Saturday, January 07, 2012

a november day in edinburgh

Today's soundtrack:
"Synesthésie" by Malajube
"Crown of Love" by Arcade Fire
"The Stand" by Mother Mother
"Drinking Games" by Library Voices
"The Choke" by Austra
"Creep On Creepin' On" by Timber Timbre
"Northern Air" by Elliott Brood

I know.  I'm woefully behind.  The past two months have been full of writing, visitors, and traveling.  But now I have a minute to pause and go through my photos.

So, where did I leave off?  Ah yes, Hallowe'en.    Well, a few days after that Miguel and I took off to Edinburgh for the day with the main goal of seeing the Castle.  We're doing Edinburgh piece by piece, you see.  I think the next pleasant day in Edinburgh will mean a hike up Arthur's Seat and a tour through Holyrood Palace, in which Mary, Queen of Scots once lived.  On this trip to Edinburgh, however, we visited her son's birthplace instead.

But before heading up to the Castle, we wandered about town a wee bit.  I spotted another baked potato shop, but this one has unique claim:

I also was keen to see the Heart of Midlothian, which I'd missed during our first trip into Edinburgh.  It can be a bit difficult to spot during the Festival, as there's generally a lot of people milling about, but it's just past the St. Giles Cathedral as you're heading up the Royal Mile.  If you hit the monument to Walter Scott (but not that Walter Scott), you've gone to far.

We took a bit of a detour past Greyfriars' and wandered through the graveyard.  Part of the Flodden Wall is still standing, checkered with gravestones.  What caught my attention, however, were the grates overtop some of the graves.

These mortsafes deterred potential bodysnatchers, usually anatomy students from the local medical schools, in the 18th and 19th centuries.  The Greyfriars' graveyard has some of the only remaining examples in Scotland.

The Castle was crawling with tourists, albeit significantly fewer than in the summer, which made taking people-free photos of the architecture a little difficult.  This was balanced out, however, by a brilliantly sunny day and a funny guide.  What I didn't realize was how the Castle is its own little town.  It's not one building, but a collection of them, all built (and some destroyed) at different times and on different levels.

View from above Foog's Gate (17th century).  To the left is the Governor's House (1742).

Up near the top of the Castle is St. Margaret's Chapel, which we unfortunately couldn't visit as there was a wedding.  Also, could you imagine getting married in this chapel?!  It's the oldest surviving building, having been spared demolition in 1314 by Randolph, Earl of Moray.  It dates back to the early 12th century, having been built by St. Margaret's son, the future King David I of Scotland.

Our guide told us this venue is very popular with brides' fathers (it only sits 30 people).

We also visited various halls on the top level of the Castle, one of which includes a small closet off to the side, in which Mary, Queen of Scots, gave birth to her son, James.  The room couldn't've fit more than 2 or 3 people, besides the very pregnant Queen Mary.  The view of Arthur's Seat out the window, however, is quite lovely.

We also saw the Honours of Scotland, which includes the Stone of Scone (which will return to England when the next monarch is crowned, but with "a very long elastic attached", according to our guide), but for security reasons we weren't allowed to take pictures.

Edinburgh Castle, aside from housing an army regiment and, occasionally, royals, also functioned as a prison during the late 18th century.  They've kept some of the art created by the prisoners, as well as the etchings they made on the wooden doors...

Can you see the masted ship complete with cannons?

... and stones.

And, of course, no trip to the Castle would be complete without visiting the Mons Meg.

I do not envy whatever poor soul had to load those cannonballs, as each one weighs around 400 lbs.  And yes, those are fully-grown adults standing beside the cannon.  The cannon dates from the 15th century and was only useful for battering walls from about 2 miles distant.  In other words, the Mons Meg could hit the broadside of a barn, but not with any real accuracy, and could only be fired 8 or 10 times a day.

A tour of the whole Castle took us a few hours, but we do like to dawdle.  And with our short winter days, there were only a few hours in which to take photos.

I still cannot believe I live in a country that has proper castles.  And with cannons!  We're completely ready for whatever the 15th century can throw at us.

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