Wednesday, July 13, 2016

July 11: A Palace, a Parliament, and a REALLY BIG Hill

Part 1: The Palace. We started the day by visiting Holyrood Palace, which is the Queen's official residence in Scotland and dates back to the 16th century.

It has an incredible amount of history per square inch: Mary Queen of Scots, Bonnie Prince Charlie, and much more.  If you happen to be a Mary Queen of Scots geek, Darnley was murdered in the left-hand tower and we got to the see the spot.  We also saw rooms where the Queen's gives her official receptions and where previous monarchs entertained.   It was all super cool, but no pictures of any of that here because there were no photos allowed inside.

Beyond the castle, there was still a lot to see inside the grounds, including the main gates (with the Salisbury Crags looming over):

the ruins of an old abbey:

and the beautiful royal gardens (with Arthur's Seat visible in the last shot):

Part 2: The Parliament.  After walking all over Holyrood we walked just a few steps down the street and went in to see the Scottish Parliament building.  This is fairly new, having been built after "devolution" (in the 1990s, when Scotland was granted the right to partial self-government).  

We went in and since the Parliament was not in session we were allowed to go into the debating chamber.  I was very impressed with it.  It was furnished in quiet neutral tones with plenty of light and it felt like a calmer, more positive space than any of the other parliamentary spaces I've seen (Washington, D.C. and Ottawa -- plus London on TV).  

Part 3: The REALLY BIG Hill.  After all of this, the weather cleared up and the sun came out and we decided that after being on our feet all of the morning and early afternoon we really needed to climb a mountain.  Seriously, Arthur's Seat is a famous peak that is very popular with locals and visitors to Edinburgh and the base is just across the street from the parliament building, so it seemed like a good time to do it.

Arthur's Seat is really rocky and steep and -- if you haven't already gathered -- it's REALLY BIG!  250 meters high.  And European hills don't seem to have as many guard rails and carefully groomed paths as what we're used to in North America.  So it was a challenge, but we wanted to try.  David has been walking with me this summer after years of illness and has become a lot stronger, but still this was a lot for him -- especially since Kingston is very flat and so we don't tend to exercise some of the muscles needed for hill climbing.  He made it about 2/3 of the way up and I was very impressed with him.  He insisted that I go on if I wanted to and so I did and he got down on his own with no problems.  It was a truly amazing climb for both of us and the views were awesome.  

I took about a million pictures and here are some of my favorites.   (To see any of them -- or any of the other photos in my blog -- at a larger size, just click on it.)

Very sore feet by the end of it all, but very much worth it!

And finally,to end this long post, a thought from the Scottish Parliament building:

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