The stunning Edinburgh Castle atop a rock has for centuries presided over the historical city of Edinburgh. Once a prison, it is still an attraction that captivates visitors young or old(er). It offers many interesting sights. How to chose when each of us pulled in a different direction?
Edinburgh Castle has it all
It is well worth taking time to discover Edinburgh Castle. Plan a few hours to immerse yourself in the history and actions that had consequences reaching far beyond Scotland.
If you can avoid the visit in July and especially August, due to huge crowds. If you can’t, brave the masses and don’t skip it.
There’s a reason why it is Scotland’s most-visited paid tourist attraction, take enough time to unravel it.
Since the Iron Age the castle has been commanding attention and for centuries to come it was the cause of upheaval, witness to many extraordinary events and an important military base. Today it is one of the most interesting sights you can visit in Scotland. Not the only one though.
Despite the name this place is far more than just a Castle, it is comprised of several buildings and attractions, there’s the Royal Palace, St Margaret’s Chapel, Scottish National War Memorial and others.
We understand Castles differently
We are a family of four and we are each different. I love history because deep down history is all about stories and some of the greatest stories ever told took place at the Edinburgh Castle.
Hubby is fascinated by the views from the rock that open up and let your eyes roam around the region: from the dark buildings that make the city to the heavy sea and lush bucolic landscape in the backdrop.
The girls, six and four now too have their hearts set on certain places, in general: playgrounds, beaches and castles.
Having already visited the castle years ago, we were eager to share this amazing place with our offspring. With their preconceived notion of Disney fairy tales, they jumped at the mere mention of the word castle. Boy, did it come as a shook to find no princesses or princes, instead there was a prison, a war memorial, armor… After determining it had nothing to do with Elsa, their enthusiasm dwindled down fast. Ours was on the other hand still strong because of our prior visit and due to our love of everything Scottish.
Start with the tour, but beware
Years ago we started our visit with an amazing tour that the Castle organizes and offers for free. It gives a quick overview with many interesting facts and insights that make the buildings spring to life.
You will see a sign with the starting time of the next as you get inside. It’s worth waiting a couple of minutes for the beginning. The guides have extensive knowledge of both the Scottish history as well as all that is on display and know how to convey it in an interesting way.
Did you know that the last time a prisoner was locked in the Castle’s Prisons of War was 12 years ago? When a group of school children locked their teacher up. He was released about an hour later, in a sour mood.
We did the tour with our kids. Since they don’t understand English, no Elsa, me not being able to translate all and listen at the same time, they got bored and wanted to leave.
Somewhere else we might have listened, a year ago we might have considered it. But this was Edinburgh Castle, one of our favorite places in the world. On the spot we decided they were old enough to understand the meaning of our no. It was time for them to suck it up and do it for us. It might sound petty, but it was also a bit of a payback for all the times we had to spend on the playgrounds and other places that do nothing for us.
For a job done, not well, because there was still a lot of huffing and puffing, they had a chance to choose what we do next after the tour, what places in the Castle they wanted to visit. And it was thanks to the tour they’ve learned what was on offer.
Broadening our horizons
It felt good, to reason with them, to be past the stage of their tantrums and plain no’s. But I still needed to justify it to myself, to placate myself for not succumbing to the pressure of obeying their whim. We are all growing up and I am slowly realizing that it’s OK if they are bored on occasion, no harm will come from it, it’s OK to learn to be quiet when they’d perhaps rather run around and it’s more than OK to sometimes put someone else’s needs before theirs.
Besides unless we share different things with them, they are missing out on so much. Life is more than a playground and a beach, they are old enough to discover it. Some they will like, many of them they won’t. Just like with the food they won’t know until they take a bite.
We have successfully taken a bite of Edinburgh Castle, completed our first out of many lessons of compromise and loved it.
You might be wondering, what they ended up choosing once it was their turn. This is their favorite pick and on this I am happy to conclude, we all agreed:
Top 3 places to see according to Cool kidz:
Prisons of War
Apparently we like prisons. Why? Maybe because they make Time out look like a piece of cake. Might be that in the Edinburgh Castle the recreation offers a true glimpse into the times when the prisoners who came from France, America, Spain, the Netherlands, Ireland where confined here. With just a touch of imagination they could learn how it was and appreciate the freedom to just walk away.
Forget Frozen (I wish we could), but this is a perfect chance for kids to get some insight into the real Kings and Queens. The jewels are known as The Honours of Scotland and are a truly breathtaking sight. It was easy picturing them at the coronation of Mary Queen of Scots in 1543. And I bet all three of us closed our eyes for a second and fantasized about trying them on. I admit I did.
The Royal Palace
Just across the entrance leading to the Crown Jewels there’s another part of the Royal Palace. Once it was a richly decorated and furnished place of comfort. Today you’ll have to again resort to your imagination and illustrations to help you picture it. It was here that in 1566 Mary Queen of Scots, gave birth to future king James VI. Having given birth twice before I had no romantic ideas about the act, yet as a Mother I felt a deep bond. A part of history I could understand, relate to.
It was also a story I could easily explain to my daughters: you are standing on the spot where once upon a time a king was born. A king who went on to unite the crowns of Scotland and England. It was impressive, they liked it. It wasn’t an Elsa kind of euphoria but it was the closest we got.
One o’clock Gun
The firing of the One o’clock Gun dates back to 1861. It allowed ships in the Firth of Forth to set the maritime clocks they needed to navigate the world’s oceans. The gun is fired at 1pm every day except Sundays.
There you have it. Let me know in the comments: Have you visited the lovely Edinburgh Castle? What your favorite part was?