Castle Trail Header edit

Edinburgh Castle Quest

How did maths shape Edinburgh Castle and make life within it possible?

These activities are aimed at children aged 8-11.

Social distancing measures should be observed at all times when completing activities in public.

Shape spotters

Edinburgh Castle is made up of lots of different shapes. Each shape was chosen carefully to make the castle stronger, easier to defend or just to look nice.

Find the following shapes round the castle and discuss why you think each item is that shape.

  • Cylinder
  • Rectangle
  • Arch
  • Triangle
Window Ledges

A different angle

Accurate measurements were essential when building castles. Builders used lots of different ways of measuring over the years including string, sticks, compasses and even body parts!

Have a go at working out the height of something tall within the castle. A flagpole or a tower work best!

  1. Pick a landmark and stand at it's base. Estimate it's height
  2. Walk away, stopping regularly to look between your legs
  3. Stop walking when you can see the top of the landmark between your legs.
  4. Measure the distance between yourself and the landmark using paces
  5. This distance is roughly equal to the height of the landmark
Flagpole measure

Something to eat

During war and training exercises soldiers call their food supply field rations. The 24 Hour Ration Pack can feed one person for one day, and includes high energy snacks, drinks and three main meals which are fully cooked and ready to eat.

The ration pack in Edinburgh Castle has 36 items. What would you include in your 24 hour ration pack?

Find your way

Head to the National War Museum (location 5 on the Edinburgh Castle Map) and go to Gallery 5. Here you will find a compass.

The pilots of planes such as the Heinkel III would have navigated their way using a compass and maps.

Work out where North, South, East and West would go on the drawing below using the photo of this compass in the National War Museum.

Why do you think there is an O on the compass?

Side by side compass

Pilots would have looked for large buildings, hills and rivers on the ground below to help their navigation. Head outside to a viewpoint.

Use a compass (or the sun!) to find north. You can find a compass on most smart phones.

If you turn 90 degrees to the left what can you see now?

Castle attack

Head to the well (between location 15 and 16 on the Edinburgh Caste Map)

Edinburgh Castle was one of the most attacked places in the UK. When enemies attacked, people in the castle would not be able to leave. The well supplied all the water. If the water ran out, the castle would have to surrender.

How do you think the people of the castle worked out how long they could survive on the water in the well?

Mason marks

Head to the Argyle Steps (location 14 on the Edinburgh Castle map)

Masons carved the stones used to build Edinburgh Castle. They would carve a mark into each stone like a signature.

Masons Marks only

Can you find any with one line of symmetry? How about two lines of symmetry?

What design would you use for a masons mark? Does yours have any lines of symmetry?

Castle Trail Header edit

This trail has been adapted for the restricted opening of Edinburgh Castle. You can find the original trail and teachers notes below

Discover more about the fascinating history of Edinburgh Castle on the Historic Environment Scotland website

Produced by National Museums Scotland, Historic Environment Scotland and The Regimental Museums in Edinburgh Castle

Designed and illustrated by Mark Dawson.

Latest News

2019 10 05 RA 020

Maths Week Scotland 2021

Maths Week Scotland will be back 27 September - 3 October 2021

View details

Upcoming Events

HW maths workshops 28th Sep-30th Jun

Workshops by Heriot-Watt

Online All day Free

Heriot-Watt University and SCHOLAR are delighted to offer online maths workshops for school students.

These new, interactive workshops can be organised for any time throughout the academic year.

View details