After yesterday, day quite tiring, we spent this one more easy. The morning greeted us with rain, again, so the only logical decision was to spend it somewhere dry and warm. We left our room and headed to the National Museum of Scotland. The museum, as well as all other state museums in the UK, are with free entry, a fact that I like pretty much. Thanks to it, me and my son visited the Natural History Museum in London every week while we lived there 🙂
The National Museum of Scotland is the largest UK museum outside of London, welcoming in excess of 2 million visitors per year. Visitors here can see ‘the world under one roof’, with international collections of the Natural World, World Cultures, Art, Design and Fashion, Science and Technology and Scottish History and Archaeology.
Displaying 20,000 items across 36 galleries, highlights include Sir Alexander Fleming’s Nobel Prize medal for the discovery of penicillin; Mary, Queen of Scots’ jewelry; Dolly the Sheep, the first mammal to be cloned from an adult cell; a life-sized Tyrannosaurus Rex skeleton cast; and Napoleon’s tea service.
First opened in 1866, the magnificent Victorian building is undergoing restoration as part of a 15 year £80 million development plan.
The Grand Gallery is one of Scotland’s most beautiful spaces and provides a spectacular start to your museum visit. Take a photo with the noble Giant Deer skeleton, say hello to the massive skull of Moby the whale and marvel at machinery used to smash atoms.
The dramatic Animal World gallery introduces the main themes of behaviour and interaction with the environment. Here you can explore the lives of animals from around the world, from the Arctic to Australia, and even see how you measure up – do you weigh more than a chimpanzee? It was the most fun for our family 🙂
Meet endangered species such as Ching Ching the Giant Panda or our Scottish Wildcat, and marvel at the spectacular array of swimming and flying animals in the Wildlife Panorama.
There are interactive displays everywhere and the children can play and learn easily.
Children can get hands on in our interactive Adventure Planet gallery, whether they’re uncovering the skeleton of a dinosaur, dressing up to dive to the bottom of the sea or crawling through the roots of a giant oak tree to discover the species living there.
In the World Cultures galleries you can encounter diverse peoples, cultures and objects, discovering how we differ and what we all share. The objects on display are drawn from some of museum’s oldest collections and demonstrate Scotland’s international links.
You can play some music:
In Exploring East Asia, you can experience the sights and sounds of three fascinating and dynamic cultures: China, Japan and Korea. Among the highlights are a Chinese lacquerware rice measure from the Ming dynasty, a Japanese woodblock print and a rare and important early survival Korean lotus-shaped cup and stand from the 13th century.
The family-friendly Explore gallery on Level 1 brings science to life with hands-on games and interactive exhibits. Next to Explore is Making It, which looks at how manufacturing and engineering have changed our lives, from early industry to 3D printing. And don’t forget to look up to see an aerial history of aviation stunningly suspended from the ceiling.
There are few more galleries that we didn’t have time to see. We haven’t got enough time to explore properly the ones already mentioned, it’s good if you have time to spend all day in the museum or to come here several times.
Explore centuries of creativity and innovation in textiles and fashion in the Fashion and Style gallery on Level 1.Walk your own catwalk and spot gems by Vivienne Westwood, Zandra Rhodes, Jean Muir and Pringle of Scotland and try your hand at fashion design in our digital game.
Art lovers will find much to delight in our Making and Creating gallery on Level 3, which explores the techniques and inspirations behind the work of artists, makers and designers. Don’t miss this rare artist’s proof by Picasso, designed in 1954.
Art doesn’t just belong in galleries though, so wander up to Design for Living on Level 5 to discover ideas that shaped a century of design, from the Great Exhibition to the Festival of Britain
Explore the first three billion years of Scotland’s history and uncovers the origins and evolution of our landscape, flora and fauna in Beginnings, on Level -1.
Next, meet the men and women of prehistory in Early People.
Moving up a level, Kingdom of the Scots follows Scotland from its emergence as a nation around 1100 to 1707, when the Union of the Scottish and English Parliaments created the United Kingdom of Great Britain.
As you can see there’s a lot to explore, the museum is perfect for families also. All the galleris are made with children in mind, how to make the exhibits interesting for them and how to learn as much as possible.
Near the museum is an interesting statue – The Greyfriesrs Bobby. On 15th February 1858, in the city of Edinburgh, Scotland, a local man named John Gray died of tuberculosis. Gray was better known as “Auld Jock”, and on his death he was buried in old Greyfriars Churchyard. Bobby, a wee Skye Terrier, belonged to John, who worked for the Edinburgh City Police as a night watchman, and the two of them had been virtually inseparable for approximately two years.
Bobby led his master’s funeral procession to the grave at Greyfriars Cemetery, and later, when he tried to stay at the graveside, he was sent away by the caretaker.
But the little dog returned and refused to leave, whatever the weather conditions.
Despite the combined efforts of the keeper of the Kirkyard, Auld Jock’s family and some of the local people, Bobby refused to be enticed away from the grave for any length of time, and he touched the hearts of the local residents.
Although dogs were not allowed in the graveyard, the people rallied round and built a shelter for Bobby and there he stayed, guarding Auld Jock. For fourteen years Bobby lay on the grave, leaving only for food. Bobby was well cared for by the people of Edinburgh until he died in 1872, aged 16 years.
Bobby was also buried in Greyfriars Kirkyard, just seventy five yards away from his masters grave. He has his very own red granite headstone, put in 1981.
Greyfriars was the first church to be built in Edinburgh after the Reformation of 1560, and was built on land granted by Mary Queen of Scots.Greyfriars Kirk plays an important part in Scottish history.
The graveyard is astonishing beautiful and old, as I already told you in my last travel diary, I love to stroll through graveyards and to find similarities and differences in different countries and faiths. Here, I was quite impressed by the one side of the graveyard – the tombstones are put on the walls of the nearby houses, just like they are some sort of decoration. I wonder what it’s like to your backyard to be a graveyard 🙂
The graveyard is so old that it was an inspiration for J.K.Rowling for the Harry Potter novels. Here you can find the grave of Thomas Riddell, the inspiration behind the name Tom Riddle ( Lord Voldemort).
There’s another grave, for William McGonagall known as “the worst poet ever lived”. Rowling thought that it would be funny that a Hogwarts’ name professor could come from the worst poet ever 🙂
Close by is Victoria street, built between 1829 and 1834, it is the masterpiece of architect Thomas Hamilton, the man behind Edinburgh’s network of neo-classical wonders. The street was built to replace one of the city’s main thoroughfares, an inconvenient z-shaped slither of a frightfully steep lane providing access, albeit tricky, from the Grassmarket area to Castlehill. It’s no surprise that Victoria Street is the inspiration for the ever-so fabulous Diagon Alley.
The eclectic mix of colourful buildings form a large part of its signature charm and distinct allure. Unlike his usual neo-classical stamp, he received orders that the architecture of Victoria Street was to mimic the Old Flemish style. During construction, many of the medieval buildings were demolished, while the notable arches lining the new terrace transformed into shops.
From here we headed to Holyrood Palace, today we wanted to visit it properly. But we already have the experience of visiting castles and palaces with our kid before, we wanted to make sure that he will be asleep and everyone will be happy 🙂 As most parents know it’s easier in the buggy. So, firstly, we chose to walk to the nearby hill with the interesting name Arthur’s seat.
Rising over 800 feet above sea level and looking down at the city Arthur’s Seat is a rocky crag that has been known by that name since the 1,500’s. It offers incredible views of Edinburgh and the surrounding area, including the sea to the East. The “Seat” is the alcove located almost half way between the highest point of the peak and the secondary point a little ways down. Arthur’s Seat is a magical place, and yet it was probably named after a local hero named Arthur and had little to do with the actual King Arthur.
The only building in the central area is St Anthony’s Chapel. Looking more like the gaunt ruin of an ancient castle than a religious building, it stands on a rocky outcrop high above St Margaret’s Loch, commanding excellent views over North Edinburgh, Leith and the River Forth.
With already sleeping child we headed to the Palace and enjoyed the lovely views from the Seat.
The Palace of Holyroodhouse is the official residence of the Monarchy in Scotland.
Founded as a monastery in 1128 at the end of the Royal Mile in Edinburgh, the Palace of Holyroodhouse has a close association with the History of Scotland. Today, the Palace is a close focus for national celebrations and events in Scotland, most notably The Queen’s ‘Holyrood Week’, which usually runs from the end of June to the beginning of July every year.
The entry fee is 16.50 pound, kids under 5 go free. It is forbidden to take pictures inside so most of the pics I’ll show you are from the palace’s official site. But I can say that it was magnificent and really, really impressive.
A visit to the Palace of Holyroodhouse includes the remains of 12th-century Holyrood Abbey, the Palace gardens, the State Apartments of the Palace itself, and stories of its most famous residents from the past and present.
A reflection of the changing tastes of successive monarchs, the State Apartments are famous for their beautiful plasterwork ceilings and unrivalled collection of French and Flemish tapestries.
As you walk through the Palace, you will notice how the rooms become progressively grander as you approach the King’s Bedchamber – the grandest room of all, where historically, only the most important guests would have been granted an audience.
Her Majesty and members of the Royal Family use this as their dining room when they stay at the Palace. The silver banqueting service on display was presented to King George V and Queen Mary to mark their Silver Jubilee in 1935. Commissioned specifically for use at Holyroodhouse, the service was made in Edinburgh and based on Scottish examples from the early 17th-century.
During Holyrood Week, when The Queen stays at the Palace each year, Her Majesty hosts lunch in the Throne Room for the Knights and Ladies of the Order of the Thistle, the highest order of chivalry in Scotland.
This imposing staircase is the first stage on the processional route through the State Apartments to the King’s Bedchamber. The walls are hung with a number of sixteenth-century tapestries from Brussels. These were made for a Palace in Brescia, and were salvaged when the Palace was destroyed in 1853, before being acquired by Prince Albert in 1856.
The Privy Chamber, created for Charles II in the late 1600s, is used by The Queen for private audiences with the First Minister of Scotland and visiting dignitaries.
Designed as Charles II’s Bedchamber, this is the most lavishly decorated room in the Palace, and was designed to be seen only by the most privileged visitors. The room is dominated by the State Bed, which has been at Holyrood since at least 1684. The bed was restored in 1976, and the rich red damask is designed to match the original fabric.
The decorative panel was produced by Jacob de Wet, one of the team of craftsmen working on the newly rebuilt Palace of Holyroodhouse for Charles II. Surrounded by elaborate plasterwork containing the crowned Thistle of Scotland, the panel shows Hercules as a child.
This small, intimate room was originally designed to serve as the King’s Study. The wall is lined with tapestries, as it would have been in the seventeenth-century.
During the walk you pass through the inner court which is quite something also…
Perhaps one of the most famous monarchs to live at the Palace of Holyroodhouse, Mary, Queen of Scots’ chambers where she lived between 1561-1567 are not to be missed. When you climb the steps up to the north-west tower you enter a world of intrigue, tragedy and murder.
Reached by a narrow, steep and winding staircase, this is the oldest section of the palace. Built almost 500 years ago, the battlements and fortified walls are typical of a time when kings and queens required protection against their enemies.
The bedchamber is known for its original decorative oak ceiling, painted frieze and incredibly low doorway. While people were much smaller in the 1500s when this tower was built, Mary grew to be six feet tall.
Just off the bedchamber is the tiny Supper Room where Mary was dining on 9 March 1566 when she witnessed the murder of her private secretary, David Rizzio. Killed by her jealous husband, Lord Darnley, and a group of powerful Scottish lords, Rizzio was stabbed 56 times. It is claimed that the bloodstains from Rizzio’s body are still visible in the Outer Chamber where he was left for all to see. See if you can spot the marks on the floor when you visit.
In the Outer Chamber Mary received visitors. The devout Roman Catholic Queen enjoyed many a debate with John Knox, the headstrong Scottish Protestant cleric. The oak-panelled Oratory is where she said her prayers, the original ceiling is decorated with the cross of St Andrew encircled by a royal crown. Also on display is the spectacular Darnley Jewel, one of the finest treasures in the Royal Collection.
Prince Charles Edward Stuart, better known as Bonnie Prince Charlie, brought the Palace of Holyroodhouse to life in 1745 when he set up court for six weeks.
Charles arrived in Scotland to claim the throne of Great Britain for his father, James Francis Edward Stuart. As he entered the royal palace of his Stuart ancestors, he was cheered by great crowds of supporters.
The Great Gallery was used as the Prince’s Audience Chamber during the day, and transformed in the evening for extravagant balls and receptions. Imagine this magnificent room at night, lit by hundreds of glowing candles and alive with the sound of music, laughter and dancing.
In the Ante-Chamber you can see where the Prince dined in public, watched by crowds of admiring spectators; and in the Lord Darnley’s Bedchamber, the sumptuous bed where he may have slept.
This room is dominated by the so-called ‘Darnley’ bed, which was for a time located in Lord Darnley’s former apartments. It was actually supplied for the Duke of Hamilton at Holyrood in 1682. The Stuart connection was provided by Bonnie Prince Charlie, who occupied the Duke of Hamilton’s apartments in 1745, and slept in this bed. It has been conserved, and is presented behind glass with reduced light levels to protect the fragile textiles. The embroidered bed cover, now thought to have been made in England around 1700, was presented to King Edward VII in 1910 in the belief that it had belonged to Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn.
Originally the Presence Chamber of Charles II, this room is now used for receptions. The four tapestries were sent from Buckingham Palace in 1851, to lend an air of warmth to the room when Queen Victoria converted it into a drawing room for the court. During the reign of Mary, Queen of Scots, there were 13 sets of tapestries recorded in the Palace, although none of these survive in the present collection.
After we explored these incredibly rich decorated and beautiful rooms, filled with history and spirit, we reached to a special part of the tour, made especially for children. Here you can try period costumes, to cook in the “Royal kitchen”, to smell spices and all sorts of interesting things. Our son was more than impressed and we spend a lot of time here 🙂
Standing next to the Palace of Holyroodhouse and overlooked by the dramatic Salisbury Crags, Holyrood Abbey was once one of the grandest medieval abbeys in Scotland.
The Abbey was enlarged over the centuries and the surviving roofless nave, Romanesque arcading, Gothic windows and vaulted ceiling help us imagine the grandeur of this once magnificent building.
The palace’s park is also quite beautiful and is worth a visit.
After this impressive day we needed a little rest and to get ready to go back to the airport back to Dublin.
We spent some time on the Royal Mile and the shops, had a snack and in no time it was getting dark and the city welcomed us with its lovely night views.
Two days were not enough for Edinburgh but I’m happy that we nave this chance and saw everything. For me, this is one of the most beautiful cities I’ve ever seen and I wait for the next time we will have the chance to see in again.
Stay tuned and don’t stop traveling!