Edinburgh Castle Tips for Visiting

8 Tips for visiting Edinburgh Castle

Edinburgh Castle is one of Scotland’s most popular tourist attractions, welcoming 1.76 million visitors in 2016. This imposing monument was built in the 12th century and has acted as a fortress against foreign invaders since then. It is also the home of the Honours of Scotland, the nation’s crown jewels.

Visiting Edinburgh Castle is a great day out for all the family. However careful planning in advance can help visitors to avoid the crowds and enjoy an unforgettable day exploring the many attractions the castle has to offer.

Doing some thorough research before arrival will ensure that all the family has time to enjoy the facilities on offer, whether visiting the city for the weekend or longer. 

1. Buying Tickets

Queues for entrance tickets can be very long in the high season. It is not uncommon to have to wait an hour in line during July and August. A good strategy is to arrive early at the castle when it opens at 9.30 am when queues will be much shorter. Visitors will still need to queue for entrance tickets but the wait is unlikely to be longer than 10 minutes at this time.

However better still why not purchase tickets in advance via the official Edinburgh Castle website? This avoids having to join the queue on arrival. Tickets for adults cost £17 each, with concessions for over 60s at £13.60. Children under 5 go free.

Visitors who belong to English Heritage can enjoy a half price visit in their first year of membership, so don’t forget to bring a membership card along. Audio tours are available in English and a variety of foreign languages, costing £3.50 per adult.

Buying attraction tickets

2. Buy a guide book or take a guided tour

Before visiting the castle it’s a good idea to buy a guide book so that you can plan your visit in advance.

A complimentary guided tour is available several times every day, giving visitors access to a wealth of stories and anecdotes about the history of Edinburgh Castle. Just go to the meeting point near the Portcullis Gate and wait for the next guided tour. There’s also the opportunity to ask questions.

3. Avoid the Weekend

Weekends tend to be the busiest times for visitors since Edinburgh is a popular destination for weekend breaks. The Castle will be significantly quieter for those who choose to visit midweek.

However, for those visiting the city for the weekend, Sunday may be a better choice. The main reason that Sunday is quieter is because the gun is not fired on that day.

Edinburgh Castle Scotland from Princes Street Gardens

4. Avoid August

It’s a good idea to avoid August when planning a visit to the city since the Edinburgh Fringe Festival takes place that month and as a result, the area will be thronged with visitors for this world famous cultural event.

Accommodation in the city will be very hard to find and the price will be higher than normal.

Edinburgh Fringe Festival Fireworks

5. Physical Disability – Book Parking in Advance

If anyone in the party has a physical disability then make sure to check the official website for details of accessible parking, which needs to be booked in advance by phone.

6. Best Time for Photographers

Many visitors are drawn to Edinburgh Castle for the photographic opportunities it offers for taking spectacular shots of the city’s skyline. If photography is your particular passion then it is best to avoid midday when the light is at its brightest.

Instead arrive early morning or perhaps better still late afternoon, a time when photographers will be rewarded with atmospheric shots of the Castle and its surroundings, when the sun is lower in the sky.

The best times to visit are undoubtedly early morning or mid to late afternoon. Arriving at these times gives visitors ample time to explore all the sights. Better still they’ll avoid the long queues for tickets and the large tour parties which can be inconvenient, especially for those visitors wanting to capture the scene using their camera.

Entrance gate to Edinburgh Castle

7. Go straight to the Honours of Scotland

On entry it’s best to go immediately to the Honours of Scotland exhibition since this is one of the main attractions where crowds are likely to congregate.

Visitors should also arrive in good time for the one o’clock firing of the gun, so that they can get a good space the view this ritual. Allow at least 15 minutes to find the best vantage point.

A king's crown

8. Leave Sufficient Time

Edinburgh Castle is a large monument with extensive grounds, so visitors need to leave sufficient time to explore everything that it offers. It is suggested that tourists set aside between two and three hours for their visit. This should be sufficient to explore the castle itself, including the Honours of Scotland exhibition and its grounds.

Last admissions take place one hour before the official closing time. Visitors should check the website for the opening hours since the Castle closes earlier in the low season.

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