Happy St. Patrick’s Day! I don’t have any gorgeous photos or stories of Ireland (yet!), so I’ll have to take you to Scotland instead.
The first thing I did after dropping my bags at the best hotel in Edinburgh was to visit Edinburgh Castle. I hadn’t planned on going right away, but it towers over the city. It’s unavoidable, up on that hill, and it draws you in. Unable to ignore its siren castle call, I walked up the cobbled streets from my hotel. As I approached the entrance, I became acquainted with the frigid April wind of Scotland. I know frigid wind because I’ve experienced Alaska in October. This was a serious degree of frigid.
The castle sits on a very solid piece of volcanic rock high above the city. The entrance is toward the back of what to my American mind looks like an empty parking lot. It’s called the Esplanade, a parade ground that hosts the annual Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo (which is a drum performance and, in fact, has nothing to do with ink). Alas, that happens in August, so I was four months too early. If you want a little taste, I found this on youtube.
As I entered the castle grounds past the gatehouse, I saw cannons in the wall of the castle above me. They look imposing, but they’re actually from sailing ships and would be very ineffective as true defense. During Queen Victoria’s reign, it was decided that Edinburgh castle didn’t look impressive enough, and they added a lot of set dressing like walls of swords, suits of armor, and cannons from sailing ships.
The Lang Stairs, just past the portcullis gate, were the original way to get to the summit of the castle. Now there’s a graded driveway that most people use to get to the top. A Scotsman named Fergus (I’m not kidding) led a group of us around the castle, telling us about its history and how Braveheart sucks because it’s total fiction.
The view from the castle grounds is breathtaking. It’s easy to see why they built here, with the 360-degree view.
Arthur’s Seat, a beautiful green hill about 823 feet high, is visible through the paned glass of the Royal Palace.
The oldest structure on the summit is St. Margaret’s Chapel, built in the 12th century by her son, King David. It’s a small building with really thick walls (two feet?) and not many windows, except like this one. Because the walls are so thick, they provide only a small amount of light to the interior.
The exterior of the chapel is so well-maintained that it looks nowhere near its age. My photo of the chapel is deceptive–doesn’t it look like a gorgeous, sunny day? It was certainly gorgeous, but with the chilling wind and occasional rain, I was grateful for my warm coat.