Edinburgh is one of the United Kingdom’s most visited cities, and it isn’t hard to see why. A colourful history spanning millennia, incredible drink scene and loads of spooks for even the strongest sceptics are just a few things the Scottish capital has under its wing. One of the cities most visited sites is Edinburgh Castle. Perched atop a crag overlooking the city, the castle is loaded with mystery and wonder. Whether you are visiting or a local, here are seven incredible facts about Edinburgh Castle.
Incredible Facts About Edinburgh Castle
1. The Grounds Have Been Inhabited For Nearly 3,000 Years
Castle Rock, the hill on which Edinburgh Castle sits, was formed by a volcanic explosion almost 340 million years ago. Even more impressive, archaeological evidence suggests that humans have been living on Castle Rock since long before the rise of Edinburgh Castle. Traces of settlements are dated back to 850 BC making the location occupied for nearly 3,000 years.
2. The Laird’s Lug And The KGB
In the 16th century, King James IV of Scotland was paranoid of being overthrown or betrayed. Because of this, he had tiny holes built into the Great Hall to make it easy for him to listen in on conversations and fish out traitors. The holes remained in the castle until Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev visited Edinburgh in 1984. Upon his tour of the castle, the KGB required that the holes be bricked over so that nobody could listen in on any conversations they had.
3. The Castle Is Haunted
Several ghostly legends surround one of the United Kingdom’s most famous fortresses, but the Lone Piper is by far the most popular. Legend has it that hundreds of years ago when tunnels were being laid beneath the castle, a piper was sent in to play.
The goal was for him to play his pipes as he walked through the tunnel so that those above ground could track the distance of the tunnel. This worked perfectly until he suddenly stopped playing. A rescue team went in to search for him but came up empty-handed. To this day he has never been found and is said to roam the tunnels and castle grounds.
4. It Has Been Right On Time Since 1861
Long before the inventions of smartphones or even well-working watches, sailors on the harbour would have to keep an ear out for the ‘One O’clock Gun’ atop the castle. This was their cue to reset their watches to be in synch and keep the time. The gun still fires off to this day and has never missed a shot outside of Sundays, Good Friday and Christmas Day.
5. It’s Home To One Of The Nation’s Oldest Buildings
St. Margaret’s Chapel dates back to 1130 when it was built by David I in honour of his mother, Queen Margaret. The chapel survived the raid of Robert the Bruce in 1314 when he destroyed the entire grounds but spared the chapel.
6. It’s Jailed Prisoners From Far And Wide
Throughout the 1700s and 1800s, the chambers below the Great Hall held prisoners of war from various nations. From Spain, Poland, Italy, America and more, they were a diverse bunch. The castle even held an unlucky group of 21 Caribbean pirates before their executions in Leith, some of which were said to work with the infamous Blackbeard.
7. It’s Been Home To A Fair Share Of Battles
It’s no secret that Scotland has dealt with more than its fair share of battles, sieges and raids. Which is why it should come as no surprise that Edinburgh Castle is the most besieged place in Europe. Facing down more than 23 battles at the castle, Edinburgh Castle is a testament to Scottish spirit and bravery.