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How did maths shape Edinburgh Castle and make life within it possible? We have adapted our Castle Quest to use at home, in school or outside.

These activities are aimed at P5-7 pupils and cover aspects of Numeracy and Mathematics and Social Studies areas of Curriculum for Excellence.

There's a printable PDF version of this resource too.

Please remember to social distance 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.

Round your house, or when out for a walk find the following shapes. Why do you think each item is that shape?

  • Cylinder
  • Rectangle
  • Arch
  • Triangle

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 a tree, pole or building - either at school, in the garden or when out for a walk.

  1. Pick a landmark and stand at its base. Estimate its height and remember your estimate.
  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 or a measuring tape.
  5. This distance is roughly equal to the height of the landmark. Was your original estimate close to this?

How does this work?

It works because you are looking at the top of the landmark at a 45 degree angle. This makes a right angle triangle between the ground, landmark and your line of sight. Therefore the height of the landmark is the same as the distance that you are from that landmark

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?

Measuring up

Horses' heights are measured in Hands (hh). This unit of measurement has been used since the time of ancient Egypt and was roughly the width of a man's hand. This eventually got a bit confusing, so in 1541 King Henry VIII standardised the measurement so that 1hh = 4 inches.

Work out how tall you are in hands.

Measure yourself in inches using a tape measure or ruler. If 1 Hand (hh) is equal to 4 inches, you need to divide your measurement by 4.

Example: 54 Inches divided by 4 equals 13.5. So we would call this 14hh

How many hands tall are you?

Find your way

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 this drawing using the photo next to it of a real Heinkel III plane compass in the National War Museum.

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

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

Find a high point of ground near you, or use a viewpoint on Google Maps like the top of Arthurs Seat.

Use a compass to find north. You can find a compass on most smart phones or on Google Maps.

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

Edinburgh Castle was one of the most attacked places in the UK. During some attacks the castle had 120 soldiers. If each soldier needed 3 litres of water per day to drink, wash and cook with, how much water would 120 soldiers need each day? If the well holds 60,000 litres, how long could 120 soldiers survive during an attack?

Mason's Marks


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

Copy these mason's marks. Find the lines of symmetry for each one.

Now create your own mason's mark with 2 or more lines of symmetry.

This trail was produced by National Museums Scotland, Historic Environment Scotland and The Regimental Museums in Edinburgh Castle and designed and illustrated by Mark Dawson.

It's been adapted for home or school learning whilst Edinburgh Castle is closed to learning groups - there's a PDF version too.

You can also find the original trail - designed for on-site use at Edinburgh Castle - and the accompanying teachers' notes below.