Here’s a view of Edinburgh above the Waverly Train Station (which is underground) and the North Bridge (at the bottom of the photo). You can see Carlton Hill, dead center, with it’s various buildings, including Nelson’s Monument. In 1861, Captain Wauchope, a Scottish Naval Officer in the Royal Navy invented the “time ball,” which is still on top of Nelson’s Monument. Precisely at one o’clock the ball drops giving the signal to sailors so they can adjust their clocks. This was in an age when time pieces were quite unreliable. But seeing the ball was often difficult and it couldn’t be seen at all in foggy weather. So, in the same year a gun was fired simultaneously as the ball dropped. The gun could be easily heard by ships in Leith Harbor, 2 miles away. It was replaced in 1953 with a 25 pound Howitzer which is now fired from the Battery at Edinburgh Castle. But here’s my favorite part: Why 1 o’clock? Aren’t these things usually done at noon? Not in thrifty Scotland! Why fire 12 shots when one will do? The One O’clock Gun is still fired and is popular with both tourists and natives.
The hard part about blogging is that if you are moving about frequently, as I’ve been the last month, it’s easy to get behind. I assure you, I’ve been having fun! I am currently in Valencia, but finishing up the last post of my trip to visit dear, dear friends in Edinburgh, Scotland. We had an amazing time and it helped that Kathy knows the area quite well, having lived there three years while in college.
The large natural feature in the background is known as Arthur’s Seat, which is part of Holyrood Park. The hill rises above the Edinburgh to a height of 250.5 m (822 ft) and provides excellent panoramic views of the city. We were a bit too busy (or old?) to climb it, but the formation is very similar to the rock that the old Edinburgh Castle stands on, about a mile away (which we did climb. So there). Like the castle rock on which Edinburgh Castle is built, this rocky hill was formed by an extinct volcano about 350 million years ago. The volcano was eroded by a glacier moving from west to east during an ice age approximately two million years ago, exposing rocky crags and leaving a tail of material swept to the east.
We were in Scotland the last week of February, which included my birthday! Friends of Kathy, Roger and Hazel, treated me to a birthday meal I shall never forget–despite the copious amounts of champagne and wine! These are my kind of people: witty, intelligent and they know good food and drink (I particularly loved the cheese course)! It was a very special evening and I can never repay them. I am so lucky to be making so many friends around the world.
These are just a few random photos I wanted to share.
I was sure I had a better photo somewhere of the Scott Monument, but this is the best I can find this evening. It’s quite impressive. It towers above Prince’s Street on the edge of the New Town Gardens opposite Jenners Department Store. The tower is 200 feet 6 inches (61.11 m) high, arching over a statue of Sir Walter Scott. The porous stone has darkened from soot and coal fires since it’s construction in the 1840’s. It wasn’t always black. Though there have been efforts to clean it, the stone is soft. It was decided not to clean the stone due to the damage it would sustain.
More than two centuries after his death, a statue of David Hume has become a lucky charm for those who hope some of the great philosopher’s wisdom will rub off on them. Here’s Julia rubbing the shinny big toe of this 9 foot statue for good luck. Kathy is to her side. We all did it, and I feel pretty lucky! (not wise, maybe, but lucky)
What a very polite sign. I like that.
The National Museum of Scotland is actually two buildings that were linked earlier this century. This the “old” section of the museum, the former Royal Museum, opened in 1866. Its grand central hall is of cast iron and glass. It was designed by civil engineer Captain Francis Fowke of the Royal Engineers, who is also responsible for the Royal Albert Hall. This central gallery was inspired by The Crystal Palace, erected in London’s Hyde Park for the Great Exhibition of 1851.
Located on the Royal Mile, this is THE place for whiskey (what Americans call Scotch). They know their stuff and let you taste, too. YUM!
The Burns Monument is dedicated to Scotland’s national and much loved poet, Robert Burns (1759-96). It’s modeled on the ancient Choragic Monument of Athens (Edinburgh is sometimes called the Athens of the North).
Deacon Brodie may have been the person that the character Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde is based on! William Brodie (1741 – 1788) was more commonly known by his prestigious title of Deacon Brodie. He was a Scottish cabinet-maker, deacon of a trades guild, and Edinburgh city councilor. He maintained a secret life as a burglar, partly for the thrill, and partly to fund his gambling and mistresses. Robert Louis Stevenson, whose father owned furniture made by Brodie, wrote a play (with W. E. Henley) entitled Deacon Brodie, or The Double Life, which was unsuccessful. However, Stevenson remained fascinated by the dichotomy between Brodie’s respectable facade, and his real nature, It may have inspired him to write The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1886).
St Giles’ Cathedral is the historic City Church of Edinburgh. With its famed crown spire it stands on the Royal Mile between Edinburgh Castle and the Palace of Holyroodhouse. Also known as the High Kirk of Edinburgh, it is the Mother Church of Presbyterianism and contains the Chapel of the Order of the Thistle (Scotland’s chivalry company of knights chosen by The Queen.)
It was late February and quite cold, especially at night, but these little snow drops were popping up everywhere. Even some very tiny daffodils. Honestly, we were quite lucky with the weather. Though cold, it was dry and not too windy.
This is once again an active church with Sunday services.
I’m still posting photos from last week when I was in Edinburgh, Scotland with friends. I’m now in Barcelona, but I’m most glad to be out of Turkey. In the last two weeks, I’ve received four warnings from the Istanbul Consulate about potential threats there. There’s also a general travel warning for the entire world. As always. But we must remember that the world has never been safe, and it has never been safer than now. At least the places I travel.
And one of the amazing places I got to travel to last week was Rosslyn Chapel. You’ve seen
, of course. Or The Da Vinci Code read the book? This chapel plays heavily in the end of the story and so tourism to this site has greatly increased.
Rosslyn Chapel, formally known as the Collegiate Chapel of St Matthew, is a 15th-century chapel located at the village of Roslin, Midlothian, Scotland, about seven miles south of Edinburgh. Notice the difference in spelling. No wonder English is so difficult!
We took a bus to the town of Roslin and had to walk a few blocks to the chapel. We passed this tree and you just know there’s a story.
The Old Rosslyn Inn, with a date of 1660 over the door. The chapel is behind this building.
This is the new entry way, opened in 2011–clearly modern. Construction of the chapel began in 1456. Although the original building was to be cruciform in shape (the shape of a cross), it was never completed. Only the choir was constructed, with the retro-chapel, otherwise called the Lady chapel, built on the much earlier crypt (Lower Chapel) believed to form part of an earlier castle. Those are my friends, Kathy and Julia, entering in front of me.
Rosslyn Chapel remains privately owned. The current owner is Peter St Clair-Erskine, 7th Earl of Rosslyn. Since the late 1980s, the chapel has also featured in speculative theories concerning a connection of Freemasonry, the Knights Templar and the Holy Grail. It was prominently featured in the 2003 bestselling novel The Da Vinci Code and its 2006 film adaptation.
After the Scottish Reformation (1560), Roman Catholic worship in the chapel was brought to an end, although the Sinclair family continued to be Roman Catholics until the early 18th century. From that time the chapel was closed to public worship. It even briefly served as a horse stable! Oliver Cromwell had his men stable their horses in the chapel in 1650 when he and General George Monck conquered nearby Rosslyn Castle. In 1688 a mob from Edinburgh attacked this symbol of papistry and inflicted more damage. In 1842 the chapel, now in a ruined and overgrown state, was visited by Queen Victoria, who expressed a desire that it should be preserved. Restoration work was carried out and in 1861, the chapel was opened again as a place of worship according to the rites of the Scottish Episcopal Church, a member church of the Anglican Communion.
The pinnacles on the rooftop have been subject to interest during renovation work in 2010. Nesting jackdaws had made the pinnacles unstable and had to be dismantled brick by brick revealing the existence of a chamber specifically made by the stonemasons for bees. The hive, now abandoned, has been sent to local bee keepers to identify. According to the guide, a new family of bees started back in the same area last year!
The chapel has been a burial place for several generations of the Sinclairs (also spelled St. Clair); a crypt was once accessible from a descending stair at the rear of the chapel. This crypt has been sealed shut for many years, which may explain the recurrent legends that it is merely a front to a more extensive subterranean vault containing (variously) the mummified head of Jesus Christ, the Holy Grail, the treasure of the Knights Templar, even the original crown jewels of Scotland! In 1837, when the 2nd Earl of Rosslyn died, his wish was to be buried in the original vault. Exhaustive searches over the period of a week were made, but no entrance to the original vault was found and he was buried beside his wife in the Lady Chapel. BTW, the “crypt” from the poplular film was a stage set, not the original church–they bear no resemblance. While some scenes were in fact filmed here, that wasn’t one of them.
Sir William St. Clair, 3rd Prince of Orkney, decided to build this chapel as his ticket to heaven—establishing constant prayers for his soul. He employed many masons to carve hundreds of sculptures on the inside and out. It’s hard to imagine the intricate stonework inside the chapel until you’ve seen it. We had an excellent volunteer guide who pointed out such detail for us. While the carvings are completely symmetric, no theme is repeated exactly. Each carving is unique and often balances (but never copies) other works on the opposite side.
This is the intricate Apprentice column. Originally called the “Prince’s Pillar,” the name morphed over time due to a legend dating from the 18th century, involving the master mason in charge of the stonework in the chapel and his young apprentice mason. The master mason traveled to get inspiration to carve the column, but upon his return was enraged to find that the upstart apprentice had completed the column by himself. In a fit of jealous anger, the master mason took his mallet and struck the apprentice on the head, killing him. The legend concludes that as punishment for his crime, the master mason’s face was carved into the opposite corner to forever gaze upon his apprentice’s pillar. No photos were allowed inside, so I’ve borrowed this one from Wikipedia: By Guinnog at the English language Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1089063
There are more than 110 carvings of “Green Men” in and around the chapel. Green Men are carvings of human faces with greenery all around them, often growing out of their mouths. They are found in all areas of the chapel, with one example in the Lady chapel, between the two middle altars of the east wall. This photo by Johanne McInnis – email to OTRS, CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3817330
The Palace of Holyroodhouse, commonly referred to as Holyrood Palace, is the official residence of the British monarch in Scotland. Located at the bottom of the Royal Mile in Edinburgh, at the opposite end to Edinburgh Castle, Holyrood Palace has served as the principal residence of the Kings and Queens of Scots since the 16th century, and is a setting for state occasions and official entertaining.
While the Edinburgh Castle is at one end of the Royal Mile, the other end is Holyrood Palace, the official residence of the Queen when she is in Scotland. Alongside it, and dating from an earlier time, is the remains of the Abbey of Holyrood.
The queen wasn’t home. In fact, she only spends about a week here, once a year at the beginning of each summer, where she carries out a range of official engagements and ceremonies. The 16th century Historic Apartments of Mary, Queen of Scots and the State Apartments, used for official and state entertaining, are open to the public throughout the year, except when members of the Royal Family are in residence.
The palace as it stands today was built between 1671-1678 in a quadrangle layout. No photos were allowed inside. Darn it.
Holyrood Abbey is a ruined abbey attached to the Palace. The abbey was founded in 1128 by King David I. During the 15th century, the abbey guesthouse was developed into a royal residence, and after the Scottish Reformation the Palace of Holyroodhouse was expanded further. The abbey church was used as a parish church until the 17th century, and has been ruined since the 18th century. The remaining walls of the abbey lie adjacent to the palace, at the eastern end of Edinburgh’s Royal Mile.
Rood is an old word for the cross which Jesus Christ was crucified upon; thus the name Holyrood is equivalent to “Holy Cross.” In the church was preserved, in a golden reliquary, the fragment of the True Cross brought by David’s mother, St. Margaret, from Waltham Abbey, and known thereafter as the Black Rood of Scotland. Those are my friends, Kathy and Julia, in the middle of the photo.
Legend relates that in 1127, while King David I was hunting in the forests to the east of Edinburgh during the Feast of the Cross, he was thrown from his horse after it had been startled by a hart. According to variations of the story, the king was saved from being gored by the charging animal when it was startled either by the miraculous appearance of a holy cross descending from the skies, or by sunlight reflected from a crucifix which suddenly appeared between the hart’s antlers while the king attempted to grasp them in self-defense. As an act of thanksgiving for his escape, David I founded Holyrood Abbey on the site in 1128.
Holyrood Abbey was the site of the coronations of James II in 1437, Margaret Tudor in 1504, Mary of Guise in 1540, Anne of Denmark in 1590, and Charles I in 1633.
Edinburgh Castle is an historic fortress which dominates the skyline of the city of Edinburgh, Scotland, from its position on the Castle Rock. There has been a royal castle on the rock since at least the reign of David I in the 12th century, and the site continued to be a royal residence until the Union of the Crowns in 1603.
You can’t see a skyline of Edinburgh without the Castle Rock in the background. It shows up in the background of so many of my photos. It’s a lovely site and I got a chance to see it up close. I’ve quoted from Wikipedia for this post, far heavier than usual.
More than a castle, it is a defensive fortification, as the thick walls and gates indicate. As one of the most important strongholds in the Kingdom of Scotland, Edinburgh Castle was involved in many historical conflicts from the Wars of Scottish Independence in the 14th century to the Jacobite Rising of 1745. Research undertaken in 2014 identified 26 sieges in its 1100-year-old history, giving it a claim to having been “the most besieged place in Great Britain and one of the most attacked in the world”
The views from the rock are tremendous. The Castle Rock is the remains of a volcanic pipe, which cut through the surrounding sedimentary rock before cooling to form very hard dolerite, a type of basalt. Subsequent glacial erosion was resisted by the dolerite, which protected the softer rock to the east, leaving a crag and tail formation, This means that the only readily accessible route to the castle lies to the east, where the ridge slopes more gently. The defensive advantage of such a site is self-evident, but the geology of the rock also presents difficulties, since basalt is extremely impermeable. Hence, there are no springs on the rock and getting water, especially during a siege, was difficult.
Edinburgh Castle is located at the top of the Royal Mile, at the west end of Edinburgh’s Old Town. The volcanic Castle Rock offers a naturally defended position, with sheer cliffs to north and south, and a steep ascent from the west. The only easy approach is from the town to the east, and the castle’s defenses are situated accordingly, with a series of gates protecting the route to the summit of the Castle Rock.
The oldest building in the castle, and in Edinburgh, is the small St. Margaret’s Chapel. One of the few 12th-century structures surviving in any Scottish castle. It dates from the reign of King David I (r.1124–1153), who built it as a private chapel for the royal family and dedicated it to his mother, Saint Margaret of Scotland, who died in the castle in 1093. It survived the slighting of 1314, when the castle’s defenses were destroyed on the orders of Robert the Bruce, and was used as a gunpowder store from the 16th century, when the present roof was built. In 1845, it was “discovered” by the antiquary Daniel Wilson, while in use as part of the larger garrison chapel, and was restored in 1851–1852. The chapel is still used for religious ceremonies, such as weddings.
The Scottish National War Memorial
The 15th-century siege gun or bombard known as Mons Meg is displayed on a terrace in front of St. Margaret’s Chapel. She was constructed in Flanders on the orders of Philip III, Duke of Burgundy in 1449, and given as a gift to King James II, the husband of his niece, in 1457. The 13,000-pound gun rests on a reconstructed carriage. That’s my friend Julia to the right. We got the audio guide and it was well worth it.
This is so endearing: a graveyard for the soldiers’ dogs.
The Royal Palace comprises the former royal apartments, which were the residence of the later Stewart monarchs. It was begun in the mid 15th century, during the reign of James IV. The building was extensively remodeled for the visit of James VI to the castle in 1617, when state apartments for the King and Queen were built. On the ground floor is the Laich (low) Hall, now called the King’s Dining Room, and a small room, known as the Birth Chamber or Mary Room, where James VI was born to Mary, Queen of Scots, in June 1566. The commemorative painted ceiling and other decoration were added in 1617. On the first floor is the vaulted Crown Room, built in 1615 to house the Honors of Scotland: the crown, the scepter and the sword of state. The Stone of Scone, upon which the monarchs of Scotland were traditionally crowned, has been kept in the Crown Room since its return to Scotland in 1996. While I got to see them, there were no photos allowed.