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Everything You Need to Know About Edinburgh Castle

Everything You Need to Know About Edinburgh Castle

Edinburgh Castle is one of the most-renowned tourist attractions all over the world. Set in the heart of Scotland, it was built in the 11th century and has been home to kings and queens for several centuries. 

Visiting Edinburgh Castle has always been on the list of top things to do when traveling to Europe — specifically, Scotland. 

In this article, we’ll guide you on everything you need to know about visiting Edinburgh Castle, so you can have a fun and unforgettable trip.

What is the best time of day to visit Edinburgh Castle
Photo by Walkerssk from Pixabay

What is the best time of day to visit Edinburgh Castle?

The best time of day to visit Edinburgh Castle is early morning, especially if you plan to steer away from the crowd. Another option is to come after 1:00pm, which is an equally-quiet time to explore the grounds.

Also, note that Edinburgh Castle receives more than 2 million visitors per year. This may mean that certain times, specifically during weekends and holidays, may mean larger crowds.

Hence, make sure to plan your schedule ahead so you can relish each moment spent inside the castle. 

How does one get to Edinburgh Castle
Photo by 12019/10255 from Pixabay

How does one get to Edinburgh Castle?

To get to Edinburgh Castle, you can go via bus, rail, tram, car, or bicycle. Here are the specific routes to take for each.

Traveling to Edinburgh Castle By Bus

traveling by bus is one of the best modes of transportation to get to Edinburgh Castle. You can choose between three bus routes: airport express bus, bus tours or local buses. 

Airport Express Bus

Airport Express Bus
Photo by Eddy McGurty from Pinterest

Get off at: Waverley Bridge

Upon arrival at the Edinburgh airport, you can take the Airlink 100 express bus. 

This transfers you directly from the airport to the city centre where Edinburgh Castle is closely located.

Airlink 100 express bus gets you off at Waverley Bridge and it takes 25 minutes of travel from the airport to Waverley Bridge. Therefore, equipping yourself with enough food before boarding is recommended.

From Waverley Bridge, you can either take a bus or taxi that will take you 3-4 minutes to Edinburgh Castle, or you can just simply walk since it’s just a few steps away.

Expect to walk around 9 minutes after arriving at Waverley Bridge. Here’s a quick guide on how to get to Edinburgh Castle from Waverley Bridge by foot: 

  • Head south on Waverley Bridge
  • At the roundabout, take the 2nd exit onto Market St
  • Continue onto Mound Pl
  • Afterwards, turn slightly left and the road becomes Ramsay Ln
  • Turn right onto Castlehill

Bus Tours

Bus Tours
Photo from Edinburgh Bus Tours

Get off at: Edinburgh Castle

Alternatively, you can also ride bus tours that stop by at the castle. This way, you can easily hop on and off whenever you want. 

Here’s the summarised bus schedule and fare for each bus tour: .

Bus TypeTimetableStart and End PointFare
Edinburgh Tour• 9:00 AM to 4:00 PM 
• from October 3, 2022 to April 1, 2023 
• Leaves every 30 minutes
• Start Point: Melville Monument
• End Point: Burns Monument
• Adult – £16
• Senior (age 60+) – £15
• Child (age 5-15) – FREE

Fare is valid for 24 hours
CitySightseeing Tour• 9:10 AM to 3:40 PM 
• from October 30, 2022 to April 1, 2023 
• Leaves every 30 minutes
• Start Point: Melville Monument
• End Point: Burns Monument
• Adult – £16
• Senior (age 60+) – £15
• Child (age 5-15) – FREE

Fare is valid for 24 hours

Compared to the Edinburgh Tour which has only a live guide in English, the CitySightseeing Tour offers 9 commentary languages such as US English, Chinese, Japanese and more. 

There are also Horrible Histories Children’s commentary, perfect for kids as they can already have fun even on the bus. 

Local Buses

Local Buses
Photo by Garvin Anderson from Pinterest

Get off at: Mound or George IV Bridge

The last option you can try is boarding any local buses with the route of Mound or George IV Bridge. These two stops are also nearby Edinburgh Castle.

Expect to walk around 4-9 minutes to get to Edinburgh Castle. Check the detailed directions for both stops below: 

Mound via Mound Pl (4 minutes):

  • Head west on Mound Pl toward Ramsay Ln
  • Then after Mound Pl, turn slightly left and it becomes Ramsay Ln
  • Turn right onto Castlehill

George IV Bridge via Castlehill (9 minutes):

  • Head west on Merchant St toward Candlemaker Row
  • Turn right onto Candlemaker Row
  • At the roundabout, take the 1st exit onto Cowgatehead
  • Continue onto Grassmarket
  • Cross the road
  • Turn left onto W Bow
  • Continue onto Victoria St
  • Turn left onto Upper Bow
  • At the roundabout, take the 2nd exit onto Castlehill

Travel to Edinburgh Castle: By Tram

Travel to Edinburgh Castle By Tram
Photo by Keld N from Pinterest

Get off at: Princes Street

Aside from buses, trams connecting to the city centre are also available at the airport. They depart every 7 minutes, starting from early morning until late night. 

This 30-minute route takes you to Princes Street, Edinburgh’s main shopping street. Aside from the buzzing market surrounding the area, it is also nearby Edinburgh Castle. 

Expect to consume a 9-minute walk from Princes St. before you arrive at Edinburgh Castle. Here’s a quick guide on how to get there by foot: 

  • Head east on Princes St toward The Mound
  • Turn right onto The Mound
  • Then turn right onto Mound Pl
  • After Mound Pl, turn slightly left and it becomes Ramsay Ln
  • Then turn right onto Castlehill

Whichever way is comfortable to you, taking a time off after air and tram travel for a while can freshen you up before going to Edinburgh Castle. 

Travel to Edinburgh Castle: By Rail

Travel to Edinburgh Castle By Rail
Photo by Daily Mail from Pinterest

Get off at: Waverley or Haymarket Station 

If you’re considering going via rail, make sure to get off at Waverley or Haymarket Station. These two stations are the closest ones to Edinburgh Castle. 

From Waverley Station, expect a 10-minute walk to the castle, while 23 minutes are needed if you travel from Haymarket. 

Here’s a quick guide when you get off from both stations: 

Waverley Station to Edinburgh Castle 

  • Head west toward Waverley Bridge
  • Turn left onto Waverley Bridge
  • At the roundabout, take the 2nd exit onto Market St.
  • Continue onto Mound Pl
  • From Mound Pl, turn slightly left until you reach Ramsay Ln
  • Then proceed right onto Castlehill

Haymarket Station to Edinburgh Castle 

  • Head east on Distillery Ln toward Dalry Rd/A70
  • Turn left onto Dalry Rd/A70
  • Slight left to stay on Dalry Rd/A70
  • Turn right onto Clifton Terrace
  • Continue onto Morrison St/A8
  • Then continue onto Bread St
  • Turn left onto Spittal St
  • Continue onto Castle Terrace
  • At the roundabout, take the 2nd exit onto Johnston Terrace
  • Turn left onto Castle Wynd N
  • Then turn left onto Castlehill

Waverley Station is the main and most central station in Edinburgh. However, if you’re traveling from the west, your best bet is Haymarket Station.

You can also travel by bus or taxi from both stations since it can only take you 1-3 minutes depending on your transportation mode.

Travel to Edinburgh Castle: By Car

Travel to Edinburgh Castle By Car
Photo by zhuzichun from Pexels

If you’re traveling by car, you need to know that Edinburgh Castle has no public parking area. Hence, the nearest parking area for visitors is in Castle Terrace NCP. 

The parking lot is open 24 hours from Monday to Sunday. Here are the detailed parking costs for Castle Terrace NCP: 

HoursPay on the dayPay via the ParkPass App
1 hour1-2 hours£4.95£9.90£3.95£7.90
2-3 hours£14.85£11.85
3-4 hours£19.80£15.80
4-5 hours£24.75£19.75
5-6 hours£29.70£23.70
6-7 hours£34.65£27.65
7-24 hours£35.95£29.95
Evening rate£8.95£7.95

Other public parking areas are also available within the vicinity in case the nearest parking lot is already jam-packed with other tourists. However, Blue Badge holders get a pass to request parking spaces on a first come, first served basis. 

Blue Badges are created for people with disabilities and health conditions, so they can be prioritised in parking areas near their destinations.

Travel to Edinburgh Castle: By Bicycle

Travel to Edinburgh Castle By Bicycle
Photo by Cottonbro Studio from Pexels

Lastly, traveling by bicycle can also get you to Edinburgh Castle. Although, similar to the public parking area, there are no available bicycle racks inside the castle. 

Thus, leaving your bicycle at either Victoria Street, Waverley Station or Chambers Street are your best options if you plan to use a bicycle as your mode of transportation. 

Can you just walk into Edinburgh Castle?

Can you just walk into Edinburgh Castle
Photo by Lasma Plone from Pinterest

You can’t just walk into Edinburgh Castle. Buying a ticket is necessary to roam around the grounds.

However, Edinburgh Castle conducts a one weekend event every year where you can visit for FREE at the end of November. This is advisable if you’re not a holder of any Explorer Pass or Historic Scotland memberships.

This is in observance of St. Andrews weekend celebrations.

In any case, here are some pertinent information on opening hours and ticket prices.

Opening Hours

Edinburgh Castle is open during summer and winter, every year. 

SummerApril 1 to September 309:30 am to 6:00 pm (last admission at 5:00 pm)
WinterOctober 1 to March 319:30 am to 5:00 pm (last admission at 4:00 pm)
January 111:00 am

In observance of Christmas Day, the castle is closed from December 25 and 26 and re-opens on January 1. 

Meanwhile, opening hours for independent museums vary depending on the management.

Ticket Prices

Edinburgh Castle ticket prices depend on whether you buy them at the entrance on the day or online in advance.

Check the full list of offline and online rates below:

Adults (aged 16-24)£21.00
Concession (aged 65+)£17.00
Child (aged 5-15)£12.50
Child Under 5 (aged 0-4)£0.00

Meanwhile, here are the online rates for individual and family packages:

Adults (aged 16-24)£18.00
Concession (aged 65+)£14.50
Child (aged 5-15)£11.00
Child Under 5 (aged 0-4)£0.00
Family Ticket 1 (1 adult and 2 children)£35.50
Family Ticket 2 (2 adults and 2 children)£52.00
Family Ticket 3 (2 adults and 3 children)£61.50

You may purchase tickets online through the website

Who can enter for free:

HM Forces, Carer, STGA and SITOA, Historic Scotland and Explorer Pass holders are free to enter the castle by submitting the following documents upon arrival:

HM ForcesMust provide a valid MOD90 card upon arrival
CarerNo documents needed, but must enter the castle accompanying the visitor with disability
STGA and SITOAMust provide a valid ID upon arrival
Historic Scotland and Explorer Pass holdersNo documents needed, but reservation online is highly recommended to guarantee entry upon arrival

How long is the queue for Edinburgh Castle?

Expect to queue for approximately 15-20 minutes before being admitted to the castle. 

Hence, it is highly advisable to purchase ticket/s online rather than queuing at the entrance for ease of entry. 

Additionally, if you have children with you, queuing may not be the best option as they will probably get bored during the wait. 

Can you take pictures inside Edinburgh Castle?

You may take pictures inside Edinburgh Castle, except in the The Crown Jewels area and The National War Memorial where photography is strictly prohibited.  

Best Places to Visit Inside Edinburgh Castle

Several attractions can be found inside Edinburgh Castle such as The Great Hall, National War Museum and The Royal Palace. 

Here are a few great spots to scout for while exploring Edinburgh Castle!

1. The Great Hall

The Great Hall
Photo from History Victorum

Location: Crown Square

Serving as the home of King James IV in 1511 and military barracks and a hospital until 1886, The Great Hall is one of the most-visited attractions inside the castle. It is famous for its diverse history. 

The Great Hall was originally built for King James IV in 1511, where lots of grand banquets transpired during his time. However, he was killed together with his brother-in-law, King Henry VIII of England, during the Battle of Flodden in 1513. 

Oliver Cromwell’s army apprehended and made the castle their territory in 1650. The Great Hall was last used by the army as a military hospital until they evacuated the castle in 1886. 

Today, The Great Hall displays different kinds of armour and weapons that were used during its military period. 

2. The Royal Palace

The Royal Palace
Photo from Wanderizm

Location: Crown Square

The Royal Palace displays Royal Apartments where tourists can visit during their stay in Edinburgh Castle. 

Like the Great Hall, this attraction was home to several kings and queens. It witnessed the death of Queen Mary of Guise in 1560 and the giving birth of her daughter, Mary Queen of Scots, to James VI in 1566. 

James VI became the first King of Scotland and England in 1603. At just 13 months old, he was already crowned as king and his birth chamber can also be seen in The Royal Palace to this date.

3. Honours of Scotland (The Crown Jewels)

Honours of Scotland (The Crown Jewels)
Photo from Wanderizm

Location: Crown Room

One of the oldest crown jewels in Britain, The Honours of Scotland can be found in the Crown Room. It contains gems, silver, gold and other precious objects such as the sceptre and sword of state.

The Honours of Scotland was created for James V, who wore it during the coronation of Queen Mary of Guise in 1540. However, despite its rich history, it was hidden from 1650-1660 to protect it from being captured by Oliver Cromwell’s army.

Sir Walter Scott found the crown in 1818, which is now displayed at the Crown Room, where other crown jewels are situated.

4. St. Margaret’s Chapel

St. Margaret’s Chapel
Photo from Wanderizm

Location: Just past Whisky and Finest Food Shop

Once the private chapel of the monarchs in the distant past, St. Margaret’s Chapel is now a popular venue for weddings and christenings. Built around 1130, it is one of the oldest buildings in the castle.

King David I established the chapel and named it after his mother, Queen Margaret. 

Additionally, St. Margaret’s Chapel was used as a gunpowder store a long time ago. 

5. One O’clock Gun

One O’clock Gun
Photo from Wanderizm

Location: At the far end of Argyle Battery

Every day at 1:00 pm, the One O’clock Gun is fired, except on Sundays, Good Friday and Christmas Day. This tradition started when businessman John Hewat ushered the idea from Paris to Edinburgh in 1861. 

It was originally a 64-pounder gun, not until a 105mm field gun was brought to the castle in 2001. Ever since, the latter gun was used every day for firing at exactly 1:00 pm.

Located outside Redcoat Cafe, you can enjoy the view and sound of the One O’clock Gun during your visit as long as you make it on time.

6. National War Museum

National War Museum
Photo from Wanderizm

Location: Near Redcoat Cafe

The National War Museum features a huge collection of artefacts, letters from foreign campaigns, chemical warfare suits and more. One of the most famous paintings by Robbert Gibb, The Thin Red Line, is also on display here.

The National War Museum is situated in the Hospital Square. Simply pass through Redcoat Cafe on the right, go straight down the hill and follow the archway. 

The museum is now owned by the National Museums Scotland and it also has a research library inside. 

How much time do you need at Edinburgh Castle?

You’ll need approximately two hours to fully appreciate and explore Edinburgh Castle.

However, you can extend depending on how much you’d like to stay inside.

Is Edinburgh Castle suitable for kids?

Edinburgh Castle is suitable for kids. They can enjoy lots of tourist attractions inside Edinburgh Castle such as the One O’clock Gun, The Great Hall and the National War Museum. 

They can also learn Scottish History during their visit.

Are backpacks allowed in Edinburgh Castle?

Backpacks are allowed inside Edinburgh castle. However, large carriers like suitcases, huge rucksacks and luggages are strictly prohibited, for ease of movement during visiting hours.

The management respects each individual visiting Edinburgh Castle, so make sure to pack accordingly to avoid inconvenience during entrance.

Is Edinburgh Castle worth visiting?

Is Edinburgh Castle worth visiting
Photo by John Smith from Pexels

Edinburgh Castle is worth visiting when in Scotland. It’s one of the best tourist spots in the UK, having recently been voted into the top UK Heritage Attractions during the British Travel Awards.

Tourists and locals love the various attractions inside the castle, as well as the quaint cafes.

With all this information, we hope we have guided you well on everything you need to know about Edinburgh Castle. 

In the meantime, check out our list of other things to do in Edinburgh that you can fit into your day after your tour of the castle. Have a fantastic trip!

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