Edinburgh Castle sits high above the Scottish capital, providing fabulous views out across the Firth of Forth. Perched on Castle Rock and located at one end of the historic Royal Mile, the castle attracts thousands of visitors every year. In realtor’s terms, the castle occupies a piece of prime real estate, but just how much is Edinburgh Castle worth?
Edinburgh Castle is worth around $1.25 billion (£1 billion). In truth, it is nigh on impossible to place a value on a site that is steeped in so much history. Set across 380,000 square feet high above the city of Edinburgh, you can value the land but not the historical significance.
For many, castles such as Edinburgh are priceless since you can not place a value on the history the site has witnessed. However, land has value, and in this article, I shall look at:
- How much Edinburgh Castle may be worth on the market
- How the castle generates income
- Some of the history and attractions that continue to draw people to its walls
A Sizable Plot
Castle Rock has always been a desirable location.
The view of the surrounding area makes it highly suitable as both a military and civil location. The rock cliffs guard much of the approach to the castle, with the Royal Mile the single thoroughfare leading to its gates.
The evidence points to a settlement on this site as far back as the Iron Age. Over the centuries the castle has continued to develop into the huge military fortification we see today.
Edinburgh Castle is one of the largest castles in the UK, as well as one of the oldest fortified sites in Europe.
The castle grounds cover over 380,000 sq ft. In 2022, prime land in central Edinburgh could set you back as much as £700 per sq ft. This equates to a value of £270 million for the square footage of Edinburgh Castle.
However, this can never factor in the history, symbolism, and continued military presence at the castle.
The following footage provides a flavor of the sheer scale of Edinburgh Castle.
Then there is the worth of the views. Edinburgh Castle is perched 443 ft above the city it overlooks.
Anyone who has looked out over the castle battlements can vouch that the views are stunning. The fact that Castle Rock is the remnant of an extinct volcano may still put off a few prospective buyers.
However, it is the volcanic rock that provides its identity and defensive advantages.
Who Owns Edinburgh Castle?
The current owners of Edinburgh Castle are the ministers of the Scottish government, and we assume they have no plans to sell soon. Therefore, placing a worth on the castle involves a good degree of speculation.
The Scottish government has Historic Environment Scotland to manage the day-to-day running of the castle.
For hundreds of years, Edinburgh Castle was a residency of Scottish monarchs.
The last monarch to spend a night there was King Charles I in 1633 before he was crowned King of the Scots at St Giles Cathedral. However, from the 16th century, the castle primarily became a military base and a prison.
While the prisoners have all gone, the castle retains a military presence today. It is also home to the Scottish National War Memorial and regimental museums and exhibitions. The castle still has a governor, a position that was reinstalled in 1935.
However, in 1905 the War Office passed the keys to Edinburgh Castle to the Office of Works. Their role was to ensure the upkeep and maintenance of royal residencies and castles.
The running of the castle was finally passed back to the Scottish government toward the end of the last century. Management of the castle was given to Historic Scotland.
October 2015 saw the founding of Historic Environment Scotland.
This is a public body tasked with looking after Scotland’s historic environmental treasures, including sites like Edinburgh Castle. The castle is the organization’s most visited property.
Edinburgh Castle remains one of the UK’s leading attractions, a prime reason why the castle is valued so highly.
The castle sits at one end of the Royal Mile, with the Palace of Holyrood at the other end. Between the two sits St. Giles Cathedral. This is the heart of Edinburgh’s Old Town and history beckons whichever way you turn.
In 2022, Edinburgh Castle attracted over 1.3 million visitors.
As with all such locations, the castle felt the effects of the Covid pandemic. In 2020, the castle welcomed just over 276,000 people through its gates, an 87% drop off in visitor numbers from the previous year.
Therefore, the 2022 visitor numbers point to the castle rebounding from the pandemic with people keen to get out and explore once more. If we head back before the pandemic to 2019 we get a better picture of the castle’s worth to the area.
That year saw Edinburgh Castle attract 2.2 million visitors.
The 2 million visitors wandering around the castle grounds during the financial year 2017/18 added £14.7 million in income to the coffers of Historic Environment Scotland.
Visitors have a range of tickets to select from including single and family tickets. In 2023, adult administration prices started from £15.50.
The following table shows visitor numbers according to the Association of Leading Visitor Attractions.
|% Change on Previous Year
A Unique Event Setting
The value of Edinburgh Castle is also its unique location for events. You would be hard pushed to find a better location to celebrate a landmark birthday or to hold your wedding reception.
Edinburgh Castle is geared toward staging events, both private and corporate. The regular upkeep and maintenance costs of a place like Edinburgh Castle will not be cheap.
The city of Edinburgh is also known for its festivals and the castle certainly plays its part. Every August the castle esplanade hosts the famous Royal Edinburgh military tattoo.
This spectacular event has been staged each year since 1950 except for a two-year Covid hiatus and brings in crowds from around the world.
Proceeds from the military tattoo go to charities, which can benefit by as much as £1 million from the annual performance. The backdrop of the castle with its looming walls lit for effect shows the castle’s true worth even before you have ventured into the inner wards.
The historic worth of Edinburgh Castle is priceless. The castle has been the home of Scottish monarchs for centuries as well as an important military fortification. Its strategic worth to invading forces is signaled by the castle having been besieged on 26 occasions.
The castle we see today began to take shape during the 12th century. It did not take long before it came to the attention of the English.
In 1296, Edward I took control of the castle from the Scots and the English were its custodians for the best part of two decades. This was until Thomas Randolph, Earl of Moray, and around thirty of his men helped turf the English out.
In an audacious plan, Randolph and his men scaled the rocky cliffs and went over the walls. The seemingly impregnable side of the castle was breached. Randolph was able to open the castle gates and allow the rest of the Scottish forces into the castle.
Castle ownership would swing back and forth again between the two old enemies during the Wars of Independence.
In 1566, Mary Queen of Scots gave birth to the future King James VI (James I of England) in the castle’s Royal Palace (source). After her forced abdication she fled to England in 1568 only to be imprisoned and ultimately executed.
In 1571, the garrison at Edinburgh Castle declared their support for the deposed Queen, setting in motion the two-year-long Lang siege.
The latter part of the siege was aided and abetted by English troops, who were once again helping besiege Edinburgh Castle. The upshot was that the castle suffered significant damage from the English cannon. The rebuild in the following years shaped the castle we recognize today.
More English Turbulence in Edinburgh
The English Civil War did not bypass Edinburgh Castle. The accession of James VI of Scotland to the English crown saw the 1603 Union of the Crowns.
Charles I was the last monarch to stay at Edinburgh Castle. This was in 1633, and Charles was there for his Scottish coronation. His nemesis Oliver Cromwell, besieged and captured Edinburgh Castle with his New Model Army in December 1650.
The castle’s turbulent days were not done with following the restoration of the monarchy. The initial Jacobite rebellion in 1689 in support of the deposed King James II saw the brief capture of Edinburgh Castle.
Attempts to do likewise during the succeeding rebellions failed. This included one led by Bonnie Prince Charlie in 1745.
As this brief history shows, Edinburgh Castle has witnessed some of the defining moments in Scottish history. It has played host to some of the most famous names in UK history too, even if some of them failed to breach its walls.
In 1822, George IV was the first monarch to visit the castle since Charles I. The royal palace was by then a military garrison and prison.
The Main Attractions
Besides the spectacular views, Edinburgh Castle’s worth to the thousands of visitors it receives each year is how much there is to explore within its walls. The following are five main attractions.
1. Mons Meg
This 6-tonne siege cannon was presented to James II of Scotland in 1457. At the time it was top-of-the-range military hardware and one of the largest of its kind in Europe.
Mons Meg was capable of firing a 150 kg stone over a distance of two miles (source). You did not want to be on the receiving end of this fearsome weapon.
Mons Meg now stands proudly on display near St. Margaret’s Chapel. Staying on the theme of cannons, the daily firing of the one o’clock gun is always worth a watch. Mariners used to set their clocks by the gun and the tradition continues today.
The firing of the gun often puts the frighteners up unsuspecting visitors.
2. The Great Hall
The Great Hall at Edinburgh Castle lives up to its name.
Restored to its medieval glory, it was originally completed in 1511 for James IV. Walk in, look up and take in one of the finest examples of a medieval hammer-beam roof.
This room would have hosted feasts for the royalty and dignitaries of the time. Oliver Cromwell, not being a huge fan of anything connected to monarchy, decided the Great Hall was better served as a military barracks. Before its fine restoration, the hall also served as a hospital.
3. Honors of Scotland
Scotland’s own Crown Jewels are kept in the Crown House at Edinburgh Castle.
They date back as far as the late fifteenth century. This makes them older than the English equivalent, much of which dates to the coronation of Charles II in 1661.
The Honors were removed from the castle to escape Oliver Cromwell’s advancing army. They then did a vanishing act following the Act of Union in 1707.
They were discovered by the famous novelist and poet Sir Walter Scott in 1818, completing a story worthy of the man himself.
4. National War Museum
The National War Museum is a reminder of the castle’s military history. The large collection contains artifacts, letters, paintings, and more depicting Scottish military history and those who served their country.
As well as the National War Museum, there are regimental museums. These detail the history of regiments including the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards. Also within the castle grounds is the poignant National War Memorial, a shrine to those who gave the ultimate sacrifice for their country.
5. St Margaret’s Chapel
This small chapel is the oldest surviving building in the Scottish capital. It was built on the highest point of Castle Rock in 1130 by King David I in honor of his mother. The castle has been partially destroyed and slighted throughout history, but the chapel was spared.
Today, the chapel is open to all visitors, whereas once upon a time it was the preserve of Scottish monarchs and their families. The chapel underwent a refurbishment in 1993 to commemorate the 900th anniversary of the death of St Margaret.