Audible Time Signal: The Edinburgh Castle One o’Clock Gun-shot Sound.

Field Recording, Sound

One o'Clock Gun (Side view) with Bird

Every day (apart from Sunday) a blast echoes around Edinburgh City from the One o’Clock gun which sits high above the City in the historic fortress of Edinburgh Castle: Welcome to the One o’Clock gun-shot sound.

The One o’Clock Gun is a famous tourist attraction but for a long time it was a audible signal to the people of Edinburgh and sailors in port to set their clock and watches.

A few hundreds years back it was rather difficult to tell the time with sheer accuracy, clocks were expensive and not always right. During the industrial revolution this became a problem especially as railways developed.  Back in the 1800s sundials were used to tell the time but sometimes traditional methods caused local time differences resulting in collisions and fatal accidents as railway timetables clashed.

In 1853 A time ball was set up at Calton Hill to send a daily time signal to ships in the port of Leith. The time ball was raised shortly before 1pm and then dropped at 1pm so that marines could look on with telescopes and set their chronometres.  This was vital information for accurate navigation at sea and soon enough the people of Edinburgh used the time ball for checking the time.

The time ball was installed at Nelson monument but on foggy days it was invisible so an audible time signal was introduced in 1861, this signal was the One o’Clock gun-shot. The gun located at Edinburgh Castle was originally connected to the time ball by an electric wire which hung over the city. The original gun (muzzleloader canon) was fired from the half moon battery but the current gun (L118) is fired from the north of the castle at Mill’s mount.  It has been fired from it’s present location since 1972.

Sound travels about 340 metres per second so listeners at a distance from the castle had to take this delay into account in order for correct precision on time.  A ‘time gun map’ was produced in 1861 showing the time it takes for the gun-shot sound to reach certain parts of the city from the castle. We begin to understand the importance of sound and the role it plays in society for various signals or warnings throughout our time.

Today the One o’Clock gun-shot is now a popular tourist attraction as previously mentioned.  We planned to not only experience the spectacle but to capture the sound of the One o’Clock gun-shot which was the main reason for our visit.  In this Field recording i didn’t just capture the sound of the gun-shot alone but the reactions of tourists and people watching the honourable time tradition.  Check your watch for One o Clock and listen to the Field Recording of the Audible Time Signal:


Canon at Edinburgh Castle

          Edinburgh Castle is situated on Castle hill at the top of the Royal Mile, 
          Medieval old town Edinburgh. The One o'Clock Gun is part of your Edinburgh 
          Castle experience.

2 thoughts on “Audible Time Signal: The Edinburgh Castle One o’Clock Gun-shot Sound.”

  1. I’ve enjoyed that short field recording quite a lot 🙂

    It was great to hear people’s anticipation of it and then their reaction once the shot had been fired. I have to admit, the shot itself made me jump! I was expecting it and could see when it would occur thanks to the spike in the sound, but I still startled at it.

    • Thank you for the comment & stopping by Allysse.
      Yes, I remember the impact of the gun-shot certainly made a few people jump 🙂

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