With more than 2 million visitors annually, Edinburgh Castle is the most visited tourist attraction in Scotland.
Resting on Castle Rock, the historic fortress has dominated Edinburgh’s skyline for the last 900 years.
Edinburgh Castle had been the site of constant conflict between England and Scotland for hundreds of years, so it was almost always under siege.
In this article, we explain everything you must know before you book your Edinburgh Castle tickets.
Table of contents
- Edinburgh Castle entrance
- Edinburgh Castle hours
- Best time to visit Edinburgh Castle
- How long does Edinburgh Castle take
- Is Edinburgh Castle free?
- Edinburgh Castle prices
- Edinburgh Castle tickets discount
- Edinburgh Castle tickets
- Free guided tours at Edinburgh Castle
- Edinburgh Castle audio guide
- Edinburgh Castle map
- Tripadvisor reviews
- How to reach Edinburgh Castle
- Edinburgh Castle FAQs
Edinburgh Castle entrance
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 into Edinburgh Castle.
Notice the Lion Rampant crest above the entrance.
Edinburgh Castle hours
During the summer months (1 Apr to 30 Sep), Edinburgh Castle opens at 9.30 am and closes at 6 pm.
In winter (1 Oct to 31 Mar), the Castle continues to open at 9.30 am but closes early at 5 pm.
The last entry is always one hour before closure.
Redcoat Cafe opens at 9.30 every day of the year. In summer the last order is accepted at 5 pm and in winter at 4 pm.
The Tea Rooms open at 9.30 am in summer and close at 5 pm, and in winter it opens at 10.30 am and closes at 4 pm.
When is Edinburgh Castle closed?
The Castle is closed on 25 Dec (Christmas) and 26 Dec (Boxing Day).
On 1 Jan, the Castle opens late – at 11 am and closes at 5 pm.
Best time to visit Edinburgh Castle
The best time to visit Edinburgh Castle is as soon as they open at 9.30 am. You must buy Edinburgh Castle entry tickets in advance and join the line at 9 am itself.
When you start early, you avoid the long entry lines and the crowd at the exhibits inside, and you also make use of the pleasant weather.
Starting early helps you explore the Castle for three hours (with a cafe stop thrown in) and reach the One o’clock Gun’s place 15 minutes in advance to get a vantage position.
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 just after 2.30 pm.
By late afternoon, the massive crowd that had stayed on for the booming gun have left.
And even the large tour groups, who are most active between 10 am and 3 pm, have already left or are just leaving.
This recommendation works perfectly during the summer months 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, which is 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.
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 the whole 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.
When you buy Edinburgh Castle tickets online, you save yourself up to an hour of waiting in the ticket counter lines.
Is Edinburgh Castle free?
For most of the tourists, entry to Edinburgh Castle is not free.
But if visitors qualify any of the below conditions, they can enter the Castle without buying a ticket –
- Are four years and less and are being accompanied by a ticket purchasing adult
- Are accompanied by a Historic Scotland life member
- Are still serving (or served) in the British Army
- Hold the Historic Scotland Explorer Pass, which is a great way to save money
- Have the Royal Edinburgh Ticket, which is yet another money saver
Edinburgh Castle prices
The cheapest Edinburgh Castle entrance ticket costs 17.50 Pounds for all adults aged 16 to 59 years.
Senior visitors aged 60+ years pay the entrance fee of 14 Pounds while kids from 5 to 15 years end up paying 10.50 Pounds.
Edinburgh Castle’s guided tours are costlier – they are priced at 32 Pounds for everybody above the age of 16 years.
Guided tour tickets for students with valid IDs are priced at 30 Pounds, while kids 5 to 15 years end up paying 21 Pounds for their entry.
Edinburgh Castle tickets discount
The most significant Edinburgh Castle discount is reserved for kids four years and below – they don’t need tickets to enter.
The next best reductions are reserved for kids aged 5 to 15 years – on the regular ticket they get a 40% discount, and on the guided tour ticket they get a 35% discount.
The seniors who are 60+ years only get a discount (of 2.5 Pounds) on the self-guided ticket.
Students can claim a 2 Pound reduction on their ticket price if they can display their valid student ID card.
Edinburgh Castle tickets
Here are a few things you must know about Edinburgh Castle tickets before you book them.
Online tickets are cheaper
Online tickets are cheaper than the same-day tickets at the venue – when you buy tickets online, you pay 2 Pounds less per person.
You end up paying 2 Pounds extra for every person at the venue because a ‘ticketing window surcharge’ gets added – the cost of maintaining a ticket window.
Edinburgh Castle tickets are timed
Tickets at Edinburgh Castle are timed, which means you need to opt for a time slot while booking the ticket.
To gain entry, you must be at the Castle’s entrance within 30 minutes of the time mentioned on your ticket.
When you book your tickets online and in advance, you stand a better chance of getting your preferred time slot.
Smartphone tickets are accepted
You don’t need to worry about carrying a printout of the ticket.
You can show your tickets in your email, on your mobile, and walk into the Castle.
Booking in advance helps
Edinburgh Castle gets more than two million visitors every year, and that’s an average of 5500 tourists every day.
During peak season and weekends, this number goes up drastically.
That’s why it is better to purchase Edinburgh Castle tickets at least one to two weeks in advance.
There are many ways to explore Edinburgh Castle, and we explain all of them below –
Edinburgh Castle entry tickets
This skip-the-line ticket offers the cheapest entry into Edinburgh Castle.
It gets you access to all attractions within Edinburgh Castle, including the National War Museum, Stone of Destiny, Crown Jewels, One O’Clock Gun, etc.
With this ticket, you also qualify for the 30-minutes free guided tour (in English), which gets offered on a first-come, first-serve basis.
Adult ticket (16 to 59 years): 17.50 Pounds
Seniors ticket (60+ years): 14 Pounds
Youth ticket (5 to 15 years): 10.50 Pounds
Infant ticket (up to 4 years): Free entry
Edinburgh Castle guided tour
During this Edinburgh Castle tour, a local history expert helps you skip the long lines and takes you around the attraction.
The guide narrates stories of the kings, queens, lovers, and soldiers that lived behind the fortress walls during this 90 minutes tour.
You must choose between two time slots – 10 am and 2 pm.
After the guided tour is over, you can continue to explore the insides of the Castle.
Adult ticket (16+ years): 32 Pounds
Student ticket (16+, with valid ID): 30 Pounds
Child ticket (5 to 15 years): 21 Pounds
Infant ticket (up to 4 years): Free entry
If you want a 10.30 am or a 1.30 pm time slot, check out this guided tour.
Private tour of Castle
This ticket gets you a 3-hour private tour of Edinburgh Castle and the historic buildings in Edinburgh’s Old Town.
This tour starts at 9.30 am, and the local guide customizes it depending on your interest.
Since a lot of walking will be involved, it is best to wear comfortable shoes.
1 person: 245 Pounds
2 people: 275 Pounds
3 people: 308 Pounds
4 people: 330 Pounds
5 people: 355 Pounds
If you prefer an even more elaborate private tour of Edinburgh Castle, check this out.
Three Royal attractions + bus tour
This combo is known as 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.
Free guided tours at Edinburgh Castle
All Edinburgh Castle ticket holders qualify for the free guided tour of the Castle, which is offered by the resident guides all through the year.
During summer, the tours set off every 30 minutes, and during winter, every hour.
From April to September, the first tour starts at 9.45 am, and the last one sets 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, after which you can continue to explore the Castle on your own.
Go to the meeting point, which is through the Portcullis Gate, past the audio booth, where there is a clock on the right telling the next guided tour.
Find out what’s inside Edinburgh Castle before your visit.
Edinburgh Castle audio guide
Edinburgh Castle now has a brand new audio guide, which has 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 in the language of your choice from the audio booth. The prices are –
Adults: 3.5 Pounds
Discounted ticket holders: 2.5 Pounds
Kids: 1.5 Pounds
The guides are available in English, Brazilian, Portuguese, French, Korean, Polish, Russian, German, Italian, Japanese, Simplified Chinese, and Spanish.
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, no need to worry because your guide will know their way around.
However, if you have booked the self-guided tour, we recommend taking a printout of the map below or at least bookmark this page for future use.
KEY to Edinburgh Castle’s plan shown above:
- Portcullis Gate
- Lang Stairs
- Argyle Battery
- One O’Clock Gun
- National War Museum
- Governor’s House
- New Barracks
- The Royal Scots Dragoon Guards Museum
- Museum of the Royal Scots and Royal Regiment
- Foog’s Gate
- St Margaret’s Chapel
- Mons Meg
- Dog Cemetery
- Argyle Tower
- Forewall Battery
- Half Moon Battery
- David’s Tower
- Royal Palace
- The Crown Jewels
- Great Hall
- Scottish National War Museum
- Prisons of War Exhibition
- Dury’s Battery
- Military Prison
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 that are ahead of Edinburgh Castle are the Tower of London, Tower Bridge, and Big Ben – all in London.
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 in advance and got there right when it opened to avoid the crowds. We spent about 4 hours there. So much history, beautiful views… it is simply amazing. Wear comfortable walking shoes, it is physically challenging, but we just took our 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 and catch one of the guided tours to take in all the history. The site does a good job posting guides in areas to ask questions. Afternoon tea was also a significant part of our visit. The food and service were outstanding. – Gennyvandorn, Oklahoma
How to reach Edinburgh Castle
Address: Edinburgh Castle, Castle hill, Edinburgh, EH1 2NG. Get Directions
Edinburgh has two main stations – Waverley and Haymarket.
Edinburgh Castle is 10 minutes uphill walk from Waverly, the closest train station. The elevation gained is 50 meters (160 feet).
Haymarket Station is to the west of Princes Street and is 1.6 Km (1 mile) from the Castle. A brisk 22-minute walk gets you to the attraction.
We suggest you travel to these stations on Scotrail’s trains.
Both share the same bus stops, but the bus numbers are different, and each company has its 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.
From The Mound (Stop MD), the Edinburgh Castle is a seven minutes walk, and from the George IV Bridge stop, it is a six-minute walk.
Airport to Edinburgh Castle
The bus takes 25 minutes to reach Waverley Bridge, which is five minutes walk from Edinburgh Castle.
The Airlink 100 express bus operates from 4.30 am to 11.55 pm.
One-way ticket costs 4.50 Pounds and return tickets cost 7.50 Pounds.
It is better to book your Edinburgh Airport to Edinburgh Castle bus ticket in advance. Book Now
Edinburgh Castle parking
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 Pounds for 5 hours.
Edinburgh Castle FAQs
Tourists visiting Edinburgh Castle have a lot of questions, and we try to answer some of them.
- 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.
- On what is Edinburgh Castle built?
Edinburgh Castle rests on Castle Rock, a rock that got 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.
- Who owns Edinburgh Castle?
The Scottish Government owns the Edinburgh Castle, and the 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, manage all the country’s monuments.
- Who built Edinburgh Castle?
David I, son of Saint Margaret of Scotland, built the first Royal settlement, which would become Edinburgh Castle.
- How old is Edinburgh Castle?
Edinburgh Castle got built on Castle Rock in 1103, which makes it a 900-year-old Castle.