Edinburgh is a city whose history is written on its face. "The old town, with its irregular houses, stage above stage, seen as we saw it, in the obscurity of a rainy day, hardly resembles the work of men, it is more like a piling up of rocks, and I cannot attempt to describe what we saw so imperfectly but must say the, high as my expectation had been raised, the city of Edinburgh far surpassed all expectations." Wrote Dorothy Wordsworth, sister of the poet William Wordsworth.

Edinburgh Castle
Edinburgh Castle from the West

The Castle Rock was formed by glaciers in the last ice age, thousands of years ago, but the first settlement here dates back to about 1000 BC. Stow's Chronicle dates the foundation of the "Castell of Maydens" 989 B.C. It is thought that the name "Castell of Maydens" was gained because, in legendary times, certain Pictish princesses were kept there for safety. Certainly it has been a convenient place of safety to which to send royalty, right up to the time when Mary, Queen of Scots, was sent to the Castle for security before the birth of her son, King James.

In its earliest form, it was probably a wooden structure similar to that shown in Braveheart (erroneously) but stone walls replaced the timber by the 10th or 11th Century. The rock is unclimbable on most of its sides, although there is access through the western esplanade. The entrance is barred by a portcullis and other medieval devices to confound invaders.

With every century the outward appearance of the Castle has changed, so that its jagged outline today, blotted against the sunset sky, is utterly different from what people from previous centuries would recognise. But still, looking up at the perpendicular cliffs of the Castle Rock and the strong walls and towers and fortifications that seem part of them, one can picture all those stirring scenes - the imprisoned "maydens", the many sieges, the starving patriotic garrisons, the prisoners in their dungeons, the wild escapes ending in liberty or death, and the footsteps of William Wallace ringing on the cobblestones.

The Castle seen from Castle Street

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