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Edinburgh Castle – tickets, prices, timings, guided tours, what to expect

With more than 2 million visitors annually, Edinburgh Castle is Scotland’s most visited tourist attraction.

Resting on Castle Rock, the historic fortress has dominated Edinburgh’s skyline for the last 900 years.

The castle has a rich history dating back to the 12th century and has played a crucial role in Scotland’s history. It has been the residence of kings and queens, a military garrison, a prison, and a military hospital.

The Scottish National War Memorial is also located within the castle and is dedicated to Scottish soldiers who died in various conflicts throughout history.

Edinburgh Castle had been the site of constant conflict between England and Scotland for hundreds of years, so it was almost always under siege.

This article shares everything you must know before booking your tickets for Edinburgh Castle.

What to expect at Edinburgh Castle

As you ascend Castle Rock, you will be treated to breathtaking panoramic views of Edinburgh and its surroundings. The vantage points from the castle walls provide excellent photo opportunities.

Explore the Crown Room to see the Crown Jewels of Scotland, including the Crown, Sceptre, and Sword of State. The Honours of Scotland are displayed in a secure and well-presented exhibit.

You can wander through the Royal Palace, exploring the historic rooms and learning about the castle’s role as a royal residence.

Visit the National War Museum of Scotland to discover Scotland’s military history through various artifacts, exhibits, and interactive displays.

Witness the daily firing of the One O’Clock Gun from the Mills Mount Battery. This tradition has been part of the castle since 1861.

Remember to see the oldest surviving building in Edinburgh, St. Margaret’s Chapel, which provides a glimpse into the early medieval history of the castle.

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Where to book tickets

Tickets for Edinburgh Castle can be purchased online or at the attraction.

Online ticket prices tend to be cheaper than tickets at the venue.

When you buy online, you can avoid the long queues at the attraction’s ticket counters.

When you book early, you also get your preferred time slot.

Because the attraction sells limited tickets, they may sell out during peak days. Booking early helps avoid last-minute disappointments.

How do online tickets work

Once you purchase Edinburgh Castle tickets, they get delivered to your email address.

There is no need to get printouts of the ticket.

You can show the e-ticket on your smartphone when you visit the attraction.

Meet in front of the entrance to Advocates Close, opposite St. Giles’ Cathedral. Look for the black umbrella with the Scotland City Tours’ yellow logo.

Edinburgh Castle ticket prices

Edinburgh Castle guided tour tickets cost £34 for all adults aged 16 to 64 years. 

Kids aged seven to 15 years get a £9 discount and pay a reduced price of £25 for entry, while the younger kids (up to six years) enter for free.

Seniors aged 65 and above also get discounts on their Edinburgh Castle tickets and pay only £31 for entry.

Edinburgh Castle Tickets

Book this popular ticket and discover the home of Mary Queen of Scots on this guided walking tour of Edinburgh Castle.

Admire the 16th-century Great Hall and learn about the bloody history of the kings and queens who lived in this castle.

Stroll on the castle’s promenade and listen to the stories about the castle’s origins and sieges.

Enter the castle and visit the three museums and two prisons.

Proceed to the National Monument to the Fallen of Scotland and a canine cemetery and see the oldest building in the city, the Chapel of Saint Margaret.

Live tour guide is available in German, Spanish, Italian, and English.

The tour is not suitable for people with mobility issues and wheelchair users.

Ticket Prices

Adult Ticket (16 to 64 years): £34
Child Ticket (7 to 15 years): £25
Senior Ticket (65+ years): £31

Infants up to six years old can enter for free.

Check out this guided tour if you want a 10.30 am start.

If you prefer an elaborate private tour of Edinburgh Castle of 8 hours, check this out.

Three Royal Attractions + Bus Tour

This combo is the 48-hour Royal Edinburgh Ticket and is a real money saver. 

If you are visiting Edinburgh for the first time, we highly recommend this Royal attractions combo. 

This ticket gets you to access three of the best attractions in the city:

  • Edinburgh Castle
  • Royal Yacht Britannia
  • Palace of Holyroodhouse

And to top it all, you also get unlimited travel for 48 hours on three of Edinburgh’s hop-on-hop-off bus tours. 

Bonus: If you don’t want to step into Edinburgh Castle but want an excellent tour of the historical, cultural, and architectural aspects of the city, check out this guided walking tour.

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Is Edinburgh Castle free?

For most tourists, entry to Edinburgh Castle is not free. 

But visitors qualifying for the below conditions can enter the Castle without buying a ticket. They –

  1. Are four years and less and are being accompanied by a ticket-purchasing adult
  2. Are accompanied by a Historic Scotland life member
  3. Are still serving (or served) in the British Army
  4. Hold the Historic Scotland Explorer Pass
  5. Have the Royal Edinburgh Ticket, which is a great way to save money

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How to reach Edinburgh Castle

Edinburgh Castle stands on the Castle Rock.

Address: Edinburgh Castle, Castle Hill, Edinburgh, EH1 2NG. Get Directions

You can reach the attraction by car or public transportation.

By Train

Edinburgh has two main stations – Waverley and Haymarket. 

The Castle is 8 minute uphill walk from Edinburgh Waverly, the closest train station. The elevation gained is 50 meters (160 feet). Available trains – Avanti West Coast, Caledonian Sleeper, CrossCountry, LNER, ScotRail, and lumo 

By Bus

Lothian and First are the two most popular companies which run Edinburgh’s public bus transport.

Both share the same bus stops, but the bus numbers differ, and each company has a ticket.

The day buses start at 6 am and run till midnight.

You will need change to buy tickets from the small vending machines on the buses. 

To get to Edinburgh Castle, you must board a bus to The Mound (available buses – 9, 23, and 27) and take a six minute walk. 

West Port with bus number 2 is eight minute walk from the castle.

Princes Street (Stop PV) is 11 minute walk with the maximum number of buses operating on the route – 10, 11, 15, 16, 24, 101, 102, N11, and N16.

Both the popular hop-on, hop-off bus tours in the city – the Edinburgh Bus Tour and City Sightseeing Bus Tour – stop at Edinburgh Castle.

From Airport

If you plan to travel from Edinburgh Airport to the Castle, you can take the Airlink 100 express bus, which offers frequent departures, comfortable seating, and free WiFi.

The bus takes 25 minutes to reach Waverley Bridge, five minutes from Edinburgh Castle. 

The Airlink 100 express bus operates from 4.30 am to 11.55 pm. 

One-way ticket costs £4.50 and round trip ticket cost £7.50. 

Booking your Edinburgh Airport to Edinburgh Castle bus ticket in advance is better. Book Now.

By Car

If you wish to travel by car, turn of Google Maps and get started.

Edinburgh Castle doesn’t have any space where visitors can park their cars. 

The nearest on-street parking is available at NCP Castle Terrace car park, which offers a discounted rate for tourists visiting the Castle. 

If you validate your parking token at the Castle’s audio booth, you get a reduced price of £10 for 5 hours. 

Click here to know more about the nearest parking lots.

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Edinburgh Castle opening hours

During the summer months (1 April to 30 September), Edinburgh Castle opens at 9.30 am and closes at 6 pm.

In winter (1 October to 31 March), the Castle continues to open at 9.30 am but closes early at 5 pm.

On 24 December, the castle opens at 9.30 am and closes at 4 pm.

The last entry is always one hour before closure. 

The Castle is closed on 25 December (Christmas) and 26 December (Boxing Day). 

On 1 January, the Castle opens late – at 11 am and closes at 5 pm. 

Café timings

Redcoat Café opens at 9.30 am every day of the year and closes at 4 pm.

The Tea Rooms open at 10.30 am and close at 4 pm daily.

How long does Edinburgh Castle take

If you buy your tickets in advance and don’t waste time standing at the ticketing counter, you can explore Edinburgh Castle in two hours. 

Visitors who love their own pace are known to start early, take up to 3 hours to walk around the Castle, and then witness the One o’clock gun at 1 pm to finish their tour with a bang.

Best time to visit

The best time to visit Edinburgh Castle is when they open at 9.30 am.

When you start early, you avoid the long entry lines and the crowd at the exhibits inside and use pleasant weather. 

Ticket counter lines at Edinburgh Castle
The lines at the ticket counter can get really long. Image: Earthtrekkers.com

Starting early helps you explore the Castle for three hours (with a café stop thrown in) and reach the One o’clock Gun’s place 15 minutes in advance to get a vantage position. 

Crowd at One OClock Gun at Edinburgh Castle
One o’clock Gun is the most popular attraction at Edinburgh Castle, and most visitors try to end their tour with a bang. Image: Alan Findlay

There are three types of Edinburg Castle tickets you can buy –

Type of Ticket Cost
Guided Tour of Edinburgh Castle £34
The Royal Edinburgh* £65
Secrets of the Royal Mile & Edinburgh Castle £51
*Access Edinburgh Castle, the Royal Britannia and Holyrood Palace with one ticket

Second best time to visit Edinburgh Castle

If you can’t make it in the morning, the next best time to visit Edinburgh Castle is after 2.30 pm. 

By late afternoon, the massive crowd that had stayed on for the booming gun had left. 

And even the large tour groups, most active between 10 am and 3 pm, have already left or are just going. 

This recommendation works perfectly during summer because the Castle closes at 6 pm. 

However, during winter, you may get only two and a half hours to explore the Castle because it closes at 5 pm. 

Worst time to visit Edinburgh Castle

One of Edinburgh Castle’s highlights is the One o’clock gun, fired at 1 pm every day except Sunday. 

Many tourists want to experience this, and that’s why this time of day sees the biggest crowds, especially on a Saturday. 

Buying Edinburgh Castle tickets online saves you up to an hour of waiting in the ticket counter lines. Since there is a lot of walking inside the Castle, buying tickets in advance helps you preserve energy.

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Free guided tours at Edinburgh Castle

All Edinburgh Castle ticket holders qualify for the free guided tour of the Castle, offered by the resident guides throughout the year. 

During summer, the tours set off every 30 minutes; during winter, they set off every hour. 

From April to September, the first tour starts at 9.45 am, and the last set off at 4 pm. 

During the winter months of October to March, the first free tour starts at 10 am, and the last one is scheduled for 3.10 pm. 

These tours last 30 minutes, and you can explore the Castle independently. 

Go to the meeting point through the Portcullis Gate, past the audio booth, where a clock on the right tells the next guided tour.

Find out what’s inside Edinburgh Castle before your visit.

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Edinburgh Castle audio guide

Edinburgh Castle now has a brand new audio guide with stalwarts such as Saoirse Ronan, Bill Paterson, and Andrew Gowar, taking you on a fascinating journey to learn about the Castle, its people, and events. 

You can hire the audio guide from the audio booth in the language of your choice. The prices are –

Adults: £3.5
Discounted ticket holders: £2.5
Kids: £1.5

The guides are available in English, Brazilian, Portuguese, French, Korean, Polish, Russian, German, Italian, Japanese, Simplified Chinese, and Spanish.

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Edinburgh Castle entrance

Edinburgh Castle Entrance
This is the first entrance of Edinburgh Castle. Image: Trekearth.com

Edinburgh Castle’s Esplanade

Right in front of the main entrance of Edinburgh Castle is the Castle’s Esplanade, an ample open space at the end of the Royal Mile.

From this Esplanade, around 300 ‘witches’ got burnt in the 15th and 18th centuries.

Just outside the Edinburgh Castle entrance, you can spot a small cast-iron fountain called the Witches’ Well, which stands testament to one of Edinburgh’s darkest periods. 

Today, this Esplanade gets used for the Edinburgh Military Tattoo, which takes place every summer.

To go beyond the Castle’s main gate, you need tickets. 

Once inside the main entrance, you will also pass through Portcullis Gate, the principal entrance to Edinburgh Castle.

Portcullis Gate at Edinburgh Castle
Portcullis Gate is an entrance inside an entrance – the way it has always been in Castles. Image: Scott Foy

Notice the Lion Rampant crest above the entrance.

Edinburgh Castle map

Edinburgh Castle is massive – at 35,737 square meters, it is one of the world’s top ten largest Castles.

If you have booked an Edinburgh Castle guided tour, there is no need to worry because your guide will know their way around.

However, if you have booked the Hop-on-Hop-off Bus Tour, we recommend taking a printout of the map below or at least bookmarking this page for future use.

KEY to Edinburgh Castle’s plan shown above:

  1. Portcullis Gate
  2. Lang Stairs
  3. Argyle Battery
  4. One O’Clock Gun
  5. National War Museum
  6. Governor’s House
  7. New Barracks
  8. The Royal Scots Dragoon Guards Museum
  9. Museum of the Royal Scots and Royal Regiment
  10. Foog’s Gate
  11. St Margaret’s Chapel
  12. Mons Meg
  13. Dog Cemetery
  14. Argyle Tower
  15. Forewall Battery
  16. Half Moon Battery
  17. David’s Tower
  18. Royal Palace
  19. The Crown Jewels
  20. Great Hall
  21. Scottish National War Museum
  22. Prisons of War Exhibition
  23. Dury’s Battery
  24. Military Prison

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Tripadvisor reviews

Edinburgh Castle is one of the United Kingdom’s top five attractions. 

Tripadvisor users have consistently ranked this highly rated (4.5 out of 5) Castle as the best landmark outside London. 

The three attractions ahead of Edinburgh Castle are the Tower of London, Tower Bridge, and Big Ben – all in London.

Visitor break up at Edinburgh Castle

Fifty percent of the tourists who visit Edinburgh Castle are couples.

This world famous icon of Scotland is also popular with families and groups of friends.

Edinburgh Castle reviews

We have selected two Tripadvisor reviews to give you a sense of what the visitors loved during their visit to Edinburgh Castle. 

It is beautiful

You have to visit Edinburgh Castle. It is amazing. We purchased our tickets early and arrived right when it opened to avoid the crowds. We spent about 4 hours there. There is so much history and beautiful views… it is simply amazing. Wear comfortable walking shoes; it is physically challenging, but we took time and had no issues. It is a must-do in Edinburgh. Mslowin, Florida

Historic must see!

Edinburgh Castle is a must while in Edinburgh. Plan on spending the entire day. Please take the time to enjoy all the fabulous views and museums at this location. Be sure to catch one of the guided tours to take in all the history. The site does a good job posting guides in areas where you can ask questions. Afternoon tea was also a significant part of our visit. The food and service were outstanding. – Gennyvandorn, Oklahoma

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FAQs about Edinburgh Castle

Tourists visiting Edinburgh Castle have a lot of questions, and we try to answer some of them. 

  1. When was Edinburgh Castle built?

    Castle Rock, the volcanic plug in the middle of Edinburgh upon which Edinburgh Castle sits, had been a military base for many centuries. However, in the 12th century, David I, son of Saint Margaret of Scotland, built the first Royal settlement, which many believe was the first version of Edinburgh Castle.

  2. On what is Edinburgh Castle built?

    Edinburgh Castle rests on Castle Rock, which was formed 350 million years ago. It is 130 meters (430 ft) above sea level, with rocky cliffs to the South, West, and North and accessible routes on the East.

  3. Who owns Edinburgh Castle?

    The Scottish Government owns Edinburgh Castle, and Historic Environment Scotland (HES) controls it.HES is an organization responsible for investigating, caring for, and promoting Scotland’s historic environment and, as a result, managing all the country’s monuments.

  4. Who built Edinburgh Castle?

    David I, son of Saint Margaret of Scotland, built the first Royal settlement, Edinburgh Castle.

  5. How old is Edinburgh Castle?

    Edinburgh Castle was built on Castle Rock in 1103, making it more than a 900-year-old Castle.

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This article was researched & written by

Edited by Rekha Rajan & fact checked by Jamshed V Rajan

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