IT IS one of the most secure locations in the entire country, a literal fortress complete with a regiment of soldiers.
But neither the presence of armed guards nor the sight of the gigantic cannon Mons Meg has been enough to keep some law-breakers in line at Edinburgh Castle.
Historic Scotland has revealed that the Castle gift shop was the most robbed shop in its entire estate over the last five years. Light-fingered visitors have made off with everything from sticks of Edinburgh Castle Rock to novelty soft toys and keyrings.
The gift shop at the Castle, one of the country’s most popular visitor attractions, had a total of 766 items stolen over a five-year period.
As well as sweets and toys it is understood the most targeted items included branded postcards and pens or pencils.
The surprising details were rvealed in a Freedom of Information request which also showed that a total of 1506 items have gone missing from top tourist attractions including Linlithgow Palace since 2007.
In all, £4785.25 worth of merchandise has been taken from historic properties, including a £400 iPad from an interpretation display at Stirling Castle and thousands of cheap items.
A spokesman from Historic Scotland said confectionery and stationery were among the most popular items to be pocketed by visitors, despite the fact that most of them are gifts classed as “low-cost items”.
The FOI request revealed the number of thefts at Stirling Castle, Edinburgh Castle, Urquhart Castle, Skara Brae, St Andrews Castle, Fort George, Linlithgow Palace, Iona Abbey and St Andrews Castle has risen from 252 items in 2007 to 307 in 2011.
Stirling Castle, which beat attractions such as the Tower of London and Houses of Parliament to be Which? magazine’s favourite UK attraction earlier this week, was the second most targeted building after Edinburgh Castle, with 310 items stolen in five years.
The least targeted location was Linlithgow Palace – which has only had nine items stolen from its gift shop since 2007.
Urquhart Castle, which sits on the banks of Loch Ness, saw its gift shop thefts more than triple from 32 to 114 items in five years.
The spokesman added: “Historic Scotland operates a retail business within its visitor attractions, and is subject to the same stock loss pressures as other high street retailers.
“Since 2007, the agency’s retail business has seen a turnover of £32 million, and grown by 17 per cent. Historic Scotland has also welcomed over 15 million visitors to its properties over this period.
“We take thefts at all our sites very seriously. Our staff are vigilant, and we are always seeking to improve security across all our properties. We take all practical steps required to prevent theft.”