Edinburgh Castle is, of course, as much of a symbol of Scotland as kilts, bagpipes and haggis. It is also a venerably ancient building with a long and bloody history.
The first wooden fortress erected on the massive volcanic plug that is Castle Hill was built in the 11th century by Malcolm III. The earliest part of the building still surviving is the Chapel dedicated to St. Margaret which is 12th century. The first siege occurred in 1093 when Donald Bane besieged the Castle in a bid for the Scottish throne.
After William the Lion's abortive campaign came to an end at Alnwick, Edinburgh Castle was garrisoned by the English and remained so until 1313 when a Scottish force, incredibly, scaled the rock and took the Castle by surprise. The Castle was slighted, but the English were back and in control again quickly. In 1341 a Scots force, disguised as merchants, took the Castle once more. The Castle was rebuilt extensively by David II in the 1360s and it is his Castle that forms the core of today's building.
In 1440 one of the darkest deeds at the Castle occurred when young Earl Douglas and his brother were murdered during the so-called "Black Dinner". This resulted in a nine-month siege by the Douglases which badly damaged the Castle.
A new Great Hall was built in 1483. In 1566 Mary, Queen of Scots, gave birth to the future James VI and I in the Castle. When she abdicated the Castle was besieged by a protestant force who, with English help, forced the Castle to surrender in 1573. The Castle was subjected to yet another extensive rebuild.
The Castle was besieged twice in the Civil War, once by a force of Covenanters in 1640 for three months and then ten years later by Cromwell. After the Restoration Charles II refortified the Castle. It was besieged by the Jacobites in both the rebellions (1715 and 1745) but on both occasions withstood the attack. The 1745 was the last siege at Edinburgh Castle.
Today the Castle is the home to a fascinating array or rooms, ramparts and halls; the Scottish crown jewels and many many ghosts the most famous being the headless drummer and the dog who is buried in the pets' graveyard in the Castle.
The Castle is owned by Historic Scotland and is open throughout the year.
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