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Edinburgh Castle

Edinburgh Castle is a castle fortress which dominates the skyline of the city of Edinburgh, Scotland, from its position atop the volcanic Castle Rock. Human habitation of the site is dated back as far as the 9th century BC, although the nature of early settlement is unclear. There has been a royal castle here since at least the reign of David I in the 12th century, and the site continued to be a royal residence until the Union of the Crowns in 1603. As one of the most important fortresses in the Kingdom of Scotland, Edinburgh Castle has been involved in many historical conflicts, from the Wars of Scottish Independence in the 14th century, up to the Jacobite Rising of 1745, and has been besieged, both successfully and unsuccessfully, on several occasions. From the later 17th century, the castle became a military base, with a large garrison. Its importance as a historic monument was recognised from the 19th century, and various restoration programmes have been carried out since.

Few of the present buildings pre-date the Lang Siege of the 16th century, when the medieval fortifications were largely destroyed by artillery bombardment. The notable exception is St Margaret's Chapel, the oldest surviving building in Edinburgh, which dates from the early 12th century. Among other significant buildings of the castle are the Royal Palace, and the early-16th-century Great Hall. The castle also houses the Scottish National War Memorial, and National War Museum of Scotland.

Although formally owned by the Ministry of Defence, most of the castle is now in the care of Historic Scotland, and is Scotland's second-most-visited tourist attraction. Although the garrison left in the 1920s, there is still a military presence at the castle, largely ceremonial and administrative, and including a number of regimental museums. It is also the backdrop to the annual Edinburgh Military Tattoo, and has become a recognisable symbol of Edinburgh and of Scotland.

A series of performances known as the Edinburgh Military Tattoo take place on the Esplanade each year during August. The basis of the performance is a parade of the pipes and drums of the Scottish regiments, however, since the first performance in 1950, the Tattoo has developed a complex format which includes many invited performers from around the world, although still with a largely military focus. The climax of the evening is the lone piper on the castle battlements, playing a pibroch in memory of dead comrades in arms, followed by the massed pipe bands joining in a medley of traditional Scottish tunes. The Tattoo attracts an annual audience of around 217,000 people, and is broadcast around the world.

GETTING to the 2011 Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo could not be easier.

Edinburgh International Airport is situated just six miles outside the city beside handy motorway links and with regular bus services into town. Edinburgh is less than an hour's flying time from any of London's airports.

The M8, M90, A1, A68, A7 and A702 all connect with the city, which is 46 miles east of Glasgow and 105 miles north of Newcastle.

The centre of the city is not conducive to private car travel but there are numerous car parks nearby. Public transport, walking and cycling are the recommended ways to get around most of the attractions.

The easiest way to access the heart of Edinburgh is by train to the main station, Waverley. This is situated alongside the popular Princes Street shopping area and close to the Royal Mile, a historic street which runs from Edinburgh Castle down through the Old Town to the Palace of Holyrood house and the Scottish Parliament building.

In numerous locations you will find a wide range of stylish shops, bars and acclaimed restaurants. They can be found in the New Town (where many buildings are more than 200 years old!), the Grassmarket, West End and pub-packed Rose Street.

In addition, most hotels are within easy walking distance of the city centre.

Many visitors to the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo choose to make the event part of a longer trip to the Scottish capital.

Traditionally, the Tattoo coincides with the Edinburgh International Festival and its famous offshoot, the Edinburgh Festival Fringe the world's largest arts festival with more than 32,000 performances and 2,000 shows packed into 250 venues.

In 2011 the Tattoo will run from August 5 to 27, while the Fringe will be held from August 5 to 29.

Meanwhile, the International Festival, showcasing the best in classical music, theatre opera and dance, will begin on August 12 and end on September 4.

At the same time Edinburgh will also host a separate Book Festival and Art Festival.

Let EdinburghTattooTickets.com help you be there.