Day 224: Edinburgh Castle

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The focus of today’s first was a visit to Edinburgh Castle, in the heart of Old Town. At the top of the Royal Mile is the gate to the castle. With a sense of awe we passed through that massive gate and entered a different world.

Once through the gate, it’s like being in a small city. A small fortified city. Built upon volcanic rock and overlooking both Old and New Towns, the castle of Edinburgh is an imposing fortress. Some sort of structure has sat atop that hill for more than 2000 years. From its vantage point, the castle has never been taken by force.

We opted to take a guided tour, rather than just wander around. Our tour guide, Jonathan, had a Scottish accent and the look of a Scottish laird with his red hair and beard. It was blustery and cold today so Jonathan sported plaid slacks rather than a kilt.

He expertly guided us through the castle grounds, relating stories and interesting facts. At the highest point, near the great hall and residential quarters, he set us free to explore.

Mindy and I had already spied our next stop…the castle tea room. Harry is good natured about our new obsession with afternoon tea and indulges us. And obsessed we have become. We have a good breakfast early in the day and then we skip lunch and have afternoon tea instead, which traditionally is between 3:00-5:00. We then have a late supper, between 7:30-9:00. We have wholeheartedly adopted the customs of this friendly group of people!

We enjoyed our tea and getting out of the cold wind for a short time. Mindy and Harry left to investigate the Whiskey Experience shop while I chose to remain in the castle.

On my own, I climbed the tower to view the Honours of Scotland, the royal crown, sword and sceptre. Our guide had explained how, in 1707, after England and Scotland united, the Crown Jewels were hidden away in a secured vault until they were rediscovered by Walter Scott in 1818. The pieces are on display now at the castle, along with the Stone of Destiny. Scotland’s first king, David I was crowned sitting on this large chunk of sandstone. All the kings of Scotland have been crowned thus. When Scotland united with England the Stone of Destiny was moved to Westminster and the kings and queens of England have been crowned with the stone beneath their throne. For 700 years the Stone of Destiny remained in England. It was recently returned to Scotland. The Scots will allow the stone to return to England for any future crownings but our guide told us, fiercely, that the stone will never again be away from Scotland for such a long period of time.

I stood before the Stone of Destiny and felt Scotland’s rich heritage so deeply. I wanted to touch the stone, as a way of acknowledging that I too am fulfilling my destiny. Alas, the stone is encased in glass, protected as it should be. It was enough to hear the story and see the stone.

I visited the residential palace and saw the room King James VI of Scotland and I of England was born in. It was a small room for a man who became so important. I also visited the chapel of St. Margaret, which is the oldest building in the castle complex. The original castle was destroyed in the 1300’s and was rebuilt in sections. I stood the longest on a battlement overlooking New Town as it marches down to the water, the Firth of Forth. So many have stood where I stood and looked out over the city during the past 2000 years. I felt such a kinship with the Scots. My ancestors. My people. Nearby a Scottish flag curled around the flag pole, temporarily snarled. I stood and willed it to catch the breeze and unfurl, so I could capture a picture. As I stood, camera ready, the wind picked up. The flag rippled and twisted and patiently, I waited. With a loud snap it untangled and unfurled, flying unfettered above the castle. I captured the image and smiling, wound my way down through the stone passageways to the gate. I didn’t shout it out, but in my heart rang a cry of freedom!

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