This was a busy day... A majority of the day (except lunch, really) was spent on the Royal Mile. This is the strip of road that leads from the Palace of Holyroodhouse to Edinburgh Castle. Basically the place to be.
Once inside, through many, many gates, I did a quick look around and then waited for the next tour to start. While waiting, I got some beautiful shots of the Edinburgh, mostly to the North:
The 30minute tour just allowed me to get a lay of the land, after which I wandered around on my own for a couple of hours. I saw the Royal Apartments where Mary Queen of Scots gave birth to James VI (later James I when he also became King of England), the Scottish Crown Jewels and Stone of Destiny, a Prisoner's of War Exhibition and the Military Prison... among all of the other buildings in this fortress on a volcano. There was much to see on the Upper Ward (the "top" of the castle) where there was possibly the smallest chapel (St. Margaret's, left) behind what is possibly the largest cannon (Mons Meg, right):
Directly in front of the cannon, over a drop-off is a little strip of land which was used as a soldier's dog's cemetery. Now, I don't think I'll be able to describe this adequately, but to get down to this small grassy-area it would be at least a 10foot drop. Climbing up to it wouldn't be much easier, as I imagine it to be a 40foot climb up a stone wall-face. What I'm trying to say is that it's not easy to get there, and humans need ladders. Keep this in mind as I show you what I saw when I looked over the edge:
Howdy, Mr. Fox. A fox stranded in a dog cemetery. Later on the Scotland equivalent of the SPCA came to collect the little guy, which is good as there was about to be a lot of loud noise...
Due to Prince Charles' presence in the city there was to be a 21gun military salute. I decided to stick around, and I'm glad I did. There was much pomp and circumstance... not that the Prince made a showing. It all started with some music and marching (here I'm just showing the bagpiper, though there was a whole band):
Followed by the actual salute (this video is purely for my brother):
Following all that I left the castle and walked down this never-ending alley of steps (it was actually pretty cool) to the Grassmarket area for lunch. As the name implies, a market is held here (during the weekend, so I didn't see it), but it has a lot of restaurants. I ate at The Last Drop. Why the name? Well, they used to have hangings in Grassmarket as well. Excellent.
Following lunch I went to the National Library of Scotland because I'm a sucker for old buildings with old books (to which my parents would attest based on our Boston trip). I was psyched to learn that they had a Gutenberg Bible. Unfortunately, you need a library membership to get into the reading rooms that housed the bible... bummer.
I then when to Gladstone's Land, which is what's left of a merchant's (Gladstone) 16th-century house (he didn't buy it until the 17th-century, though). Each tract of land is rather narrow, but it's deep. Almost as if 2houses were built back-to-back. Of course, they, just like anywhere land is at a premium, had also mastered building "up." To the best of their ability, things were set-up (with both originals and replicas) of how life would have been in the 1600s. I like. Much cooler than the John Knox House.
Next up was St. Giles' Cathedral (aka the High Kirk of Edinburgh). It was worth it, I suppose, but nothing spectacular. The original church was built in the 12th-century, but was burned, so there's very little evidence of that left. I would have liked to see a church that old:
I then did what every visitor to Edinburgh should do... I went into Royal Mile Whiskies. This is a shop that is full (FULL) of thousands of bottles - big and small - of hundreds of kinds of scotch. Now, I'm not much of a scotch drinker, but I can appreciate a room full of good alcohol. On top of that, the staff is really knowledgeable and helpful. That's good, because the last time I drank scotch my friends and I had to cut it with sour mix, which didn't necessarily help. To be fair, it was really bad (free) scotch. There's also someplace called the "Scotch Whiskey Experience" on the Royal Mile, which is the more commercial version. They, however, have a scotch ride. Like in an amusement park. I'm pretty sure had it been an actual distillery and if I was there with Dave (he would have been excited), then that I would have ponied up the £12 to do it.
That night I went on a Ghost Tour of Edinburgh. Fittingly, the tour met and started at the Mercat Cross, or market cross, at the center of town where business - and executions - would take place. It was a walking tour with various stops at places in which murders, ghostly events, and general spookiness happened. The tour ended in the vaults, constructed under one of the large bridges (connecting hills, not spanning water) in the city. Apparently, you can book a tour in which you SPEND THE NIGHT in the vaults. If anyone wants to come back to Edinburgh with me I AM DOING THIS. Just throwing that out there. I'll even include a retelling of the Canongate Cannibal tale to make the idea that much more enticing: It's January 16, 1707. Scotland is to sign the Treaty of Union, ultimately becoming part of Great Britain with England, something supported only by the ruling class. The Duke of Queensbury (one such supporter) let his entire staff out for the day to "celebrate." However, they left one kitchen boy behind to watch the roasting pig for that evening's party. When the servants returned they found not the pig roasting on the spit, but the kitchen boy... and a large stranger standing there eating him. Turns out this was the Duke's adult son that had escaped his cell in the basement (yes, really). He had been born with hydrocephalus (i.e., water on the brain) and was locked away as a result. Needless to say, there wasn't much of a party at the Duke's that night. Fast forward a couple of centuries and that house - on Canongate - is now part of the new Scottish Parliament, which is essentially trying to assert their independence from England. FULL CIRCLE.
All June 2 photos:
Up next: A slower day in Edinburgh.