Saturday, July 9, 2016

Wednesday, July 6: Edinburgh Castle

Today on our first full day in Edinburgh we decided to start at the top: Edinburgh Castle.  It looms over the city from a hill of volcanic rock that has been fortified since prehistoric times.  Here's a picture of me on the way up, about to enter the Castle area.  We had already climbed quite a bit at this point.  The bleachers in the picture were being set up for the annual military "tatoo", which takes place in August.

and here's the entrance to the Castle:

We spent quite a while gawking at the amazing view of the city:

Edinburgh Castle has mostly been a military location, meant to guard the city in times of war, from ancient times through the World Wars.  We spent time in a small museum devoted to a Scottish regiment based at the Castle.  I was particulary struck by this display of medals because the one on the right is the Russian Cross of St. George because David's grandfather received one of these for his brave actions during the battle of Paschendale in World War I.

 As high as we were at that point, there was still more climbing to do:

And then we could look down and see the lower-level buildings of the castle

One item of special interest to me on this higher level was the Chapel of St. Margaret
She was a Queen of Scotland, the wife of Malcolm I. 

On this higher level we wanted to see the Memorial Hall, which is kind of a Scottish equivalent of the Peace Tower in Ottawa.  We had to wait because there had just been a special ceremony to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Battle of the Somme and we had to wait for all of the dignitaries to leave.  I snapped this picture of some of the soldiers in kilts in front of the building:

and this one of some of the military musicians leaving the building, since my sister Barbara in Washington, D.C. plays a lot of "gigs" with people from the military bands there.

The next stop was the building housing the "Royal Honors", which are the crown jewels of Scotland.  There was a long story about how these were hidden when the English took over Scotland and had to be re-discovered a century later after relations between Scottish and English had cooled down.  We were not allowed to take pictures inside this building, but we saw the royal crown and sceptre and sword, which were beautiful.  We also saw the Stone of Destiny, which looks like a big hunk of rock but has quite a history.

As I said earlier, Edinburgh Castle was primarily a military place, but Royalty occasionally did stay there for ceremonial occasions or when security demanded it.  Mary Queen of Scots gave birth to her son James VI of Scotland (also James I of England later on) in there and we saw the room as well as other rooms used by Scottish royalty.

Every day at 1 PM, they fire off a canon from the castle

This is just ceremonial now, but in earlier centuries the population of Edinburgh would set their watches by this signal, and it also helped ships with their navigation.  There was an exhibit about this practice and we were very surprised and pleased to see Kingston's own Fort Henry mentioned as one of a short list of places that still carry on a similar tradition:

Here are a few more of the hundreds of pictures I took at Edinburgh Castle:

The last of these shows how the volcanic rock on which the Castle is built still shows through in places.

After walking around at the Castle all day we were very pleased to rest our feet and have dinner at the Elephant House, a cute little Edinburgh cafe which has become famous as the place where J.K. Rowling used to sit and drink coffee and work on some little book she was writing....

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