Discovery of hidden tower at Edinburgh Castle marked 100 years on

Medieval David's Tower was Edinburgh's first "high rise"

Officials are marking 100 years since an historic tower at Edinburgh Castle was rediscovered.

David's Tower was built in the 1380s and stood 100ft tall. The city's first tower house, it dominated Edinburgh's skyline for 200 years.

It was also the Royal residence in the castle and was used as a secret hiding place for Scotland's Crown Jewels during World War II.

Remnants of the hidden tower were re-discovered during excavations in 1912.

Hundreds of feet beneath Edinburgh castle, with tourists pounding overhead is a medieval tower which lay abandoned and forgotten for several centuries.

David's Tower was once the most prominent sight on the Edinburgh skyline, a 10 storey tower house fit for a king, which set in motion a fashion for tower houses across the country.

Destroyed in the Lang Siege of 1573, its remnants were rebuilt into the Half Moon battery and lay undiscovered until 1912 when archaeologist W Oldrieve, on a hunch, descended into the tower past 14th century arrow windows and walls with cannon balls and soldiers' helmets embedded in them.

Since then, Historic Scotland has been trying to uncover more details about the tower's history.

It was famously the setting for the Black Dinner, when the young Earl of Douglas and his brother were dispatched for treason in front of a 10-year-old King James II (their guilt sealed by the serving of a black bull's head on a platter).

As a hidden tower - even now, only partly accessible to the public - it was the obvious place to hide the Honours of Scotland from possible Nazi invasion.

The ruse even included a double bluff - with decoy treasure hidden in the walls as well as the real jewels in the king's ensuite bathroom.

Even now, the tower still holds many secrets and clues to its past life, including the whereabouts of up to nine other towers which would once have graced this rocky outpost.

The tower was built by King David II as part of the great reconstruction programme of the castle and was a high as a 10 storey block of flats.

David's father, King Robert the Bruce, ordered its demolition to render it useless to the "auld enemy" - the English.

The tower also saw the infamous Black Dinner of 1440, during which the Earl of Douglas and his younger brother were accused of treason, signified by them being served a black bull's head on a platter, in the presence of the 10-year-old King James II.

They were then dragged out into the palace yard, now Crown Square, and beheaded.

During his youth James V was kept a virtual prisoner in the tower, by Regent Albany, with no access to his mother, Mary of Guise.

Although the tower is not open to the public, it is hoped small, escorted groups will be able to visit it in the New Year.

Nick Finnigan, executive manager of Edinburgh Castle said: "David's Tower is a fascinating part of Edinburgh Castle's history.

"It provided a secret hiding place for Scotland's Crown Jewels during World War II due to fear of invasion and also witnessed the infamous Black Dinner of 1440 after which the Earl of Douglas and his younger brother were accused of treason and then beheaded.

"I am pleased to say that recent access improvements to David's Tower have made it possible for us to consider taking small escorted groups to see the tower for themselves and learn about its intriguing past."

The tower is now completely hidden from view behind the curved front of the Half Moon Battery on the South East corner of the Castle overlooking the current Esplanade.

The tower remnants were re-discovered during excavations in 1912 by W Oldrieve from the Ministry of Works working alongside colleagues from the newly-formed Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland.

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