Castellum Puellarum

Edinburgh is a weird city, as far as layout goes. It grew up in a strange way, and that makes it a downright puzzling city. See, first of all, you’ve got the huge basalt mound upon which Castle Edinburgh sits1. The basalt was resistant to the flow of glaciers, which cut hugely deep gouges around it. When the city grew up, it was Castle Edinburgh, and the Royal Mile, a single, mile-long with 50 or so Closes – tiny alleyways leading to off-street courtyards.

This ran directly down the hill from the castle to the city walls2. It wasn’t until the 1700s that the city started expanding, with the New Towns built3 around the old town. These new towns meant new streets and roads needed to be built, crossing over the huge rifts in the land, meaning bridges. The bridges were lined with houses and other buildings, so that they look like streets.

This means that Edinburgh exists on several criss-crossing, levels, streets crossing over each other, with height differences in the range of 50-100 feet. And that makes it hard to find my way around, even with my map app.

And Edinburgh Castle sits high above everything else. You can see it from pretty much anywhere in the city centre. And I thought York Minster loomed; it's got nothing on this place.
And Edinburgh Castle sits high above everything else. You can see it from pretty much anywhere in the city centre. And I thought York Minster loomed; it’s got nothing on this place.

So, this morning, I walked down to Waverly Bridge, and caught the City Sightseeing bus.

The Scott Monument is right near the bus stop. It's a neat, medieval-style monument. Also, the architect who won the contest to design the monument was found face-down in a canal before it was finished. No one was convicted of killing him, but there WERE 54 other architects who might have been miffed.
The Scott Monument is right near the bus stop. It’s a neat, medieval-style monument. Also, the architect who won the contest to design the monument was found face-down in a canal before it was finished. No one was convicted of killing him, but there WERE 54 other architects who might have been miffed.

I rode the bus around the tour once, and got off when it started bucketing down rain at the end. I had a bit of lunch, then got back on, and rode it around to Castle Edinburgh. That’s where I spent the rest of the afternoon.

This is the main parade ground before the castle gates. The whole place was very busy, so I don't have as many good pictures as I might have liked. But it's an impressive gate, flanked by statues of William Wallace and Robert the Bruce. The motto over the gate translates as "You cannot provoke me with impunity."
This is the main parade ground before the castle gates. The whole place was very busy, so I don’t have as many good pictures as I might have liked. But it’s an impressive gate, flanked by statues of William Wallace and Robert the Bruce. The motto over the gate translates as “You cannot provoke me with impunity.”

The way up winds through the lower and middle wards, to the upper ward with the Royal Square. The square is surrounded by a building that holds the Crown Jewels, a banquet hall built by James IV for the wedding of his son and Mary of Guise, the older sister of Henry VIII.

The decorations on the hall feature both the rose and the thistle, emblems of England and Scotland.
The decorations on the hall feature both the rose and the thistle, emblems of England and Scotland.
There is a display of weapons in the great hall. Here are some big swords, a bunch of pistols and, in the case below, the key to the castle.
There is a display of weapons in the great hall. Here are some big swords, a bunch of pistols and, in the case below, the key to the castle.
This building holds the Scottish Crown Jewels: the crown, sceptre, sword of state, some other jewellery, and the Stone of Scone. This was just returned to Scotland in 1993, with the understanding that it must travel to Westminster to be used in any future coronations. "If it doesn't come back quicker than the 700 years it took last time," said our guide, Frank, "There might be trouble."
This building holds the Scottish Crown Jewels: the crown, sceptre, sword of state, some other jewellery, and the Stone of Scone. This was just returned to Scotland in 1993, with the understanding that it must travel to Westminster to be used in any future coronations. “If it doesn’t come back quicker than the 700 years it took last time,” said our guide, Frank, “There might be trouble.”
This is the War Memorial. No photography inside. But it's a very moving, affecting place. The names of all Scots who have fallen in the line of duty are entered in memorial books, one for each regiment.
This is the War Memorial. No photography inside. But it’s a very moving, affecting place. The names of all Scots who have fallen in the line of duty are entered in memorial books, one for each regiment.
This is Mons Meg, a huge medieval bombard. It was transported using the wheels, but it would be dismounted and set into a trench in an earthworks to fire. It could lob one of those 330lb gun stones up to two miles.
This is Mons Meg, a huge medieval bombard. It was transported using the wheels, but it would be dismounted and set into a trench in an earthworks to fire. It could lob one of those 330lb gun stones up to two miles.

I looked around the other museums here, including the regimental museums. They had the standard captured by Charles Ewart at Waterloo, when he took the regimental colours and gold eagle from one of Napoleon’s regiments. The eagle, unfortunately, is on loan to the National Museum, so it wasn’t here.

Then, on the way out, I saw this.

So, I had this idea about climbing Arthur's Seat. It's a fairly smooth path up the Salisbury Crags to it, and it offers amazing views of the city. But here, I got a good look at the place from the parade ground of Edinburgh Castle, and nope, I don't think I'm gonna be climbing that.
So, I had this idea about climbing Arthur’s Seat. It’s a fairly smooth path up the Salisbury Crags to it, and it offers amazing views of the city. But here, I got a good look at the place from the parade ground of Edinburgh Castle, and nope, I don’t think I’m gonna be climbing that.

I rode the sightseeing bus around to the start again, and then walked back to my hotel, stopping for some dinner.

Tomorrow, I need to be up early. I’m on a tour up to the highlands, including Glencoe and Loch Ness.

Should be fun.

  1. This site has been inhabited for about 3000 years. They have found Roman and late bronze age archaeological sites on the rock. []
  2. Which has a pub called The World’s End, because it was the end of civilized Edinburgh. []
  3. And haphazardly planned. []

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