First Level - Castles tour

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Your class tour of one of Edinburgh's finest castles

£3 per pupil
Adults go free
The school must have booked/paid for the time in the castle
Meeting place
We will meet you at either Craigmillar or Edinburgh Castle
Accessibility info
Gradients and steps
1 - 1 and a half hours (approx)

Quick description

Welcome to your First Level castle exploration!


We’ve designed this tour to help teachers delivering an early years/First Level project on castles.  We’ll cover some of the most interesting aspects of castles - features of a castle, life in a castle, attacking and defending a castle, and why people stopped building castles.

This tour isn’t one where your guide simply points out the past and talks, it’s been carefully designed to maximise active thinking skills and ‘think, pair, share’ opportunities’.

We can run this tour at most castles, but we really recommend Craigmillar Castle.  Craigmillar is usually quiet and really easy to explore, and there’s a minimal charge from Historic Environment Scotland.  Please note that any fee for using the castle, and your castle booking, is separate from the fee from Historic Edinburgh Tours.

Your Edinburgh tour guide with a school group (in this case, on a different tour).

Contact us

Click the 'contact us' button to go to our school tour contact page.  We're usually able to reply within 12 hours.   

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Meet your teacher-tour guide

We're currently working on producing a new video for this space.  Please check back soon!

January 8, 2022

Some of the learning questions we can answer on this tour

“What makes a Castle different from other buildings?”

Your castle exploration starts before we even enter the castle!  We’ll compare the features of the castle with other buildings we see around us.  This is an excellent opportunity for your class to show off their knowledge.

We’ll also look at the land around the buildings, the structure and height of the castle walls and turrets.

Arrow loops in Craigmillar Castle.
“How would someone attack a castle?”

Your guide will use laminated ‘Lego’ weapons to investigate the different types of weapons used when attacking a castle.  We use ‘Lego’ pictures because we’ve found they really strike a chord with our younger guests!

Once we’ve learned how to classify weapon types, we’ll move closer to the external castle walls.  Pupils will work with partners, and they’ll use laminated images of different soldier types to choose which troops they’d use if they were an attacking general. It’s an excellent opportunity for discussion!

A toy crossbow.
“What design features did castles have and why?”

At Craigmillar Castle, we’ll go right up and touch the castle walls.  It’s an awe-inspiring (and scary) sight to look up and into the gaps in the defences towering above us!  These gaps were used to shower down some nasty things onto any attacking armies.

We’ll continue our look at the soldiers and weapons used at this stage of the attack, and we’ll use this to highlight some of the features which castle defenders would have used against us.  We deal with these ideas with ‘First Level’ appropriateness!

Looking at castle defences.
“Why did people stop building castles?”

Our investigation on weapon types allows us to investigate how weapons changed and why castles had to change because of this.  The change in weaponry meant a massive shift in role for your typical castle.

Inside Craigmillar Castle.
“What was it like to live in a castle?” 

Craigmillar Castle is a terrific place to explore!  We’re often the only group in the castle, which lets your class use their detective skills to investigate the interior rooms and work out how they were once used.

The kitchen of Craigmillar is a great place to investigate.  Your guide will point out various features in the room for your classes to think about and then use to help them imagine this room as it once was.  There are so many opportunities for the class to use their history detective skills. 

Domestic fireplace in a castle.
“What can we see, hear and smell in a castle?” 

Castles have a very different ‘feel’ to them, and this tour will make the most of opportunities to encourage your class to use their senses as they move around the building.

Your class will walk under a portcullis, in and out of exposed old rooms and they’ll even see an authentic toilet!   They will walk up turnpike staircases,  hearing the echos and muffled sounds, smelling the smells you experience when you actually visit a castle.  These sensations make for great writing opportunities!

A window in Craigmillar Castle.

Important information for the class teacher

Accessibility information

This one-hour tour won’t involve lots of walking, but there are few areas to offer proper rest points.  We’ve put together a page which will highlight some relevant accessibility issues which occur on this tour route.  

We will try to alter the tour if needed.  There are limited options for this, however. Sadly, most castles don’t have perfect accessibility options although Historic Environment Scotland properties do make as many alterations as the building’s history allows. 

Image by Abhishek Yadav
Wet weather information

This tour has significant ‘outside’ sections with limited areas where we can shelter out of the rain.  We do realise that a wet and windy day probably isn’t going make for positive memories!  Much of this tour is done outside and not inside the castle.

We’re pretty flexible and will happily reschedule your date.  There’s no extra cost for this, although this may not be possible due your castle booking or organised transportation.  However, please know that, whatever the weather, we will be there for you!
If you’d like to reschedule your tour, please let us know by 8.30 am on the morning of your tour.  My mobile number is 07590 026 077

Risk assessment

Risk assessment is something which your governing body will legally need you to carry out and, as such, we can only offer some suggestions and recommendations for your paperwork.

While we can’t offer these as your official risk assessment, please click here to download our suggested risk assessment information and our route instructions.

Access to toilets.
Toilets (and how to add even more value to your school tour!)

We’ve got no planned ‘toilet’ stops on our section of this tour, but there are toilets there.  Craigmillar Castle does have toilets with access for guests.  There are toilets throughout Edinburgh Castle.

Please note that our fee is only for your guided tour.  Schools will have to book transport and use of the castle separately.  Please also note that Edinburgh Castle has strict guidelines for tour guides - we can’t, for example, guide inside any of the buildings.  We strongly advise that you consider booking Craigmillar Castle.  Previous classes have been able to lunch in the castle and then explore the grounds in their own time, after the tour.

You may wish to investigate Historic Environment Scotland’s offers for subsidised transport.  Find out more here.