Chained prison doors in the recreated prisons of war

Military March

Many have tried to besiege this mighty fortress – and some succeeded. Discover Edinburgh Castle’s military connections, which continue today.


  1. Yett and studded door at the Portcullis Gate

    Portcullis Gate

    Pass beneath the spikes of a raised portcullis. This fortified gateway was built almost 450 years ago in the wake of the devastating Lang Siege. Three sets of heavy wooden doors once sat alongside the iron gate to ward off intruders. The top floor – Argyle Tower – was added in the 1880s. Look for the lions, a symbol of royalty.

  2. Exterior view of Argyle Tower

    Fight for the Castle - Argyle Tower

    The Argyle Tower (which shows the exhibition) is currently closed. Telling the story of Edinburgh Castle in the Wars of Independence, this exhibition uses animations, projections and medieval objects found here to bring this dramatic episode in the stronghold’s heritage to life. The vaulted chamber is dominated by a huge model trebuchet that towers above a stone ball believed to have been fired at the castle during the siege of 1296, the first time such giant catapults are recorded as being used in Scotland. The exhibition sits directly above the gateway that was the focus of a daring attack at the end of the siege of 1341.

  3. View of the Lang stairs by the Argyle Tower and Portcullis Gate

    Lang Stairs

    Count all 70 steps on the most direct route to the summit of the Castle Rock. This great flight of stairs once formed the original entrance to the castle. The gentler alternative route that winds up and around the cobbled hill was created in the 1600s for moving heavy guns.

  4. Picture of Scamp the dogs gravestone with a flower

    Dog Cemetery

    Dobbler and Winkle are among the four-legged friends buried here since the 1840s. Some of the dogs were regimental mascots, others the beloved pets of army officers or even the castle governor. It wasn’t unheard of for a hound to travel the world on campaign with its military master.

  5. General view of Mons Meg

    Mons Meg

    Stare down the barrel of this six-tonne siege gun and imagine its awesome power. Given to King James II in 1457, Mons Meg could fire a 150kg gunstone for up to 3.2km (2 miles). One fired over the city to celebrate the marriage of Mary Queen of Scots landed in what is now the Royal Botanic Garden.

  6. General view of the Half Moon Battery

    Half Moon Battery

    It is the curved rampart of the Half Moon Battery that gives Edinburgh Castle its distinct profile. This imposing structure was built over and around what was left of David’s Tower following the Lang Siege of 1573. For more than 200 years, bronze guns known as the Seven Sisters armed the battery.

  7. View of Scott's Monument on Princes Street from the Forewall battery

    Forewall Battery

    Check out where the cannons on this battery are aimed. Built in the 1540s, the structure roughly takes the line of the castle’s medieval defences. The iron basket once held a beacon, which was lit to raise the alarm. The Fore Well, almost 34m deep, was the castle’s main water supply from the early 1300s.

  8. General view of David's Tower

    David's Tower

    Descend below the Half Moon Battery to see the remains of what had been the heart of the castle in the late 1300s. Though King David II died before his colossal tower was complete, it served as the royal residence for nearly 100 years. Destroyed in the Lang Siege, only atmospheric ruins survive today.

  9. Interior of the Great Hall as restorted in the 1880s

    The Great Hall

    Gaze up at the original hammerbeam roof and carved stone corbels of the impressive hall where King James IV held state ceremonies. Completed in 1511, the Great Hall was restored to its former glory in the 1880s – though its roof was left untouched. A remarkable collection of weapons and armour is on display.

  10. Exterior view of the Scottish National War Memorial, situated in Crown Square

    Scottish National War Memorial

    Reflect on the sacrifice made by those who fell in the First and Second World Wars and subsequent military campaigns. This remarkable memorial was opened in 1927, drawing on the talents of some of Scotland's finest artists and craftsmen and women.

  11. Fireplace within the French prisoners vault in the recreated prisons of war. This original grate bears the cypher of George III (1760-1820)

    Prisons of War Exhibition

    Pirates and prisoners of war were held in the vaults below the Great Hall in the 1700s and 1800s. Learn about the sailors locked up here, among them many Americans and a five-year-old French drummer boy captured at the Battle of Trafalgar. One successful escape attempt saw 48 inmates flee.

  12. Interior view of a cell in the Military prison

    Military Prison

    Peek inside this tiny Victorian prison, housing just 16 cells. ‘Drunk on guard’ was one of the offences that could get a soldier locked up. Inmates had to endure solitary confinement and hard punishment such as working a treadmill for hours on end.

  13. Exterior view of The Royal Scots Museum

    Royal Scots Museum

    Explore the heritage of the Royal Scots, until recently the British Army’s oldest serving regiment. This independent museum’s stories span more than 350 years of campaigning. Learn how the regiment earned the nickname ‘Pontius Pilate’s bodyguard’ as well as the six Victoria Crosses on display.

  14. Entrance to the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards military museum

    Royal Scots Dragoon Guards Museum

    Delve into the history of the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards, the senior Scottish regiment in the British Army. Treasures in this independent museum include a French Eagle and Standard taken at the Battle of Waterloo. See the epic cavalry charge that led to their capture in a painting in the Great Hall.

  15. Exterior view of the Governor's House

    Governor's House

    Admire the elegant exterior of the Georgian lodgings built in 1742 for the castle’s governor. The house is still used for its original purpose and so isn’t open to visitors. Ordnance Survey’s origins may stem from the basement: mapmaker William Roy stayed here during the Military Survey of Scotland.

  16. Views of the New Barracks. Built in 1796 to replace the outdated soldiers barracks in the Great Hall

    New Barracks

    A full infantry battalion – some 600 men – was once housed in this seven-storey building. It was built in response to the threat of a French invasion, but the Napoleonic Wars ended not long after its completion. As the military continues to use the New Barracks today, it is off limits to visitors.

  17. Sign for the National War Museum of Scotland

    National War Museum

    Take in Scotland’s proud military history from the 1600s to the present day. Get up close to iconic paintings like The Thin Red Line and see military kilts and bagpipes and modern-day weaponry. Say hello to Bob the regimental dog and find out how he earned his medal in the Crimean War.

  18. General view of the Argyle Battery

    Argyle Battery

    Stand on a six-gun battery built in the 1730s. Its open outlook to the north provided an ideal vantage point for defending the castle. The cannons in position date from about 1810, the time of the Napoleonic Wars with France. Take a moment to admire the sweeping views over the city and towards Fife.

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