If you’re in the New Town of Edinburgh, you just cannot miss the grand monuments in almost every street cross, the majestic royal gardens and the original neo-classical and Georgian architecture that it so proudly retains.
But what really looms large and always stays with you is the brooding, black crags of Castle Rock…
Castle Rock is where Edinburgh began. The first castle that existed on the rock was known as “The Castle of the Maidens”. The Edinburgh Castle, that seems to grow organically out of the living rock beneath it, started to develop into a royal fortress during the 12th century under David I. The conflicts between the English and Scottish monarchies centered on Edinburgh Castle. He who held the castle held rule over the city of Edinburgh and, therefore, over all of Scotland and so the castle was constantly under siege.
Castles have always held a fairy-tale fascination for me, specially the Scottish ones..so needless to say how excited I was to see this one. I climbed up The Mound to the Royal Mile that led to the esplanade in front of the main entrance to the castle.
I went through the Portcullis Gate into the Middle Ward, the largest open area within the castle. I walked round the curve, passed the Argyle Battery before reaching the cart-sheds that now houses an excellent cafe. Time for my hot cuppa! Funny, how I always remember every cup of coffee I’ve ever had in a famous place :-)
The six gun Argyle Battery together with Mill’s Mount Battery (to its west) and the low defenses below it were the main northern defense of the castle. Each turret houses a cast iron, muzzle-loading 18 pound guns made during the Napoleonic Wars.
The Mill’s Mount battery is where the One O’Clock Gun is fired from. The One O’Clock Gun is a 25 pounder gun fired every day (except Sunday) at precisely 13:00 hrs, allowing citizens and visitors to check their clocks and watches.
Mons Meg is one of two surviving bombard guns, presented to King James II by Duke of Burgundy. The name ‘Mons’ because they were made ‘Mons” which is in present day Belgium. It saw action only once against the English at Norham Castle on the river Tweed. It’s great weight (6 ton) made it impractical to drag around in battle so by the 1650’s it was retired to Edinburgh castle where it was fired to salute the royals.
The main group of buildings on the summit of Castle Rock are arranged around Crown Square, dominated by the Scottish National War Memorial, shrine to those who have given their lives in world conflicts. Opposite is the Great Hall. The Castle Vaults beneath the Great Hall (entered from Crown Square via the Prisons of War exhibit) were used variously as storerooms, bakeries and a prison. On the eastern side of the square is the Royal Palace that houses the Honours of Scotland, the oldest surviving crown jewels in Europe.