of the Palace for James VI Homecoming. This association continues as the castle houses the Honours of Scotland within the Crown Room of the Palace, together with the Stone of Destiny.

The castle's location high above Edinburgh gives it a magnificent setting and it has been the subject of painters from as early as the 16th century. One of the earliest known representations of the castle is in the 1540s when the castle was drawn by an English Spy. Further notable paintings were drawn in the later 16th century depicting the castle during the Siege of Leith (1560) and the Lang Siege (1573) In the following centuries the castle was the inspiration for numerous military drawings and romantic paintings including those by John Slezer, Alexander Nasmyth, David Octavius Hill, Robert Sanderson and James Norrie Senior.

The castle is associated with events that occurred during around 600AD when a warband of the Gododdin left their stronghold of Din Eidyn to battle the Angles near Catterick in Yorkshire. These events are recorded in the old Welsh poem Y Gododdin and this poem may also be one of the earliest record of King Arthur – a warrior is praised for his valour 'but he was not Arthur'.

The castle has been a military garrison from the 1560s and the army's occupation of the castle has had a significant impact on its fabric. The Army retains a significant profile – as headquarters of the Royal Regiment of Scotland; as home of the Army Benevolent Fund; as official residence of the Governor and as Officers' Mess; and as home to two regimental associations and museums (Royal Scots and the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards).

The castle has strong associations in the national consciousness as one of the preeminent symbols of the Scottish nation. Events such as the 'rediscovery' of the Honours of Scotland by Sir Walter Scott in 1818 at the castle, King George IV's visit in 1822 and the redevelopment of the castle as a national monument in the later 19th century were both factors in encouraging, and an expression of, the growing recognition of Scotland's distinctive history and national identity.

 As Scotland's premier royal castle it is valued as an important place to visit by both domestic and international visitors. The castle is known throughout the world for its One o'clock Gun that fires each day and has become home to one of Scotland's most famous 20th century events, the Edinburgh Military Tattoo. The castle plays an important role in national life, and it is used for all manner of State, governmental and Army uses.


Source: Historic Environment Scotland



Historic Environment Scotland reference number CANMORE ID 52068 (accessed on 09/05/2019).

Braun, G and Hogenbergh, F c.1582. 'Edenburgum, Scotiae Metropolis' in Old European Cities. Cologne.

Clancy, J P 1970. 'Y Gododdin' in Early Welsh Poetry. Macmillan.

Driscoll, S and Yeoman P 1997. Excavations within Edinburgh Castle in 1988-91. Society of Antiquaries of Scotland. Monograph Series Number 12.

Ewart G and Gallagher D 2014. Fortress of the Kingdom. Archaeology and Research at Edinburgh Castle.

Gifford J, McWilliam C, Walker D and Wilson C 1984. The Buildings of Scotland: Edinburgh, pp. 85-102.

Historic Environment Scotland 2012. Edinburgh Castle, Statement of Significance.

Historic Environment Scotland 2012. Edinburgh Castle – David's Tower, Statement of Significance.

Historic Environment Scotland 2012. Edinburgh Castle – The Defences, Statement of Significance.

Historic Environment Scotland 2012. Edinburgh Castle – Esplanade, Statement of Significance.

Historic Environment Scotland 2012. Edinburgh Castle, Foog's Gate Area of Upper Ward, Statement of Significance.

Historic Environment Scotland 2012. Edinburgh Castle – Gatehouse, Inner Barrier, Old Gatehouse, Statement of Significance.

Historic Environment Scotland 2012. Edinburgh Castle – Governor's House, Statement of Significance.

Historic Environment Scotland 2012. Edinburgh Castle – Great Hall, Statement of Significance.

Historic Environment Scotland 2012. Edinburgh Castle – Mills Mount Cart Shed, Statement of Significance.

Historic Environment Scotland 2012. Edinburgh Castle – Military Prison, Statement of Significance.

Historic Environment Scotland 2012. Edinburgh Castle – New Barracks, Statement of Significance.

Historic Environment Scotland 2012. Edinburgh Castle – Ordnance Stores, Mortuary and Back Well Statement of Significance.

Historic Environment Scotland 2012. Edinburgh Castle – Portcullis Gate, Argyle Tower and Lang Stairs, Statement of Significance.

Historic Environment Scotland 2012. Edinburgh Castle – Queen Anne Building, Statement of Significance.

Historic Environment Scotland 2012. Edinburgh Castle – St Margaret's Chapel, Statement of Significance.

Historic Environment Scotland 2012. Scottish National War Memorial, Statement of Significance.

John, of Fordun; Skene W F 1872. The Historians of Scotland v.4. Fordun's Chronicle of the Scottish nation.

MacGibbon, D and Ross, T 1887-92. The Castellated and Domestic Architecture of Scotland from the twelfth to eighteenth century, Vol I. pp. 445-462. Edinburgh: David Douglas.

Morris, R 2011. 'Edinburgh Castle and the remaking of medieval Edinburgh', in Scotland's Castle Culture eds A. Dakin, Miles Glendinning, Aonghus MacKechnie, pp 266-78. John Donald, Edinburgh.

RCAHMS 1951. An Inventory of the Ancient and Historical Monuments of The City of Edinburgh, pp. 1-25, HMSO.

Skinner, W (Engineer) and Fane S (Draughtsman). Plan of Edinburgh Castle, 1750. National Library of Scotland, Map Catalogue:

Tabraham C 2008. Edinburgh Castle, Official Souvenir Guide. Historic Scotland.
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Edinburgh Castle
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Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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