At 1:00 PM everyday a gun is fired from the walls of Edinburgh castle to signal one o’clock. Why one o’clock and not 12 noon was one of the details I dicovered on my free public tour and visit to the castle. The Edinburgh castle is massive and still considered a military base. Men in kilts march in and out carrying modern small arms as well as pikes and swords. They are there partly to protect “the honors” or Crown Jewels of Scotland which are on public display. I was a cold and windy day. While my home town of Ithaca NY was experiencing temperatures in the 90″ – I was being blown around the castle walls by cold winds
Edinburgh castle has a highland regiment stationed there. Not many troups are visible but they have their own barracks. In part they are there to protect the Crown Jewels of Scotland – (sorry they don’t allow photos but you can check a link), http://www.edinburghcastle.gov.uk/discover/highlights/crown-jewels
The castle is an impressive sight that dominates the skyline of Edinburgh from almost every viewpoint. However it is not the stone walls and fortifications that were the most interesting sight to me. The castle contains a chapel older than the castle itself. The chapel of St Margret was build in the 12th century and is the oldest building in Edinburgh. St. Margret fled north to Edinburgh from England after the Norman conquest of 1066. This little chapel was her sanctuary and place of prayer. The small, vaulted chapel has a very peaceful air even though it is surrounded by cannons and fortifications. It is tiny – the size of a small bedroom. St Margret’s prayer book is on display off to one side behind glass. Currently the chapel is cared for by a guild of women all of whom have to have the name of Margret.
It seems a bit ironic that such a peaceful chapel should have one of the world’s largest cannons just outside its walls. Mons Meg is a “bombard” a large, ancient cannon usually set up on the ground in order to handle the recoil. A bombard is used to break down castle walls. Mons Meg can fire a 20 inch stone ball a distance of two miles. The last time Mons Meg was fired was in the 1600’s to celebrate an event. Too much gunpowder burst the barrel.
However the castle has a number of backup cannons lined up along the walls.
Including a modern one that actually fires one blank round every day at 1 o’clock
Why not 12 0’clock? Because, as our guide to the castle explained on the free tour, “We Scotts are careful with our money and it would cost a lot more to fire 12 times than once.”
I did’t photograph the working cannon, nor did it stick around till 1. I had arrived at around 9 AM when the castle opened and it was quite chilly with the wind whipping around the walls. One section of the wall was marked with a sort of warning that stated that there were times when the wall could not be manned due to high winds – the soldiers would be
blown off. It was a windy day and I was pushed around up there and quickly decended because I did not feel entirely safe.
There were a lot of inside places to explore. Here are some photos:
The walls of the main hall were lined with swords, shields and black powder pistols such as the decorative pistols that circle the shield in the middle of the wall below.
Probably the coolest thing about Edinburgh castle is that it is still a castle – a military fortification with military barracks.
The position of the castle, it’s massive walls, and the commanding views from all sides give one an impression of solidity and permanence. However over the past thousand years, heavy fighting has caused the destruction and rebuilding of the castle many times. Even before the castle was build there is evidence of settlements back to the Iron Age. Therefore, it is possible that this piece of land has been the longest continually occupied habitation in Scotland.