Tag Archives: calton hill

Stone of Destiny & Edinburgh Castle

After the tour of the Royal Mile, our guide took us up to the castle and shared lots of fun facts with us about it… My personal favorite is about the Stone of Destiny…

Ironically enough, before going to Scotland I was visiting with my horse trainer, who is like a second family to me, and she was telling me about a movie she saw called the Stone of Destiny.  It took place in Scotland and it is based on the true story about a group of Scottish student nationalists.  The Stone, which was where Scottish Kings were traditionally crowned was stolen by King Edward I of England in 1296 and placed under the throne at Westminster Abbey.  In the 1950’s the group of Scottish student nationalists succeeded in stealing the Stone back from Westminster Abbey and returning it to it’s righful place: Edinburgh castle!!  Quite a fun story to say the least!!  So while I had heard about the Stone of Destiny before I ever went to Scotland, I had of course forgotten exactly where the Stone was…  So needless to say I was quite tickled when I heard that it was indeed in the Edinburgh Castle!!  The Stone, to say the least is quite large and heavy looking and is currently encased in a glass display next to the Crown Jewels.  No pictures were allowed to be taken of it sadly, but it was really cool to at least see it!!

In the pictures below you will see a few of the inside of parts of the castle, and one where there is a plaque in honor of Queen Elizabeth… You will also note the date however that it was in 1993… Why is it that there is a plaque in honor of Queen Elizabeth (seemingly the first Queen Elizabeth since there isn’t a II on the plaque) dated 1993??  It is in fact in honor of Queen Elizabeth II, however, since Scotland never recognized Queen Elizabeth I as their queen, to them, Queen Elizabeth is their first Queen, hence no “II” on the plaque…

The one o’clock gun… I already mentioned this bit in the section of Calton Hill, so I won’t drone on it again… However in this section you can see the pictures of the original cannon that was used to mark 1 o’clock, as well as the cannon used today (shoots blanks) to mark 1 o’clock:)

Ugh!!  And I’m absolutely going to muck this up…  But there was an interesting legend that revolved around St. Margaret… Basically it was a love story…  As the tale goes (hoping I recall it right!) St. Margaret (originally from Hungary) was very much in love with her husband and had earned the respect and adoration as a kind Queen from many of the Scottish people.  However, there was some fallout with some of the Scottish countrymen over religion… She was of one religion (Protestant???) and they another, and well, you know how those religious disputes tend to end in not so great a light… Anyway, St. Margaret was basically shunned over the religious disputes and it got so bad that she wasn’t able to leave the Castle.

While in the castle she got news that her husband died in battle and was to be buried.  Loving her husband as much as she did, she requested that when she died that she be buried along side him.  When she did pass away (not long after he died apparently) those still “on her side” wanted to grant her last wish of being buried by her husband, but those against her refused.  Her body stayed in the chapel of the castle for three days until some people “for” St. Margaret in the middle of the night, snuck her body out of the chapel and to her husbands gravesite where they buried her.  The townspeople “against” St. Margaret heard what had happened and got furious.  They went to the gravesite to dig St. Margaret up, but to their astonishment were unable to actually lift her out of the gravesite!  Her body had somehow become so heavy they were unable to get her back out!  So they had to leave her, despite their best efforts.  So as the legend goes, the townspeople were unable to move her body because her love for her husband was too strong, even in death, to allow them to take her away from him.  Awww…!!!! 🙂

But seriously people, don’t quote me word-for-word on the above legend as I’m sure some bits aren’t quite correct!!  And if any of you happen to hear the legend yourselves, do tell me how it’s supposed to be!  Lol!!

On to The Real Mary King’s Close

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Arthur’s Seat & Calton Hill

One of the very best things about Scotland in general… The surrounding nature!!  Edinburgh is no exception!!  It is surrounded by groups of hills that many take advantage of for fun daily hikes.  In the case of some, you could definitely tell that the surrounding hills were a daily exercise for them because they were running up them while tourists (including me) huffed and puffed their way up!

One of these groups of hills, located not far from Holyrood Palace (the Queen’s official residence in Scotland) is Arthur’s Seat.  Arthur’s Seat is the main peak of the surrounding hills that make up Holyrood Park and has a height of 251 meters, or 823 feet at it’s peak.  Honestly the climb really wasn’t all that bad, with the exception of a small bit that consisted of jagged rocks that I personally did a slight shimmy down, just so I wouldn’t bust my rear on the ground, lol!!  The views from the top of Arthur’s Seat are absolutely phenomenal!!  I’m a great believer now that aerial views are much better than close-ups!!  At the peak of Arthur’s Seat is literally a little white stone chair that many of the tourists clamored to get on and get their picture taken with it… I skipped that part…

In any event, I’m going to now embarrass myself by K&E because I honestly can’t recall the exact story behind Arthur’s Seat… Even looking on Wikipedia (yes, I tried to cheat!!) didn’t ring any bells… Sorry K&E!!!  I mainly just recall that it was called Arthur’s Seat because it was a great point of view to be able to sit and see any oncoming threat to the city…  Anyway, according to Wikipedia there is some fabled connection between Arthur’s Seat and the location of Camelot during King Arthurs reign… But, well, I can’t specify much more than that by memory… You will just have to look it up on Wikipedia yourselves if interested!

Another great aerial view of Edinburgh can be found at Calton Hill.  It is basically a hill in the center of Edinburgh, just beyond the east end of Princes Street (quite well known for the shopping!!) and has fantastic views of all of Edinburgh!!  In fact, this area is the favorite spot of E’s and while she did try to get us up there, we weren’t able to because they have closed it down to car traffic.  But foot traffic was still allowed, so on a later day I returned there to take some pictures.

Calton Hill has several iconic monuments and is the headquarters of the Scottish Government.  Monuments include the National Monument, which is designed after a Greek Pantheon but was never actually finished… The Nelson Monument which at the wee top has a little flag pole at the top of which has a metal ball… This monument was basically used to send signals to the shipping boats in the bay.  How might you ask?  Well, one such example was to alert the ships in the bay of what time it was.  Every day at 1p.m. a cannon from the Edinburgh castle is fired off (yes, this still happens today).  When the cannon fires off, the vibration in the air is so strong that it knocks the ball on the mast of the Nelson Monument to the base of the mast.  People on the ships in the bay are posted to watch the mast of Nelson Monument and when they see the ball drop, they know it’s 1pm!  Now, I can’t say that ships today employ their timekeeping by this method, only that they used to in olden days… But they do still fire off a 1pm cannon from the castle today daily.  Anyway, another interesting little monument is a cairn that has a stone from the castle of Robert the Bruce.  Just a wee bit more of history there…

On to Edinburgh Zoo

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“Local” Tours

One of the very BEST things about having friends who live in the places you visit is the “behind the scenes” or “only locals know about…” areas!!  Since I was fortunate enough to have two fabulous friends living in Edinburgh, I was given quite a few fun tours around the city and surrounding the city!!

I was taken to Leith where the Royal Yacht Britannia is.  That is the Yacht that the Queen of England used to travel around in.  It has now been decommissioned and is only used as a tour yacht with a restaurant on board as well for those wishing to dine like a queen:)  However, the yacht does stay permanently docked.  It no longer travels around… In fact, it was due to the cost of fuel to have it sail around that prompted the Prime Minister (I believe it was Blair who did so) to decommission the yacht so that the Queen could no longer use it…  His stance was that it was too expensive for the taxpayers to keep up with.

In the bay near the Leith area there is actually a little island that was carved to look like a ship!!  This was a tactic used by the Scots to prevent people from coming into the Bay.  An approaching ship would try to sneak in, but then see an intimidating ship in the harbor just ahead and turn away… Needless to say, the “ship” was actually quite harmless, but it did it’s job!!  Clever Scots!!

Which by the way, I never really realized how many innovators are Scottish!  The list literally goes on and on of Scottish inventors!!  Among them Alexander Graham Bell (inventor of the telephone) and Alexander Fleming (discovered penicillin)!!  Or maybe it has something to do with Alexander’s…. lol!!  Just joking!  But seriously the list of Scottish inventors goes on and on… Oh and a little fact to mention about Edinburgh in general, it is world renowned for medical and medicinal advances!  A ton of discoveries in the medical field that have created vaccines, medicines, antibiotics, and anesthetics have come from Edinburgh!  Quite impressive!

In any event, other areas I was driven to include the neighborhood and buildings that inspired the movie Trainspotting with Ewan McGregor.  The area has since been cleaned up a bit, but it was interesting to see nonetheless.

I was driven in style in K’s Porsche over to Queensferry, where a marvel of a bridge from an esthetic and engineering point of view is, then across the bridge to North Queensferry where the Prime Minister has a house.  Now there are actually two bridges that go across to Queensferry… One is a car/truck/general vehicle bridge (they are also in the process of building a new one just beside it) that basically looks like a mini golden gate bridge and the other more alluring bridge is the tram bridge!  That one is quite impressive from an engineering perspective for sure!!!

I was taken to an area just off the Royal Mile called Grass Market where the Edinburgh Witch Trials took place and it has the spot where the last burning of a witch occurred… and perhaps MOST importantly, I was taken to the most fun hole-in-the-wall pubs in Edinburgh for some much needed pints of beer!!!  Yum!!!  Which reminds me as well, for those wanting to travel in the UK, probably the BEST deal for food and drink is the WeatherSpoon chains… There are several around Scotland (not sure if they are in England as well) all called WeatherSpoons XYZ, meaning they all have a unique name, but the word “WeatherSpoons” is always in there so you know it’s part of the chain… Anyway, you can get a meal and a pint for like 7 pounds!!!  Just Brilliant!!

On to Arthur’s Seat & Calton Hill

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