Sunday, December 16, 2012

Edinburgh Castle & the Walter Scott Monument

A couple of weeks ago was St. Andrew's Day-- Friday, November 30 to be precise. St. Andrew is a bit of a big thing around here, being the patron saint of Scotland and all that entails. So, to celebrate, Edinburgh throws a party and even the National Historic Sites get in on the act. On Friday, entry was free to Edinburgh Castle just for showing up, and for Saturday and Sunday, one was able to obtain free tickets online. They are normally £14.50 and higher I believe in the summer, so I ordered a ticket for Sunday December 2 and printed it out, showing up right around half noon.

Since Edinburgh Castle is not just an historic site but also an active, though mainly ceremonial, military garrison. There is something for just about every interest here: it's a castle; the Honours of Scotland (crown jewels) are here; there's a war memorial; dungeons; Queen Mary's birthing chamber and bedroom; a great hall with weapons and armour; military museums; Mons Meg, a giant medieval siege cannon; St. Margaret's Chapel, dating back to 1130; and amazing views of Edinburgh and beyond. There are also cafes, tea shops and souvenir shops, of course.

The site of Edinburgh Castle has been inhabited since neolithic times. The oldest building on the site dates to the reign of David I in the early 1100s. In 1314, during the Scottish wars for independence, the castle was captured by Thomas Randolph, Earl of Moray, and in accordance with the policy of King Robert the Bruce he destroyed the castle's defences to prevent re-occupation by the English. The little chapel was left standing, though and on his death bed in 1329, Bruce spoke of the story of Queen Margaret and issued orders for the chapel's repair. The castle has been besieged, partially destroyed and rebuilt several times since then and you can see evidence of this in the varieties of ornamentation and stonework.

This ‘stronghold of Eidyn’ was first recorded before 600AD. By the Middle Ages, it had become a mighty fortification and the favoured residence of Scotland’s kings and queens.

Many great moments of Scottish history have taken place here. In 1140 the castle became the first recorded meeting place of the Scottish Parliament. In 1566, it was the birthplace of the son of Mary Queen of Scots, who grew up to be King [James] of both Scotland and England. And in 1745, it saw its final siege when the garrison held out against Bonnie Prince Charlie’s Jacobites.

--From the Edinburgh Castle Quick Guide by Historic Scotland

I enjoyed my visit to Edinburgh Castle and recommend it to anyone who comes to Edinburgh. There are free guided tours as well as audio guides. Plan on spending a long day there if you are interested in history, militaria, knights or architecture. Also, try to come on a clear day for some of the most stunning views of the city available.

After the Castle, I wandered through the Christmas Fair setup along Princes' Street Park. The place was packed and along with stalls selling mulled wine, cider, whisky, cheeses and other foodstuffs, were several carnival rides including a ferris wheel. Not feeling up to being spun around, twirled or otherwise gravitationally messed with, after a cup of mulled wine I decided to climb the Scott Monument.

The Scott Monument is a Victorian Gothic tower built in the 1840's to honour Sir Walter Scott, one of Scotland's best-loved novelists, after his death. It was designed by George Meikle Kemp and stands 200 feet above the city. It has three levels of viewing platforms and the tallest is reached by climbing an ever-narrowing spiral staircase of 287 steps.

It is neither wheelchair accessible nor recommended for those with bad hearts, feet, knees, lungs or the morbidly obese. The last few feet of the stairway and the doorway to the top viewing platform are, in my estimation, less than 18 inches wide.

It is another spot for some fantastic views of the city, and also for an excellent, unimpeded view of the castle itself. It is a great spot to be with a camera around sunset.

Below are the photos I took that day:

Panorama view of Edinburgh from the Castle Battlements

A piper beneath the statue of 19th century philosopher, David Hume,
who apparently liked to dispense wisdom on stone tablets
while wrapped in a bed-sheet.
Approaching the castle from the parade ground

Inside the Great Hall

In the cases are the Keys to the Castle and the
paperwork declaring the Governor of the Castle.

Inside the Royal Residences, a suite of restored Tudor rooms,
including Queen Mary's bedroom and her birthing chamber where
James I was born.

An odd little stairway to a small door.

On either side of the entrance to the Scottish National War Memorial
are a Unicorn...
...and a Lion

Looking through the gun ports of the Half Moon Battery onto the city

The Scottish Royal Arms atop the Gatehouse.

Princes Street Park Christmas Festival as seen from the National Gallery
You can see the Scott Monument to the right of center behind the Ferris Wheel
The Christmas Festival and Ice Rink from the top of the Scott Monument

The Castle as seen from the lower viewing area of the Scott Monument

Looking North from the Scott Monumnet

Looking West from the Scott Monument

The Castle from the top of the Scott Monument

Sunset behind the Castle from the top of the Scott Monument

No comments:

Post a Comment