Edinburgh Castle dominates the capital’s skyline, and has appeared on more shortbread tins than you can shake a stick at.
However, it is not just a picturesque feature of the capital’s landscape. It is also a hugely important historical site, which has had a pivotal role in Scotland’s history for centuries.
Steve Farrar, an Interpretation Officer for Historic Environment Scotland, is very much aware of the castle’s importance. “The single thing that most astonishes me is the timespan of the castle,” he says.
“It’s an unbroken line of history, which is really remarkable. I imagine all the people who have passed through the castle’s entranceway. Iron Age chieftains, Roman emissaries, Robert the Bruce, Mary Queen of Scots, Robert Burns… and even Jedward.”
Farrar’s job as an Interpretation Officer involves sharing stories from Scotland’s past. His main role is giving visitors to the castle an insight into the castle’s rich history.
Although he has worked at historic sites across the country, a “significant part” of his work is focused on Edinburgh Castle.
“At the moment we are working on a seemingly innocuous room in the Royal Palace,” Farrar says, “but I think it is the most exciting place.”
Mary Queen of Scots
This room will soon play host to a series of locally-made embroideries, which replicate original embroideries made by Mary Queen of Scots.
Mary worked on these embroideries while her supporters held Edinburgh Castle during the Lang Siege.
“While she was sitting in exile, and had a lot of time on her hands, she made these astonishing embroideries,” Farrar explains.
In a couple of weeks, these replicas will be on display to the general public.
Many exciting historical and archaeological discoveries have been made at the castle in recent years.
One find was made by historian Arkady Hodge.
“Arkady has identified the earliest record of fireworks in Scotland, which was at a tournament during James IV’s reign, in 1507. This pushes back the earliest instance of fireworks by a century,” Farrar continues.
However, keeping the castle in good condition is a “constant challenge”, especially due to the castle’s popularity as a tourist attraction.
“The castle has 1.6 million visitors a year,” says Farrar, “which is especially remarkable because it was designed not to be an easy place to get to. It’s a defensive stronghold.”
The number of tourists visiting the castle increases every year too. Farrar says that trying to maintain the castle while also making it accessible to visitors is a “difficult balancing act which we seem to be getting right at the moment”.
Farrar believes that preserving the castle for future generations is crucial, because of the place it holds in Scottish history.
“The castle encapsulates so much of Scotland’s story. The story goes back thousands of years – I think it’s the stories that make places so exciting.”