Edinburgh Castle is exactly what you would expect a Scottish castle to look like -- standing high on a peak and hard as a rock, with stone walls and ramparts rising out of a volcanic crag. The foundation rock of Edinburgh Castle was cut sheer on three sides by ancient glaciers, creating a natural defensive position that has served as a fortress since the Bronze Age.
The earliest written records document the Northumbrian king Edwin building defenses on this site in the seventh century. Since then, Edinburgh Castle has been expanded and rebuilt numerous times, in accordance with the course of war and the needs of the army.
The castle walls encompass a military fortress, a royal residence, prisons, and a history
that ranges from royal births to brutal murders. See more pictures of famous landmarks.
The castle dominates Edinburgh, and in turn it offers spectacular views across the city. Visitors approach on the Esplanade, a parade ground where the stirring summer Military Tattoo is performed. They enter a gate guarded by statues of Scottish resistance hero William Wallace and Robert the Bruce, whose military campaign reestablished Scotland as a separate kingdom. Above the gate is inscribed the Latin royal motto, Nemo Me Impune Lacessit, which can translate as, "No one attacks me and gets away with it."
Despite the castle's military atmosphere, there is also sanctity here -- in a 12th-century chapel built to honor the saintly Queen Margaret, renowned for her charity to beggars. The simple, spare place of worship probably looks much as it did in her time.
History was written in the palace area of the castle, in a modest chamber where Mary, Queen of Scots, gave birth to the son who would become James VI of Scotland and James I of England. Mary came to the castle for this event because of its symbolic role as the seat (although not the residence) of Scottish royalty.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Jerry Camarillo Dunn Jr., has worked with the National Geographic Society for more than 20 years, starting as a staff editor, writer, and columnist at Traveler magazine, then writing travel guides. His latest work is National Geographic Traveler: San Francisco. Dunn’s Smithsonian Guide to Historic America: The Rocky Mountain States has sold more than 100,000 copies. His travel pieces appear in newspapers such as the Chicago Tribune and The Boston Globe. Jerry Dunn's stories have won three Lowell Thomas Awards from the Society of American Travel Writers -- the highest honor in the field. He also wrote and hosted a pilot episode for a travel show produced by WGBH, Boston's public television station.