The Fascinating Legend of Edinburgh Castle

Edinburgh Castle

Updated On: May 22, 2024 by   Ciaran ConnollyCiaran Connolly

Almost every castle in Scotland has its own history and legends to uncover. Edinburgh Castle is no exception. The historic fortress in Edinburgh, Scotland, can be found on the Castle Rock, which dates back to the Iron Age in the 2nd century AD. The establishment of a royal castle on the rock can be traced back to the reign of David I in the 12th century.

It remained as a royal residence until 1633. By the 17th century, its role was switched from royal residence to military barracks. As one of the most important strongholds in Scotland, Edinburgh Castle has had a turbulent past from the Wars of Scottish Independence in the 14th century to the Jacobite rising of 1745. It was proclaimed as “the most besieged place in Great Britain and one of the most attacked in the world” in 2014 since research revealed that it faced 26 sieges in its 1100-year-old history.

Edinburgh Castle was recognised as a part of Scotland’s national heritage in the 19th century and has since undergone several restoration projects.

Most of the castle’s buildings nowadays go back to the Lang Siege of the 16th century, when its defences were destroyed by artillery bombardment. The castle houses the Scottish regalia, known as the Honours of Scotland and is the site of the Scottish National War Memorial and the National War Museum of Scotland. Its regimental museums also contribute to its status as a tourist attraction.

Edinburgh Castle is Scotland’s most-visited paid tourist attraction, with over 2.1 million visitors and over 70 percent of leisure visitors in 2018.

Some notable attractions include the statues of Robert the Bruce and William Wallace, which were added in 1929.

The Wars of Independence

One of the most tumultuous periods in the history of Edinburgh Castle it occurred during the Wars of Scottish Independence in the late 13th and early 14th centuries. The castle played a pivotal role in the conflict between the Scots and the English, changing hands multiple times as each side sought to gain the upper hand.

One of the most enduring legends associated with Edinburgh Castle dates back to this turbulent era. It is said that during a siege of the castle by English forces, a brave Scottish soldier named Thomas Randolph, disguised as a blacksmith, infiltrated the enemy camp and set fire to their siege engines, turning the tide of the battle in favour of the Scots. This daring heroism earned Randolph’s “Black Agnes” moniker and immortalized his name in Scottish folklore.

What is the Legend of Edinburgh Castle?

The Fascinating Legend of Edinburgh Castle

As most legends do, the legend of Edinburgh Castle involves a mysterious disappearance. A few centuries ago, a young boy was sent down a secret tunnel within the castle to see where it leads. The plan was for him to play his bagpipes, and the people above would know where he was through the sound of the music.

They thought the boy would simply exit from the other side of the underground tunnels beneath the Royal Mile. However, halfway through, the music suddenly stopped. They searched high and low for the boy, but he was never seen again, and nobody could find out why he disappeared.

Hundreds of years later, the young boy is commemorated yearly during ‘The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo’, an annual concert performed by the British Armed Forces, along with Commonwealth and international military bands at Edinburgh Castle. At the end of the event, one piper stands alone on the ramparts of Edinburgh Castle every year, playing a mournful tune on his pipes in commemoration of the young boy who has been lost forever.

But that is not all. Like all legends, there’s a spooky aspect to it.

Some people have reported hearing music coming from inside the Castle’s chambers, and some say they have heard it while walking down the Royal Mile. According to local legends, this is the crying song of a lost soul who has been left, eternally wandering the tunnels, looking for a way out.

More Legends

The Fascinating Legend of Edinburgh Castle

Since its inception, the castle has been situated atop a volcanic plug formed 350 million years ago and served as an early human settlement in the Bronze Age.

Its history of wars and sieges has sparked many legends, one of which is even tied to the Arthurian legends, specifically to the medieval Welsh epic poem Y Gododdin. According to this poem, which dates back to the 7th century AD, a fortress named “The Castle of the Maidens” housed the “Nine Maidens,” one of whom was King Arthur’s protector, the enchantress Morgan le Fay.

A document named the Orygynale Cronykil of Scotland, written by Andrew of Wyntoun, suggests that “Maiden’s Castle” was built by Ebraucus, King of the Britons.

Ghosts and Hauntings

As befits a structure with such a rich and tumultuous history, Edinburgh Castle is reputed to be one of the most haunted places in Scotland. Countless visitors and staff members have reported eerie encounters with spectral entities roaming the fortress’s darkened corridors and shadowy recesses.

One of the most famous ghosts said to haunt Edinburgh Castle is the “One O’Clock Gunner,” a spectral sentry who is said to roam the castle ramparts, perpetually reliving his duty of firing the time signal cannon at precisely one o’clock each day. Another legendary figure is the “Headless Drummer,” whose spectral drumming is said to foretell imminent disaster or tragedy.

Despite sceptics’ scepticism, these ghostly apparitions continue to fuel the imagination of believers and sceptics alike, adding an aura of mystery and intrigue to Edinburgh Castle’s historic precincts.

The Pearl of Scotland

Edinburgh Castle | Edinburgh | Scotland | Things to Do in Edinburgh | Edinburgh Attractions

Edinburgh Castle, as we know it today, dates from the 12th century, when David I, the son of Saint Margaret of Scotland, established it in loving memory of his mother.

In 1070 AD, Scottish King Malcolm III married an English princess named Margaret. Margaret was beautiful and generous, so much so that she was known as Saint Margaret of Scotland or “The Pearl of Scotland.”

When her husband died in battle, she became grief-stricken and heartbroken. She died days later, and her son David and I constructed the castle on Castle Rock with its chapel in her memory.

Royal Residences and Intrigues

Throughout its long and storied history, Edinburgh Castle has served as a royal residence for Scottish monarchs, providing a backdrop for royal ceremonies, lavish banquets, and political intrigues. The castle’s sumptuous Great Hall, with its soaring timber roof and intricately carved furnishings, bears witness to centuries of regal pomp and pageantry.

One of the most infamous episodes in the history of Edinburgh Castle occurred in the 16th century during the reign of Mary, Queen of Scots. Following her forced abdication, Mary was imprisoned within the castle, accused of treason and plotting against her cousin, Queen Elizabeth I of England. Her captivity within the grim confines of Edinburgh Castle symbolized the turbulent political landscape of Renaissance Europe, where power struggles and dynastic rivalries often culminated in tragedy.

A Turbulent Past

As conflicts continued between England and Scotland towards the end of the 12th century, Edinburgh and its castle became the focus of the invaders. It became apparent that whoever held the stronghold in their grasp controlled the city of Edinburgh and Scotland. The castle then earned the title “the defender of the nation”.

When Robert the Bruce laid siege to Edinburgh Castle in 1314, he almost destroyed every building within the castle except for Margaret’s Chapel, now considered the oldest surviving building in Scotland.

England continuously tried to siege and take hold of the castle; one of those sieges was against Mary, Queen of Scots, in 1573, which lasted for two full years. In 1650, the infamous Oliver Cromwell succeeded in his attempts to capture the castle, killing Charles I, the last monarch to rule Scotland from Edinburgh.

Afterwards, Edinburgh Castle was turned into a prison, where thousands of military and political prisoners were held over the years, including those from the Seven Years’ War, the American Revolution, and the Napoleonic Wars.

Nowadays, millions of people worldwide travel to Scotland to visit its numerous world heritage sites, attend music festivals and historical re-enactments, and learn about its mysterious tales and legends.

Edinburgh Castle is known as the most haunted castle in the city, so it’s no surprise it has so many visitors year-round.

Edinburgh Castle Opening Times:

  • April 1st to September 30th – 9:30 am – 6:00 pm
  • October 1st to March 21st – 9:30 am – 5:00 pm

Last entry one hour before closing time.

Ticket Prices:

Gate Prices:

  • Adult – £22
  • Concession – £17.60
  • Child – £13.20

Online Prices

  • Adult – £19.50
  • Concession – £15.50
  • Child – £11.40

A child ticket is for ages between 5 – 15. Concessions include the unemployed and over-60s.

Conclusion

The legend of Edinburgh Castle is a tapestry woven from the threads of history, myth, and folklore. From its ancient origins as a Celtic stronghold to its role as a royal residence and military fortress, the castle has stood as a silent witness to the ebb and flow of Scottish history.

Today, Edinburgh Castle remains one of Scotland’s most iconic landmarks, attracting millions of visitors from around the world who come to marvel at its imposing battlements, explore its ancient chambers, and immerse themselves in the rich tapestry of legends and lore that enshrouds this venerable fortress. As long as Edinburgh Castle stands atop its rocky perch, the legend will endure, a testament to the enduring spirit of Scotland and its people.

Have you ever visited Edinburgh Castle? Comment below about your experience and your favourite part of the Scottish Gem.

If you enjoyed this, check out more of our blogs:

Leap Castle: One of the Most Notoriously Haunted Castles | Irish Castles: Where History and Paranormal Activity| Legendary Castles in Ireland: The Truth Behind The Irish Urban Legends

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