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Spotlight on…the Education Team

Spotlight on ... the Education Team

This week we turn our attention to the Education Team within Edinburgh Castle. We caught up with Nathan Bryceland, Learning Development Officer, to have a chat about his role and experiences of working at Edinburgh Castle.

Nathan leads a tour of Edinburgh Castle

So Nathan, what exactly is it you do at Edinburgh Castle?

I run Historic Scotland’s Learning Services at Edinburgh Castle and several other sites around Edinburgh and the Lothians, including Craigmillar Castle, Blackness Castle and Trinity House Maritime Museum.

This involves managing our programme of activities for both schools and community education, looking after a large team of part-time and commissioned staff, developing our learning services and getting involved in exciting projects with colleagues and historic environment partners from across the city and last – but most definitely not least – teaching and working directly with learners of all ages during their visits to Edinburgh Castle.

How long have you worked at the castle?

I have worked at the Castle for almost 3 years now. The time here has flown by, it seems like I started only yesterday!

I have worked for Historic Scotland for 7 years – before I started at the Castle, I worked as a Ranger at Holyrood Park, which was also a brilliant job – encouraging people to get outdoors and helping them to enjoy, understand and protect Edinburgh’s biggest volcano, Arthur’s Seat, and all the amazing plants and animals that make their home there.

Trying on medieval armour at Edinburgh Castle

What is your favourite thing about working here?

Tricky to highlight just one thing! There are so many things I enjoy about working at the Castle – the people, the history, the views, the buzz about the place. I think the thing I enjoy most is working with school children.

They constantly surprise, entertain, challenge and even educate me. Last year we had almost 40,000 kids visit the Castle – every day is different as a result, which is just how we like it! The chocolate brownies from the Redcoat café are also excellent, thoroughly recommended and come a close second!

What sort of things do you teach school groups?

We engage in a whole range of different activities with school groups – not just the obvious history ones.

As well as offering sessions on things like medieval castle life & warfare, the Wars of Independence, Mary Queen of Scots, the Jacobites and World War I, we also run activities on the castle’s musical heritage, art, creative writing, drama, geography,tourism & careers.

Our activities are as active and hands-on as possible… kids don’t come to the Castle to sit in a classroom all day!

Getting hands on with history during a school visit

What gets kids most excited when they visit Edinburgh Castle?

Swords, no question! We do a lot of artefact and object handling with learners, encouraging them to think critically about objects, use their investigative skills and evaluate different kinds of historical sources.

Learning how to hold a sword correctly and skilfully always seems to capture the imagination of both boys and girls. However, sometimes more subtle things like discovering the castle’s oldest building or realising they have a relative’s name remembered in the Scottish National War Memorial can also arouse great interest and get kids excited.

What’s the funniest thing a child has ever said at one of your classes?

How long is a piece of string?! “Where’s the castle?” is a favourite, as is “What time does the One o’ clock gun get fired?” Actually, those questions were asked by adults…! With kids, you never quite know what to expect – they constantly surprise you.

There’s been so many funny comments, I don’t think I could pick just one over the others… but if there’s any willing publishers out there it would make a cracking book!


Did you know that educational groups can qualify for free entry to Edinburgh Castle? We also have a variety of free educational resources on the Historic Scotland website.

Emma Bowie
Edinburgh Castle

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