When was Edinburgh Castle built? Here's how old Edinburgh Castle is, why it was built and who owns the Scottish monument now

After anti-lockdown protestors attempted to seize Edinburgh Castle on Wednesday, here’s what you need to know about the rich heritage of the Capital’s iconic monument.

Wednesday, 18th August 2021, 4:43 pm
When was Edinburgh Castle built? Here's how old Edinburgh Castle is, why it was built and who owns the monument now (Image credit: Shutterstock)
When was Edinburgh Castle built? Here's how old Edinburgh Castle is, why it was built and who owns the monument now (Image credit: Shutterstock)

As of the oldest fortified sites in Europe, it’s no wonder that Edinburgh Castle attracts millions of visitors to the City each year.

The fortress and royal residence overlooking the city atop Castle Rock has seen its fair share of attempts at political overthrow, seizure and wars for national sovereignty, with its brickwork still bearing the signs of battles and prisoners’ escape attempts.

Now an integral institution to Edinburgh’s status as a World Heritage Site, here’s everything you need to know about Edinburgh Castle’s rich history and reason for existing at the very heart of the Capital.

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When was Edinburgh Castle built?

Having stood for more than a thousand years, Edinburgh Castle and its historic buildings date back to the 11th century.

St Margaret’s Chapel, a scenic backdrop for royal weddings across the centuries, is officially Scotland’s oldest building – erected by King David I of Scotland in roughly 1130.

This was built in tribute to the King’s mother, Saint Margaret of Scotland (also known as Margaret of Wessex or ‘the pearl of Scotland’) who died at the chapel in 1093.

The chapel was later used as a gunpowder store in the 1500s when the Capital increasingly came under attack, with it remaining as such until its sacred roots were rediscovered by Edinburgh-born Scottish antiquary Sir David Wilson in 1845.

A site of plenty of battles and attempted attacks on the Scottish capital, Edinburgh Castle has stood the test of time as the most besieged place in Britain.

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Why was Edinburgh Castle built?

The Castle was built on top of its rocky peak, Castle Rock, in the heart of Edinburgh as a military fortress and royal residence.

Home to kings and queens since the 11th century, the castle had previously been used as a military base and offered a vantage point for those looking to defend their domain from potential invasions and military threats.

Once claimed and built as a site of Scottish royal sovereignty, it became central to battles and clashes between English and Scottish forces in the wars of Scottish Independence from the late 13th century.

The castle was captured by English forces under the command of Edward I in 1296, but frequently switched hands between Scots and English militaries in the early to mid 14th century.

It was used as a royal residence by monarchs like Mary Queen of Scots and James VI in the 16th and 17th centuries before it became another battleground in the English Civil War, Jacobite Rebellion and later a military prison during the Seven Years War and Napoleonic Wars with France.

Who owns Edinburgh Castle now?

Today, Edinburgh Castle is cared for by Historic Environment Scotland but owned by Scottish Ministers and the UK Ministry of Defence.

Major General Alastair Bruce of Crionaich is the Governor of Edinburgh Castle.

King Charles I was the last person to live in the Castle, with the site remaining vacant and open to visitors as a tourist attraction.

To find out more about Edinburgh Castle and plan your visit, go to https://www.edinburghcastle.scot/.

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