Squinty Eyes in Edinburgh

Can you believe that the one time (ok maybe not one time) I leave my sunglasses at home for a trip to Scotland that it ends up being sunny all week? I distinctly remember thinking as I packed, “No, I don’t need my sunglasses. Scotland’s weather will be just like Gdańsk’s. No way I’ll see the sun.

Don’t tempt the fates is all I can say. Every day during out week-long trip in Scotland, I could have used sunglasses. I’m not bitter or anything.

Back to Edinburgh.

The first half of the day we spent exploring Edinburgh Castle. Some of the most notable and most interesting parts of the castle included the Scottish National War Memorial, St. Margaret’s Chapel, and the dog cemetery.

The War Memorial pays tribute to the men & women who served and died in Scottish regiments during the two World Wars and recent conflicts. Each division of the military has a section in the memorial with registries of each person who died during those wars. We spent a fair bit of time in there trying to remember which regiment my great grandfather had served in during the WWI and to try to find his name in the registry.

Following the War Memorial, we wandered through the Great Hall, the Crown Jewels display, and into the whiskey shop for a free sample. We then checked out St. Margaret’s Chapel, the oldest structure on Castle Rock. The chapel was built under the rule of David I, Saint Margaret’s fourth son, in the early 12th century. After many centuries of use and some periods of disuse, the chapel underwent a fairly significant restoration under the patronage of HRH Princess Margaret in the mid-1900’s. At this time, five stained glass panes were installed, each depicting an important figure to Scottish history: St Margaret, St Andrew, St Columba, St Ninian, and William Wallace.

Now, of course, it being me, I particularly liked the little dog cemetery that is situated by the North wall of the castle. In a space that can’t be more than about 10 ft x 10 ft, there are laid to rest regimental officers’ dogs that died during battle. The tradition for this began shortly after the reign of Queen Victoria. There is not much information about this wee cemetery, but it was one of the more touching aspects of the castle.

After a quick lunch in a pub (beer-battered fish & chips for me, although I was retroactively very disappointed in my choice after trying my dad’s breaded fish & chips at the pub we went to the following night), we continued down the Royal Mile towards Holyrood Palace. It took us quite some time to get there, as we kept popping our heads in to various courtyards to see if we would discover anything interesting. Dad managed to find a beautiful garden through a small entryway off the street.

 

We made it to the bottom of the Royal Mile – and I mean bottom because it was all downhill – where I decided that I would rather see the views of the city from Calton Hill. Call it a sick need to climb to the top of things when I go to new places (Exhibit 1 & Exhibit 2) or just a desire to soak up all of Scotland’s beauty under a clear blue sky, but I somehow convinced Mom & Dad to make the long trek up to the top of this hill.

Apologies to my dad for his sore feet, but that hike was worth ever single step. From Calton Hill, you have a 360 degree view of Edinburgh and the surrounding landscape, including Arthur’s Seat, Old Town, New Town, and the Firth of Forth.

What is on Calton Hill is also quite interesting to look at. Not only is the Scottish House of Parliament situated on this hill, but also several 19th century buildings and monuments. Included in this collection are the National Monument, the City Observatory, the Nelson Monument, and the Dugald Stewart Monument.

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The Scottish National Monument, dedicated to soldiers & sailors who died during the Napoleonic Wars
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City Observatory
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City Observatory + Observatory House
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The Nelson Monument, commemorating Vice Admiral Horatio Nelson’s victory over the French & Spanish fleets at the Battle of Trafalgar

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Dugald Stewart Monument, commemorating Dugald Stewart, a Scottish philosopher & mathematician who popularized the Scottish Enlightenment

I think I did everyone in with this trip around Edinburgh, but hey, they still love me. They just might not trust me in planning a trip next go round.

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