A couple of things from yesterday:
I learned the correct pronunciation of Edinburgh. Not Ed-in-burg. Not Edin-BRO. It’s more like Edn-BRRA, except that the “A” sound is not quite like in “bra”.
We saw a few men wearing kilts, just as part of their regular way of dressing: henleys, work boots, and kilts. The only people who seemed to notice were obvious tourists (identifiable by their wheeled suitcases or backpacks).
Second Day in Edinburgh
So today, we all got together for breakfast and went off to Edinburgh Castle, the Royal Mile, and Holyrood Palace.
The official website for the Castle is: http://www.edinburghcastle.gov.uk/
We got there a little after it opened at nine-thirty. It wasn’t at all crowded then, but by the time we left, there were a lot of people. They say it is the most popular tourist sight in Scotland.
Edinburgh Castle is built on a volcanic plug called Castle Rock. It is looks enormous from Princes Street Gardens. When you get to the Castle, it looks even more impressive. It is divided into three sections called wards. The ticket office is in the Lower Ward; you enter by a gatehouse that was built in 1888, which seems old-ish to us but is quite new compared to most of the Castle, including the road which was built in 1464 by James III for the transport of cannon. There are statues of Robert the Bruce and William Wallace. (“King Robert, I presume?”)
You enter the Castle from the Esplanade on the east, and move sort of counter-clockwise through the Lower Ward and the immense Middle Ward, into the Upper Ward in the center of the Castle precincts. Nearly everything is made of rock. Not dressed stone, just rock. On a gray day like today, it feels forbidding.
We went through the Portcullis Gate into the Middle Ward. It was built in the 16th century to replace a tower that was destroyed in a siege, and had to be rebuilt a couple of times.
The Middle Ward is the largest section of the Castle. The Middle Ward contains some large buildings that you can’t go into unless you have business there, including the Governor’s House, which used to be a residence, and is now used as the office of the Governor of the Castle, and an officers mess. By the Governor’s House is the New Barrack Block, which houses the headquarters of the 52nd Infantry Brigade, the Regimental HQ of the Royal Regiment of Scotland, and the Regimental HQ of the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards (Carabiniers and Greys).
There’s a hospital and a military prison. There are a couple of museums. The site map shows some unidentified buildings that Chris wouldn’t let me investigate. Party pooper.
There are several “batteries” which are artillery placements, heavy guns. Charles said he had been hoping to to get one of those batteries for his camera but they were all too big. (His girlfriend put her hand over his mouth.) One of the batteries, called Mills Mount Battery, is where they fire the One O’Clock Gun.
This is cool. It’s been fired nearly every day for 150 years, as a time signal for shipping in the Firth of Forth and the Port of Leith. We decided to use it as a time signal for our group, to meet up in the Lower Ward. The original gun was a cannon.
Some 18th century cart sheds in the Middle Ward are now used as tea rooms. Some of us had lunch there, a bit early, to rest our feet. (Naming no names, here. But.)
The Upper Ward
The highest part of Castle Rock is the Upper Ward. To get into it, you go through an arched opening in the stone wall. The opening is called Foog’s Gate. It used to be called the Foggy Gate. It was gray and cold but not foggy this morning, but I could see where fog would make an impression.
The Upper Ward has some interesting stuff, including an enormous cannon, called a siege gun. It is one of two that were given to King James II. The other gun exploded in battle in 1460, killing the king. This gun is named Mons Meg and is always referred to as “she”. She was fired to celebrate the wedding of Mary Queen of Scots to the French dauphin in 1558. The cannonball was found later about two miles away. Mons Meg is now “defunct” but still impressive.
Downslope from Mons Meg is a pet cemetery where soldiers’ dogs are buried.
Another interesting sight is St. Margaret’s Chapel. It is very old and quite small. They say that it was used as a gunpowder store from the sixteenth century to the nineteenth century. It was built during the reign of David I as a private chapel for the royal family, and was dedicated to his mother, Saint Margaret of Scotland. There is a legend that St. Margaret herself worshipped here.
The chapel has been restored to resemble the way it was when first built.
You can go into the chapel but it’s small and a lot of people want to look in. It feels like a museum piece, probably because it’s mostly not used, only looked at. They do use it sometimes for small weddings and baptisms and other ceremonies.
There’s a large building housing another museum, and beyond that is the Palace Yard, which is also called Crown Square. Three large buildings connect in a U shape: the Royal Palace, the Great Hall, and the Queen Anne Building.
The Queen Anne building houses an education center for schools. It was swarming with kids and re-enactors in costumes from various eras of Scottish history. They use “period weapons”, mostly swords and daggers, but also pikes and halberds and some replicas of early pistols. They showed us how, after a sword fight, their blades were nicked. The same people that run this center have set up educational displays around the Castle.
We spent the afternoon at Holyrood Palace. Here is a link to a web page about the palace:
I’m going to write about that on a separate post because this is getting long.
Unless otherwise noted, photos are from Wikimedia and are used under a Creative Commons license.
kim traynor [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Entry to Edinburgh Castle
By Chris Sherlock (Ta bu shi da yu) (Own work) [GFDL (www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)], via Wikimedia Commons
Man on Bench:
By Nevit Dilmen (Own work) [GFDL (www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/) or CC-BY-SA-2.5-2.0-1.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5-2.0-1.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
This photo is in the Public Domain. The file link for Wikimedia is: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Dog_cemetary.jpg
St Margaret’s Chapel: