Castles, Palaces, and Everything In Between

Edinburgh, Scotland, United Kingdom
Sunday, May 8, 2016

Our host, Davey, served us up a fine breakfast of omelette for Dan and savoury continental for me before we ventured out on our first full day in Edinburgh. Our goal: read the title.

We made our way by foot up to Edinburgh Castle. Not only is the rock it sits on huge, but so is the castle! What a sight to walk up to. And when I say walk, I do mean walk UP and UP and UP. There was a set of stairs to get us from the side street we approached from the back on to the main parade ground in front of the castle gate. I was thoroughly impressed with this young couple who carried their child in the stroller all the way up.

The climb is worth it. The castle is magnificent, and so is the view. No wonder the castle has never been taken by force…its been surrendered a few times, but never taken by force. It changed at one point in history from the royal residence to a strictly military castle, and remains so today. One of the largest on site buildings is a military barracks. There’s so much there and we did not get to see it all. The Scottish Crown Jewels are kept there, along with the Stone of Scone (pronounced scoon).

The Stone is also known as the Stone of Destiny, and it is a piece of stone about 3’x1.5’x1.5′ from the Scone area of Scotland. If I understand correctly, starting about 906 AD, the kings of Scotland were required to sit on the Stone when they took their oaths to be king, the Stone being a symbol of the ties between the people and the land. A ‘king’ was not a king until he sat on the Stone. And it has been this way right up to this day. Now, the Stone stayed in Scone for hundreds of years, but the last King of Scotland to be inaugurated on it was Balliol in November 1292. In 1296, after conquering Scotland, King Edward of England moved the Stone to Westminster Abbey and had it ensconced beneath the seat of St. Edward the Confessor. That seat was and is used to inaugurate England’s kings and queens; with the Stone there they basically were being inaugurated as Scotland’s kings and queens as well. The Stone remained there until 1996, when it was returned to Scotland and is now housed in the vault at Edinburgh Castle. It still must return to Westminster Abbey whenever a new King or Queen is inaugurated, but between times it is back in Scotland’s hands.

Anyhoo, we could have stayed at the castle far longer than we did. Unfortunately we had to leave sooner than we really wanted to because we had booked a tour with The Real Mary King’s Close. Fortunately, the tour was really good and informative. It took us to a part of old Edinburgh that used to be where the common people lived that had been built over by the powers that be so they could put another building overtop it. This of course meant all those people were kicked out of their homes. The close refers to a street, and Mary’s street was one of the wider ones at roughly four or five feet.

After that we had lunch at an Indian restaurant, and then made our way to the other end of The Royal Mile to visit the Palace of Holyrood House. This is where the kings and queens of Scotland eventually lived when they realized how cold and uncomfortable the castle was. Holyrood remains the current Royal family’s summer residence. It is definitely more comfortable than the castle, more opulent, and very fine. Apparently the Royal Company of Archers have unrestricted access to the palace grounds to practice on. Appropriate, considering they also act as the Royal bodyguards when the family is in residence. What I found odd, though, is that their ground target on the lawn is at the end nearest the palace. That seems dangerous to me. Why wouldn’t they have it farthest away from the palace? I would have asked, but they weren’t there at the time.

We ended the day with another fantastic Italian meal and then a movie: Captain America: Civil War.

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