The one actually in Scotland, not the very nice pub in San Francisco.
Our first day in Edinburgh, we were up by 9 and headed out for a walk. We both wanted to see the castle. It was not only huge, there were a ton of things to do once you went in the castle. We randomly joined the first guided tour of the morning. The guide was a very scottish gentleman who clearly loved his job of telling stories to the tourists. We learned about sieges and strife and castle sackings and Ensign Ewart who captured the French regimental eagle at Waterloo.
I took a lot of photos. I’ve discovered I have a total fascination with castles. How they’re built for defense and structured so it’s really hard to take them over. The wall, the moats, the arrow slits, the cannons… all so totally foreign but incredibly awesome.
I am somewhat sad I didn’t get any pictures of the castle from the south, where it’s just a volcanic cliff. The weather gods were not cooperating with me for pictures from that angle, though.
We had a great day at the castle, and we did spend almost the entire day there and we didn’t quite see everything there was to see.
The tour walked us up from the portcullis, past the fireworks setup and the one o’clock gun to the highest level of the castle. At that level there were 3 different buildings to explore: the Scottish war memorial, the great hall and the Royal Palace. The war memorial was beautiful and moving. The great hall is one of the original buildings restored to a Victorian sensibility. The Royal Palace holds the treasures of Scotland, including the Stone of Scone and the Scottish crown jewels. There are also a number of rooms restored to the time of Mary Queen of Scots, including the room where she gave birth to King James VI / James I.
Once we’d finished seeing what we could see, it was raining so we ducked into a cafe and grabbed some lunch. We both had the venison and beef stew with hearty brown bread. Yum.
After lunch, we toured the dungeons. Prisoners of war have been kept in Edinburgh castle since before there were international conventions governing prisoners of war. This became an issue at one point, when the castle was full, but no one could be released because there weren’t ways to exchange POWs. Eventually, there was a prisoner exchange with France and other established nations. Prisoners from the War of American Independence (Revolutionary war) couldn’t be exchanged for political reasons, though.
One of the fascinating things about the prisoners is what they did with very little resources. Many of them took up straw weaving and made elaborate carvings and boxes from bones they saved from their food. They were allowed to sell these crafts to locals through the castle gates.
We watched the firing of the one o’clock cannon. This is a tradition from before the time of accurate clocks. The firing of the cannon gave the ships in the harbor an accurate time mark.
There are also at least 2 museums inside the castle: The National Military museum and the museum of the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards. A fascinating trip through the history of warfare and military might. Unfortunately, both museums were lit in a way as to not be conducive to photographs.
By the time we’d finished with the second museum, we were pretty tired, so we headed back to the hotel for a nap.
The castle is an amazing bit of history and architecture that towers over the city. And it’s not for show, it really is a fortress. People lived and died there defending their monarch and their country and their peers.
My name is Laura and I have a deep fascination with castles.