Edinburgh castle: is it worth visiting in 2023?

It’s a site that’s dominated the dreams of people waiting to visit the Scottish capital city – Edinburgh castle also dominates in real life too!

Commanding the city that has grown round it, Edinburgh Castle draws tourists to it like moths to a flame. It’s rightly on many people’s bucket list when visiting the city!

When I’ve visited Edinburgh Castle over the years I’ve always tried to make it worth the time, effort and money to visit – not always easy with kids in tow!

It’s part of a UNESCO world heritage site in the UK and recognisable the world round as one of the top Edinburgh landmarks to see when on vacation!

A note from the writer: Hey! I’m Kirsty and I’m a UK travel expert – while I grew up in Scotland, as an adult I now return to visit almost every year – there’s so much to see! Shout (or comment below) if you have any questions about your next trip and I’ll get back to you ASAP.

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Visiting Edinburgh Castle Is it worth it
The entrance to Edinburgh Castle

Quite often I find that many people visiting Edinburgh get frustrated with these big sights and so it’s always worthwhile taking some time to see how to make it worth visiting.

If you’re looking at Edinburgh Castle as a day out when in the city and wondering whether it’s worth visiting, this is the post for you as it has a tonne of tips and information that will make you informed and ready to make the most of the attraction!

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Read on for answers to my most asked question about Edinbugh Castle – is it worth visiting?

Photo credits – my daughter, Alex, took a solo trip to Edinburgh and had amazing weather for her Edinburgh Castle trip – so I borrowed her photos! You might like her great post on Harry Potter Sites in Edinburgh

Edinburgh Castle – is it worth visiting?

YES! The Castle is a real gem in Scotland’s past with over 3000 years of history, being the birthplace of James VI (Mary, Queen of Scots son) and now being an iconic tourist site!

It can get busy and over touristy, but if you go with an open mind you’ll love it! If you’re traveling to Scotland with kids then don’t worry as they will love it too with lots of trails and kid friendly activities.

View from Edinburgh Castle

Visiting Edinburgh Castle – FAQs

How much are tickets

These are the current ticket costs for Edinburgh Castle – as you can see it only is a little more for getting a skip the line ticket and a bit of a guided tour alongside. It can be well worth that!

If you’re planning a visit to the Royal Yacht and/or Holyrood Palace you should definitely consider the Royal Attractions Ticket.

(Ticket prices are slightly higher in the summer months)

Ticket Price (winter/summer)
Edinburgh Castle Basic Ticket£18/£19.50
Edinburgh Castle Skip the Line & Guided TourFrom £33
Child (7-15)£11/£11.40
Royal Attractions Ticket (Castle, Holyrood, Yacht – + bus)From £63

There are also a number of family tickets you can get which can save you some money depending on the family makeup:

  • One adult/two children – £35.50/£38.50
  • Two adults & 2 children – £52.00/£56.00
  • Two adults & 3 children – £61.50/£66.50

If you want to buy tickets direct from the castle – check here

Should you get tickets in advance

YES! It’s really a good idea to get your tickets in advance for Edinburgh Castle because they only release a set amount of tickets per day and once they are full there are no more. If you only have one day in Edinburgh then it’s doubly important to get them sorted in advance.

You can buy in advance from the castle website online or get skip the line tickets with a tour.

If you do wish to buy on the day, head to the entrance of the castle where there will be a kiosk selling tickets.

What about a guided tour? Are they worth it?

I’ve touched on the guided tours of Edinburgh Castle as a way to get your tickets in advance – so are they worth it? After all, they are slightly more expensive than just getting a standard ticket.

Here’s what you get with one of these skip the line/guided tour combo tickets:

  • Fast track entry (definitely worth it in high season!)
  • Guided tour starting on the Royal Mile
  • Guides making sure you don’t miss anything
  • Background and history to what you’re seeing
  • Ample time afterwards to explore yourself

These tours are great if you have limited Scottish History knowledge and would like to really understand what you’re seeing. I always love being able to ask questions on these kinds of things!

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Excellent tour and well worth the money! Naomi, our guide, was both informative and helpful. 

See more reviews here

If you only have a short time they are also really good to make sure you get the most out of your visit – the tours last around 1.5 – 2 hours.

Opening Times

Edinburgh Castle opens at 9.30am each day and the closing time depends on the season. The last entrance time is 1 hour before closing.

  • Summer (1 April – 30th September): 9.30am – 6pm (last entry 5pm)
  • Winter (1 October – 31 March): 9.30am – 5pm (last entry 4pm)

Can you visit Edinburgh Castle for Free?

You can get all the way up to the Esplanade without having to pay for Edinburgh Castle. You’ll get a nice view of it from here and also out over all of Edinburgh too.

There’s always plenty of tourists here so the vibe is fun and on the walk up from the Royal Mile you’ll no doubt see loads of street performers too.

How hard is it to walk up to Edinburgh Castle?

Edinburgh Castle is on top of a hill so one question you might have is about how hard a walk it is.

If you start from the Royal Mile it’s a fairly gentle hill towards the castle, although you still have more inclines once you get into the castle.

You can also arrive at the castle from different directions which can be steep – if you’re worried definitely approach it from the Royal Mile. Any of the tourist buses will drop you off just down from the Esplanade.

Edinburgh Castle also are quite good at helping make the castle accessible for those who have disabilities – ask when you get there as they sometimes have a mobility vehicle to help visitors get around inside.

Edinburgh Castle – Making it worth it

What time of day is best to visit Edinburgh Castle?

As with most busy attractions throughout the world, getting to the site early or late is the best option.

I prefer an early start so I don’t need to worry about getting there slightly too late and missing my entrance time!

Edinburgh Castle opens to the public at 9.30am so that would be my recommended time to get there if you want to make the most of it.

Do remember that if you go early or arrive late then you might miss the One o’Clock Gun firing – if this is important to you then you’ll want to time your day to be able to enjoy seeing that. Funnily enough – that’s at 1pm!

Royal Palace at Edinburgh Castle

How can you avoid the crowds at Edinburgh Castle?

There are a few ways to avoid crowds when visiting the castle.

The first is to time your visit to the very beginning or end of the day. I touched on this a little already – this is when you’ll find the least tourists around.

Secondly, midweek is also slightly quieter than the weekends when you’ll find more locals visiting Edinburgh to add to the general tourists!

Another option is to explore some of the less popular attractions within the castle. Some of the war museums within the castle can be a lot quieter to check out.

How long do you need to see Edinburgh Castle?

I think in order to see the castle at its best you want to have a minimum of around 2 hours to look around. More is great because you can spend a lot of time looking at exhibits, enjoying the views and waiting for the one o’clock gun to go off!

Some of the guided tours around the castle last between 1.5 – 2 hours and can be a good way to make the most of a short time available.

Things to see at Edinburgh Castle

View over city of Edinburgh

Views from Edinburgh Castle

First of all you’re going to adore the views from the top of the castle. You can see all the way to the Firth of Forth, towards Leith and the Royal Yacht and over the New Town as well.

On clear days you might be able to see across the water towards Fife and also the Forth Bridges – some of Scotland’s most iconic Landmarks.

What things to see inside Edinburgh Castle

Once you’re inside Edinburgh Castle there’s a lot of different exhibitions and things to see. Much of the castle focuses on the Royal History but there’s a lot of military history to learn about as well.

one oclock gun in Edinburgh Castle grounds

One o’Clock Gun

The One o’Clock Gun is one of the most fun parts of visiting Edinburgh Castle and quite a unique thing to see.

The gun is fired every day except for on Sundays, Good Friday and Christmas Day.

The tradition of the firing dates back to 1861 when it was used as a way to set maritime clocks. It’s not used for that now, but is still fun to watch!

Mons Meg

A must see for people interested in artillery – this is a huge cannon that has some interesting history. It dates back to 1460 so is quite an old cannon and it was given to King James II.

Apparently the gun was fired when Mary, Queen of Scots was married and the gunstone landed in the botanic gardens!

Plaque on wall at Edinburgh Castle

The Royal Palace

The Royal Palace was the place where Kings and Queens stayed when in Scotland – the last one being King Charles I in 1633 when he was in Scotland to be coronated.

It’s also where Mary, Queen of Scots gave birth to her son James VI (and later to be James I of England) and you can visit the birth chamber.

The Great Hall

What you imagine all great castles had in medieval times – a great hall! Edinnburgh castle is no different and after a turbulent history has been restored to its medieval glory with suits or armour and swords lining the walls.

Honours of Scotland

The Scottish Crown Jewels, otherwise known as the Honours of Scotland are on display at Edinburgh Castle. You might not know that Scotland had its own Crown Jewels, the English ones being on display at the Tower of London of course!

National War Museum of Scotland

Military Museums

Edinburgh Castle is home to quite a few military museum and some dedicated to specific regiments. If you have an interest in military history then you’ll want to spare a few hours to explore all of these areas.

Dog cemetery at Edinburgh Castle

Dog Cemetery

Don’t miss the small dog cemetery at the castle as well – I always find them quite moving!

This is the last resting place of many soldier’s dogs dating back to the mid 1800s and the time of Queen Victoria.

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🏴󠁧󠁢󠁳󠁣󠁴󠁿 Edinburgh Travel FAQ 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁳󠁣󠁴󠁿

Do I need insurance for traveling to Edinburgh?

YES! I always recommend people take travel insurance when exploring the world!

Check Travel Insurance Master for quote comparisons from different providers.

Do I need a car for visiting Edinburgh?

MAYBE – if you’re staying in the city then you don’t need a car at all. YES – If you’re wanting to explore further afield in Scotland then a car is worthwhile.

I recommend DiscoverCars to compare car rental prices in Edinburgh

How to book accommodation in Edinburgh?

For hotels I recommend Booking.com (and my favorite Edinburgh Hotel which is the APEX Grassmarket – hint: castle views!)

For apartments check out VRBO

Will my phone work in Edinburgh?

Perhaps – it depends if you have roaming enabled and beware this can be an expensive way to use your phone.

If you need a SIM for use in the UK I recommend GiffGaff which you can get and set up before traveling.

What to pack for Edinburgh

Keep yourself dry and comfortable is my motto for Edinburgh travel! A rain jacket and comfy shoes are a must.

See my post about what to pack for Edinburgh

Do I need midge spray for Edinburgh?

Edinburgh, as a city, doesn’t suffer from midges. You might see them if you travel to the west coast or lochs in the summer months. Check out my guide to midges and how to miss them in Scotland.

What’s the best guidebook for Edinburgh?

I really like the Lonely Planet Pocket Guides

Where to get flights for Edinburgh

Expedia is my first port of call for finding cheap flights to Edinburgh and Scotland.

Do I need a visa for Scotland?

Many countries don’t need a visa for visiting Scotland as tourists (USA, Canada, Aus, NZ and Europe) – it’s always best to check first though.

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Kirsty Bartholomew

Kirsty Bartholomew is a travel expert and has been getting lost around the world for over 30 years and writing about it for over 10 of those. She loves to help people explore her favourite places in Scotland, England and beyond. She cannot stay away from historical sites.

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