edinburgh castle and castle rock
Edinburgh,  Scotland

Castle Rock In Edinburgh – Everything You Need To Know

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Last Updated On 13th July 2021 By Lauren | Wild Lovely World

In this post, find out how Castle Rock in Edinburgh was formed and the history behind it. Plus, the best places to view and take photos of this iconic Edinburgh landmark.

Castle Rock is perhaps the most famous hill in Edinburgh as it is the home of Edinburgh Castle. However, most may be surprised to learn that this is also one of the seven hills – I certainly was!

Castle Rock is No. 5 in our Quick Guide to The Seven Hills of Edinburgh series. Check out the full series here: The Seven Hills Of Edinburgh: A Quick Guide

Quick Guide To Castle Rock In Edinburgh

How Castle Rock Was Formed

Castle Rock is the plug of an extinct volcano. It is estimated to have formed around 350 million years ago.

The rock is made from a type of basalt (volcanic rock) which cooled and hardened. All the surrounding rock was sedimentary rock. Since it’s formation, the sedimentary rock has broken off apart from on the east side. The result is that Castle Rock is jagged, rough and dramatic and cannot be ascended from any side other than the Esplanade to the Castle on the east (the Royal Mile).

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Edinburgh Castle on Castle Rock, viewed from Princes Street Gardens West End, in the winter

History Of Edinburgh Castle

Castle Rock, being elevated and in the middle of the city centre, is hard to miss. But more so because of the dominating Castle which almost looks as if it has grown right out of the rock itself rather than being built on top.

The strategic advantage of the rock was seen by Iron Age celtic people who built a hill fort called Eidyn on the rock. Since then, the castle defenses have continued to evolve over hundreds of years.

In 1130 King David I, son of Malcolm III who lived at Edinburgh Castle, built some of the buildings of Edinburgh Castle as we see it today. Most notable is the Queen Margaret Chapel which was dedicated to his mother. This still stands today and it is the oldest building in Edinburgh! You can visit it at Edinburgh Castle*.

King David II, Robert The Bruce’s son, started to reconstruct the castle in 1370 after the Wars of Independence. St David’s Tower was dedicated to him after he suddenly died. It was partially destroyed in a seige 200 years later. However it was rediscovered in 1912 during excavations.

In 1457 a giant cannon was installed called Mons Meg and can still be seen at Edinburgh Castle.

The Great Hall was completed by James IV in 1511. In 1571-73, the Half-Moon Battery (where the cannons are) and the Portcullis Gate were constructed to strengthen the castle’s defenses.

Barracks were added in 1796 and are still in use by the British military today.

A National War Memorial was opened at the castle in 1927 and the National War Museum opened in 1933.

In 1995 Edinburgh Castle, along with the New and Old Towns of Edinburgh, became a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Visiting Edinburgh Castle

Edinburgh Castle is one of Scotland’s top tourist sites and millions of people visit it annually.

If you visit the castle*, you can see many of the buildings mentioned above as well as the military museums.

A highlight is to also see the crown jewels of Scotland – the Honours of Scotland.

Another famous relic is the Stone of Scone (also known as the Stone of Destiny). This is the block of stone upon which Scottish monarchs were traditionally crowned.

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In the spring

The Best Place To View & Take Pictures Of Edinburgh Castle & Castle Rock

There are many paths around Castle Rock through Princes Street Gardens and Johnston Terrace, at the south side of the castle. Johnston Terrace skirts and slopes around the edge of Castle Rock, offering excellent views of the Rock and Castle.

The best places to view and take pictures of the Castle and Rock is from these locations:

  • Princes Street
  • Princes Street Gardens
  • The West End
  • Castle Terrace
  • Grassmarket

Every time I see it, I am in awe of it’s majesty!

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Panoramic view of Princes Street Gardens

How To Find Castle Rock & Edinburgh Castle

Castle Rock is No. 5 in our Quick Guide to The Seven Hills of Edinburgh series. Check out the full series here: The Seven Hills Of Edinburgh: A Quick Guide

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Looking for more awesome stuff to do in Edinburgh? Check out these posts:

Disclosure: Please note that links on this page may be affiliate links. If you decide to make a purchase through one of these links, I may earn a commission at no additional cost to you. I use all of the companies I recommend and I use them because they are awesome and help make my travels better. If you are ready to book and would like to support Wild Lovely World, using these links is one way to do that. Visit my Travel Resources page for my top travel recommendations. Thank you for your support! If you have any questions, please contact me or read my full disclaimer here.

Lauren is a coffee and cat obsessed travel writer from the U.K., specialising in solo female, couple travel and budget backpacking. She has previously lived in Australia, New Zealand, Japan, England and Scotland. Follow her adventures around the world on her blog WildLovelyWorld.com

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