Edinburgh: Edinburgh Castle & the Royal Mile

​We ate breakfast at our hotel today (it was just yogurt, toast, and jam, and we missed our English breakfasts from London a little) and then set off for Edinburgh Castle. We took a bus ride up most of the hill to it, and then walked up part of the Royal Mile before arriving at the castle. Mickey and I started our Edinburgh Castle experience with a guided tour. The guide’s name was Gavin. He had a great Scottish accent and was hilarious, calling the movie Braveheart a travesty and using expressions like “as useful as a chocolate teapot.” He showed us what all the buildings at the castle were and some interesting facts, like that the first archaeological remains on the site of the castle dated to 850 BC, so there’s been some sort of structure up there for almost 3000 years, and no one really knows when it first appeared. Like most of the castles we’ve seen, this one has been added onto over the years. Unlike the other castles, this one is still a military base and contains the house  of the governor of Edinburgh. It is also the location of the National War Museum of Scotland, the Scottish National War Memorial, and the Honours of Scotland (the crown, scepter and sword of the kings and queens of Scotland).

After the tour, we went to see these Honours. There was a bit of a long line but there were murals going through the history of Scotland along the way which were very interesting. No photography was allowed inside, otherwise there would be pictures. The Honours themselves have a bit of an interesting history–they are the oldest Crown Jewels in the British Isles. The original English crown jewels were destroyed by Oliver Cromwell, and he wanted to destroy the Scottish ones as well, but there was an fascinating story about how two women smuggled them out in their skirts and hid them at a church. Later, when Scotland and England became united, the Honours were locked away in a chest for 111 years. When they were opened, they were all in great condition, and there was a wand with them (which we also saw), but no one knows the purpose or where it came from. The room with the Honours also included the Stone of Destiny, which the Scottish monarchs were always crowned on as a symbol that they were connected to the land and people. It was (and is still) used in coronations in the United Kingdom, though Edinburgh was happy to have it back when at one point it had been kept in England for 700 years.

We then commenced to looking at some of the royal quarters and the great dining hall. I took a few pictures, as they were both very nice. One of the rooms in the royal quarters is actually still used for government affairs. The great hall had some beautiful stained glass and was decorated with lots of armor, swords, guns, etc. We then decided to eat lunch, because the Edinburgh Castle Tea Rooms were very close. We had hot chocolate and scones which were much more filling than you would expect! They served them to us with jam and clotted cream, which sounds disgusting but is basically very rich and easily-spread butter.

We then checked out the Scottish War Memorial, which commemorates all of the Scottish soldiers who have died in wars from World War I to the present day. It was quite pretty in there, but you weren’t allowed to take pictures out of respect. It was then almost 1:00, when they fire off the one o’clock gun everyday (expect Sundays) at the Castle, so we watched that from above. I have a video of it shooting off, but I’m not sure how to post it here so it may have to wait until I get back. We then entered St. Margaret’s Chapel, which is the oldest surviving building in Edinburgh. It’s really quite small in there but nice and pretty. Our tour guide earlier had informed us that it was the only building there to pre-date 1310, when Robert the Bruce, after conquering the castle from the English, destroyed it because they didn’t have enough men to defend it.

We then went through the Scottish Regimental Museum and the building that had been set up as a prison, which were both very interesting. After a few more pictures and minutes walking around the cobblestones of the castle, we decided to leave and head for the Royal Mile.

The Royal Mile is a cobblestoned road between Edinburgh Castle and Holyrood Palace. There are lots of pubs, cafes, tourist shops, and even a few museums along the way, so we bought some souvenirs and also visited the tartan weaving mill, where we got a glimpse of how they make the iconic Scottish fabric. We also saw some pretty churches and courtyards around the way. After what felt like quite a bit longer than a mile, we arrived at Holyrood Palace. We couldn’t go inside or anything, but we took a few pictures through the iron gate before heading back up the Royal Mile to our bus stop.

We then rode the bus around the city and saw some really nice residential neighborhoods, but were very tired so we just stopped by the grocery store to pick up supper before heading back to the hotel. The weather today was as random as it was yesterday, and when we left the grocery store it actually started hailing. It was over quickly though, and then we got back to the hotel to rest and relax before our free day tomorrow! We plan to go up to Calton Hill, try some haggis, and do some more exploring around the Princes Street area. Ta ta for now!

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