Edinburgh-day one, part two

And so, I hope that this part of the travel diary won’t be as long as the previous one 🙂 Here we were, walking on the Royal Mile and the David Hume statue. Local tradition dictates that a touch of David Hume’s toe will bring good luck, though the practice ironically defies the philosopher’s vehement rejection of superstition. Shortly after artist Alexander Stoddart’s sculpture of the great Scottish Enlightenment thinker was installed in front of the High Court Building, philosophy students began making pilgrimages to his likeness and rubbing his toe for luck and wisdom. Over two decades later, hordes of tourists crowd around Hume’s foot at all times of day, rendering the sacred toe a shiny golden sphere from all the contact.

This popular Edinburgh landmark portrays Hume as an ancient Greek philosopher. While he was neither ancient nor Greek, Hume was also an influential historian, economist, and writer who lived in the Scottish capital from 1711 to 1776.

Just a stone’s throw from the castle, this 500-year-old building is a towering testament to tenement life in Edinburgh’s Old Town. It was once owned by merchant Thomas Gladstone, who extended and remodeled the building to create opulently decorated apartments. Gladstone attracted wealthy tenants including William Struther, Minister of St Giles’ Cathedral, and Lord Crichton, as well as the high-end grocer John Riddoch, who traded from the ground floor.

By the mid-1800s, only the poorest of the city’s inhabitants remained in the Old Town and this once luxurious tenement fell into disrepair. Gladstone’s Land was one of the first buildings that the National Trust for Scotland acquired, rescuing it from demolition in 1934.

Today, Gladstone’s Land shows how the wealthy went about their lives at a time when the cramped Lawnmarket was at the heart of one of the fastest-growing and most influential cities in the world.

Behind it is the Writers’ Museum, which celebrates the lives of three giants of Scottish Literature – Robert Burns, Sir Walter Scott and Robert Louis Stevenson.

The Museum is housed in the beautiful mansion called Lady Stair’s House, which was built in 1622 and it is named after an early owner, Elizabeth, Dowager Countess of Stair. The building was donated to the City of Edinburgh in 1907, to be transformed into a museum.

The life-stories of these three writers are told through manuscripts, books and portraits, as well as numerous personal items.

From here on it is only the end of the Royal Mile and the Edinburg Castle. A few steps before the castle’s square is an extremely curios memorial of the strange and barbaric history of the city.

The Witches’ Well, a cast iron fountain and plaque, honors the Scottish people who were burned at the stake between the 15th and 18th centuries. It’s an easy site to miss for people only focusing on the castle that looms ahead. During the 16th century, more women were murdered at this site than anywhere else in Scotland. Each victim was denied a proper trial.

Scotland’s King James VI believed witchcraft was a form of Satanism and that anyone who possessed those abilities was tainted by the devil. As a result, in the 17th and 18th centuries, more than 4,000 alleged witches (mostly female) were put to death. By the end of the 17th century, witches were routinely hanged instead of being burned. The last hanging took place in 1728.

The Edinburg Castle is a huge complex and I will tell you about some of it’s most interesting parts.Set upon its mighty rock, Edinburgh Castle’s strategic advantage is clear. Seeing the site’s military potential, Iron Age people built a hill fort on the rock. Early medieval poetry tells of a war band that feasted here for a year before riding to their deaths in battle.

As well as guarding great moments in history, the castle has suffered many sieges. During the Wars of Independence it changed hands many times. In 1314, the Scots retook the castle from the English in a daring night raid led by Thomas Randolph, nephew of Robert the Bruce.

The Gatehouse, which is the entry point for the castle was built, not so much as an additional defence but rather for aesthetic reasons. It replaced a simple functional gate which was built in the late 17th century. Flanking the main arched entrance stand bronze statues of two of Scotland hero freedom fighters, William Wallace and Robert the Bruce, added in 1929. At either side of the draw bridge leading to the Gatehouse is a dry ditch which dates from Oliver Cromwell times,

And here’s a map of the castle to help you choose the best itinerary:

First is the Argyle Battery – a six-gun battery built in the 1730s. Its open outlook to the north provided an ideal vantage point for defending the castle. The cannons in position date from about 1810, the time of the Napoleonic Wars with France.

The ordnance stores and hospital on the west side of the castle, were built to a design by William Skinner in 1753 and consisted of two storerooms for arms and military equipment built on either side of a courtyard. In 1897 this was demolished and the two storehouses were redesigned as a military hospital which was previously housed in the Great Hall.

The Governor’s house is reputedly haunted and was the official residence for the Castle Governor. Built in 1742 the building also houses lodgings for the Master Gunner and the Storekeeper.
After the post of Castle Governor was abolished in 1860 the building was used as a residence for nurses of the hospital.

Pirates and prisoners of war were once held in the vaults below Crown Square. In the 1700s and 1800s hundreds of prisoners of war were held in these dark, cramped spaces. Today, a recreation of the vaults as they would have looked around 1800 offers a glimpse into the grim way of life.

The ST. Margaret chapel, built by King David 1st is the oldest structure still standing in the castle today. It was built to commemorate Saint Margaret, King David’s mother, who died in the castle in 1093. It was used by the Royals as a private place of prayer up until the 16th century when it was used to store gunpowder. It was restored as a chapel in 1845.

Mons Meg was once seen as cutting edge military technology. Given to King James II in 1457, the six-tonne siege gun could fire a 150kg gunstone for up to 3.2km. She is named after the Belgian town where she was made.

This little garden in the castle may have been built in the remains of a medeival tower. It has been used as a burial ground for officer’s pet dogs and regimental mascots since the 1840’s.

Descend below the Half Moon Battery to see the remains of what had been the heart of the castle in the late 1300s. Though King David II died before his colossal tower was complete, it served as the royal residence for nearly 100 years. Destroyed in the Lang Siege, only atmospheric ruins survive today.

Kings and queens lived amidst the comfort and splendour of the Royal Palace. Crown Square took shape over time, with King James IV completing the quadrangle in the early 1500s. Some key moments in Scotland’s history took place within the palace walls.

Queen Mary of Guise died in the palace in 1560. She was the last defender of the Auld Alliance with France and champion of the Catholic faith against the Protestant Reformation.

Her daughter, Mary Queen of Scots, gave birth to James VI here in 1566. The labour was difficult and a companion of the queen is said to have tried using magic to transfer the birth pangs to a servant.

James VI had a remarkable life. Crowned king of Scotland at just 13 months old, he became the first monarch of both Scotland and England in 1603. His birth chamber is a highlight for many castle visitors today. 

King Charles I was the last monarch to stay at the palace. He slept here on 17 June 1633, the night before his Scottish coronation.

The Honours of Scotland, on display in the Crown Room, are the oldest Crown jewels in Britain. Made of gold, silver and precious gems, the priceless crown, scepter and sword of state are objects of immense significance.

The crown was made for James V, who first wore it at the coronation of Queen Mary of Guise in 1540. Mary Queen of Scots was the first to be crowned using the new crown and sceptre together, in 1543.

The Honours have had a turbulent past. They were removed from the castle and hidden in 1651–60 to keep them from Oliver Cromwell’s army. In 1707, following the Act of Union between England and Scotland, they were locked in a chest and sealed away.

In 1818, Sir Walter Scott, the famous novelist, rediscovered the Honours – along with a mysterious silver wand.

A wonder of medieval Scotland, the Great Hall was completed in 1511 for King James IV. Its wooden roof is one of the most superb in Britain. Giant beams rest on stones carved with heads and symbols such as the thistle – a badge of Scotland.

Grand banquets and state events took place in the Great Hall. But James IV had little time to enjoy his new addition to the castle. The king was killed at the disastrous Battle of Flodden in 1513, fighting the forces of King Henry VIII of England – his brother-in-law.

Oliver Cromwell’s army captured the castle in 1650 and began a military makeover of the space, turning the Great Hall into a barracks. It later served as a military hospital, until the troops finally marched out in 1886.

Restored to its medieval splendour, the Great Hall today displays weapons and armour that hint at its military past. Among the swords and shields are strangely shaped pole arms, like the dreaded Lochaber axe – feared by all.

One in five Scots who enlisted during the First World War never came home. This fitting memorial to those who died in both world wars and in conflicts since 1945 was made by some of Scotland’s finest artists and craftspeople.

Sculpture and stained glass depict moving scenes from the First World War. Other works symbolise courage, peace, justice and survival of the spirit. Animal figures portray the virtues and vices.

The whole tour can take you hours and the entry fee is 15.50 pounds for adults, for children between 5 and 16 years – 9,30.

Here are more photos:

From the castle we walked down to the city and we passed some lovely views.

I just have to show how lovely the castle was from this view and in this light:

We took a short walk on Princess Street, saw some shops and headed to the last few sights on our plan.

In one of the near alleys is the birth place of Alexander Graham Bell. Actually, it’s only a plaque on the wall, so it’s not mandatory to visit 🙂

Just like in London, there is a Prince Albert Memorial, the Queen’s Victoria husband. The magnificent statue of Albert, riding a horse is situated on Charlotte Square.

Next on our agenda was a long walk through the beautiful neighborhoods of Edinburgh until we reached the most peculiar and curios place here.

Dean Village was previously where milling of water mills took place, of which remains of this can still be seen by visitors. Hidden in the village, you will come across a variety of mill stones and stone plaques decorated with baked bread and pies. 

Keep an eye for the Dean Bridge.

At the heart of the village is Well Court, the most iconic building in the village. This building was built in the 1880s and housed local workers who worked at the water mills. 

It was already late afternoon, the sun was setting and it was getting pretty cold. We were rather tired after such a long day and were starting to get hungry. We got back to the city center where I had found online a fish and chips place with good reviews.

Before that we made a short walk on the Royal Mile again where the buildings were quite beautiful on sunset.

Here’s the restaurant on one of the most picturesque street in whole Edinburgh – Bertie’s Fish and Chips. I will tell you more about the street in my next diary, we managed to see it and take better photos in daylight. It got really cold and we just had to sit somewhere and I was literally shaking. On top of it, it was starting to rain. But the restaurant was great, the atmosphere was lovely and the food tasty.

And this is the way a kid’s menu is served, needless to say, our son got pretty exited.

After we got fed and warm we had nothing left to do but to get back to the apartment to rest and to get ready for the next day, filled with emotions again.

Stay tuned and don’t stop travelling!

Author: marinelapetrunova

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