When I lived in Ireland, my mom came to visit me for a week! It was a jam packed week and we did quite a few things, but one of my favourite parts was our trip to Edinburgh. For anyone who is interested in Royal history or Scottish history (both of which I am), Edinburgh is a fascinating city. Although it has played host to some utterly fantastic events (see: Lord Darnley’s death), it still seemed quite a quiet and peaceful city. We stayed within the Royal Mile. While there is so much more to be explored, we wanted to see pretty much everything on the Mile, and we only had two days! We figured we might as well focus on that rather than running ourselves ragged. On the Tuesday, we walked up the Mile and started with Edinburgh Castle.
Edinburgh Castle is located on Castle Rock, and overlooks the city. Aside from a few buildings, most can be dated to the sixteenth century. St. Margaret’s Chapel dates back to 1286, and although is quite small is still one of the most impressive existing buildings I’ve seen to date. The Castle was used by the Scottish sovereign until the reign of Charles II- from that point until 1923, it was used a garrison for army troops. It’s pretty incredible to think that Robert the Bruce and Mary, Queen of Scots spent a great deal of time here, and were privy to key historical events. (Although, to them, I suppose it was just their life.)
When you walk up to Edinburgh Castle up the Royal Mile, it is a fairly intimidating site to behold. It is considered the be at the head of the Old Town, and it’s easy to see why. You can look down on the entire city from the Castle, and you have an absolutely beautiful view of the mountains. It’s not difficult to imagine how a fourteenth century monarch would feel in control- attacking this castle would not be an easy feat. Being the Canadian that I am, I was overjoyed when it snowed while we were there! I felt somewhat akin to my Scottish ancestors, though I doubt they had a Columbia jacket….
I hadn’t seen many red phonebooths in Edinburgh prior to this, so I was quite excited! (UK readers, do you think tourists are ridiculous for looking for red phonebooths?? Please be honest). For me, there was something funny about the juxtaposition of a red phonebooth and a 500 year old castle. Must be the historian in me.
Now for St. Margaret’s Chapel! What’s the big deal you ask? As I mentioned before, the Chapel dates back to 1286. Which means that it is probably the oldest building in Edinburgh. It was built by David I in honour of his mother, Saint Margaret of Scotland. She was an English princess who married Malcolm III of Scotland. She was an incredibly pious woman and dedicated essentially her entire life to religious devotion and works. The chapel is tiny, really. After seeing however many huge cathedrals, this chapel struck me. It might be tiny, but it has heard the prayers of countless Scottish royals.
In the first photo, you can see St. Margaret of Scotland, and in the second, William Wallace. (This might be a bad time to admit that I have not seen Braveheart the entire way through.)
When you look outside and below the chapel, you actually see a small pet cemetery. The dogs of soldiers are buried here, which I think is a fitting resting place.
That Queen Mary
For those of you that don’t know, Mary, Queen of Scots is one of my favourite historical figures. ( Please see these posts here and here.) Also known as Mary I of Scotland, Mary had a turbulent life- she was the Queen of France until her husband died, and she went back to Scotland. She remarried twice to some fairly questionable men (whole other story, or should I say stories). The big deal with Mary is that she had a strong claim to the English throne. Believe it or not, her cousin Elizabeth I wasn’t overly happy about this, kept her prisoner for almost two decades, and then eventually executed her. (You probably won’t ever look at your cousins the same way again.) Mary gave birth to her son at Edinburgh Castle; you might know him as James VI of Scotland, or James I of England and Ireland. I spent quite a bit of time in Mary’s rooms. This bust was quite alarming…
Overall, Edinburgh Castle was simply lovely. I couldn’t begin to describe how much I enjoyed it. Although the military museum portion didn’t really hold my attention (I’ve never had much interest in it), I could have spent days roaming around the entire Castle. If you don’t have a lot of time in Edinburgh, I would put this at the top of your list. The views are stunning, and there is more history in one place than you could ever hope to see. All of those names that you continuously hear in television, movies, and books were real people that were really living their lives here. Making your way down the Royal Mile is never a bad thing in my opinion.
What has been the most impressive site or attraction that you have visited? Have you been speechless anywhere?