Set upon its mighty rock, Edinburgh Castle’s strategic advantage is clear. Seeing the site’s military potential, Iron Age people built a hill fort on the rock. Early medieval poetry tells of a war band that feasted here for a year before riding to their deaths in battle.
As well as guarding great moments in history, the castle has suffered many sieges. During the Wars of Independence it changed hands many times. In 1314, the Scots retook the castle from the English in a daring night raid led by Thomas Randolph, nephew of Robert the Bruce. The castle defences have evolved over hundreds of years. Mons Meg, one of the greatest medieval cannons ever made, was given to King James II in 1457. The Half Moon Battery, built in the aftermath of the Lang Siege of 1573, was armed for 200 years by bronze guns known as the Seven Sisters. Six more guns defend the Argyle Battery, with its open outlook to the north.
Edinburgh Castle: History of the castle
Plan of Edinburgh Castle. From The official guide-book published by HMSO, 1948 (from Wikimedia Commons)
Of this early castle the only remaining part is the Norman chapel of St. Margaret, that building of which the whole interior length is less than twenty-eight feet, and which yet is very impressive in its massiveness, its simplicity, and its gloom lightened only by small deep- set Norman windows. . . .The fourteenth-century castle, like others of the period, evidently consisted mainly of the strong keep, called Davy’s Tower. This is known from descriptions anterior to the siege of 1573 to have been sixty feet high, and to have contained a hall, a kitchen, chambers, and lofts. Its site was above the present Half Moon battery, and near the centre of it, behind a courtyard which surmounted the east wall of the castle.
. . .
The west side of the quadrangle is now also occupied by modern buildings. On the south side is the parliament hall, which has been carefully restored and is used as an armoury and military museum. It is a structure of noble proportions. The upper part and roof seem to date from the reign of James V., who must have replaced the roof constructed under James II. Many features have undergone alteration, as, for instance, the windows, which were originally large and mullioned, and probably gave light from both the north and the south walls. The vaults on which the hall was supported contained, as was customary, a kitchen and offices. It is said that they were also used as prisons, and one of them is called “Argyll’s dungeon.”
. . .
The hall communicated at its east end with the private apartments of the king in the old palace on the eastern side of the courtyard. This, in its present condition, is described as “a thing of shreds and patches . . . built with fragments from old buildings.” At its southern end, however, some fifteenth-century rooms remain. They were renovated in the reign of Mary, and include the room in which James VI. was born. Confined and dark as they are, it is no wonder that James IV. transferred his court to Holyrood.
“Royal palaces of Scotland”, Helen Douglas-Irvine & Robert S. Rait, 1911
Edinburgh Castle and the Esplanade
On the back:
The Castle, which stands at a height of 443 feet above sea level, has an area at the top of about 7 acres. The records show that the Picts took possesion of it in the 7th century, and in the year 1004 Malcolm Canmore occupied it as a royal residence. In 1174 the castle was taken by the English, but was restored after 12 years.