SCOTLAND – Edinburgh
SCOTLAND – Edinburgh
Tourist Information and Accommodation Centre, Waverley Market, Princes Street, Edinburgh. 031-557 2727.
(posted Nov 2011): Edinburgh, Waverley (031-556 8835).
The castle provides the most dramatic of backcloths when its Esplanade becomes the setting for the Edinburgh International Tattoo. A great glacier sweeping from west to east scoured, smoothed and rounded the hills upon which Edinburgh was built leaving behind the noble crag, standing ready for a fortress. Edinburgh has had a stirring and turbulent history since Malcolm Canmore used its rock as a refuge in the latter half of the eleventh century. Malcolm III, son of the Duncan murdered by Macbeth, was probably the last of the true Gaelic Kings and saw the beginnings of the growth of the city as a trading centre and an Augustinian abbey founded at Holyrood. The first charter was granted as late as 1329 by Robert the Bruce. Powerfully important craft guilds were later incorporated, municipalities grew up and the city became the usual place for the meetings of parliament. The College of Justice was founded and the General Assembly of the Church was inaugurated at the Reformation. Whilst the Union of the Crowns in 1603 and the ending of the Scottish parliament a century later removed some prestige, it remained the centre of the judiciary. It was also a centre of learning and medicine and a place of literary gathering.
Edinburgh’s is the tale of two cities. To one side is the Old Town with Holyroodhouse at the bottom end of the Royal Mile and the dominating castle at the top with, on either side, a warren of closes, narrow alleyways and passages leading into courtyards of high-rise tenements or to the more elegant buildings of Grass-market and Lawnmarket, Cowgate and Canongate. On the other side of Edinburgh is the New Town with its Georgian terraces built in high, wide and handsome streets and squares on the side of a hill which rose up from the Nor’loch, as fine a site as any architect could wish for. Between the two Nor’loch was n awful eyesore, a noisome stagnant bog used as a rubbish tip uni it was eventually drained and cleared. Today it is where the Princs Street gardens grow (and the trains runl). The Castle starts\you off at the top of the Royal Mile. For almost a thousand years there has been a fortification on this outcrop. The Esplanade is the arena for the International Tattoo each year. The castle entrance by the main gate leads over the dry moat on to Half Moon Battery, and on three sides of a square are the Old Palace, Old Parliament Hall and the Naval and Military Museum, and on the fourth side is the National War Memorial. St Margaret’s Chapel is tiny, and was built either by the Queen or by her son, David, who dedicated this delightful Norman Chapel to his mother. When Mary Queen of Scots became engaged to the Dauphin of France, Mons Meg, the huge fifteenth-century cannon bombarded from its 200/2in bore muzzle to sound a salute. It is one of the sights of the castle. The western side of the Palace buildings is the Services Museum. On the southern side the fifteenth-century banqueting hall, the centre of ceremony and parliamentary sessions, is still used for receptions but it also houses a museum of armour and weapons. And in the Crown Room is the sceptre, sword of state, the golden collar of the Garter, and other royal jewels.
In front of the castle, back on the Esplanade, there is an iron fountain, close to the spot where some witches were burned, and, to the right at the top of Castle Wynd North steps, is a house with a cannon-ball buried in the wall testifying to the rotten aim of someone in the castle who was trying to hit Holyrood, down below, during the Jacobite problems of 1745.
Going down the Royal Mile towards Holyrood you first come to Outlook Tower, which has a visitors’ centre and camera obscura. James’ Court was the home of David Hume and where Boswell, biographer of Dr Johnson, lived. Brodie’s Close was the home of a Deacon William Brodie, the real Jeckyll and Hyde. The now restored Gladstone’s Land is an example of the tenement blocks erected in 1620. It contains relics of Burns, Scott and Stevenson.