Tag Archives: edinburgh castle

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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Volcanic Formation

Just a little quick post here on how exactly Edinburgh (and really all of Scotland) was formed as I found this to be quite interesting…

Millions of years ago the landmass that is today Scotland was actually South of the Equator which made the temperatures and terrain tropical!! Needless to say I would have been a happy camper to have lived on Scotland millions of years ago!  In any event, as the years went on Scotland migrated to its current position and during the Ice Age was struck by several glaciers quite violently that ended up creating the landscape as you see it today with numerous mountains with jagged peaks.  In addition the terrain is also littered with tons of dormant volcanos that died out during the glacier strikes.  The city of Edinburgh is in fact literally sitting on top of a dead volcano… Perhaps the correct term is still “dormant” volcano even though there is absolutely zero activity from the volcano.

It is this unique placement of the city that gives it quite a bit of character… The Edinburgh castle sits at the apex or peak of the volcano and the main street, called the Royal Mile, gently slopes down the volcano (about a mile long) to ground level where the Queen’s Palace is.  The Queen’s Palace or more correctly Holyrood Palace (aka Palace of Holyroodhouse) is the Queen of England’s official residence in Scotland.  Along the Royal Mile from the Castle to Holyrood the street is lined with shops and homes that from the inside perspective only seem 5, 6 or perhaps 7 stories tall.  However, from the valley perspective (i.e. standing on the outside of the city looking at it) the buildings seem 10-15 stories all.  This is due to the sloping of the land down to the valley and the Scots not wasting any space in how they built things!!

The historic city was once surrounded by a wall that now only has a very small remnant left, and the main city or rather historic part of the city only connected to the valley (where the rest of Edinburgh eventually spread out to) through tons of “closes” which ran from the center (the Royal Mile) down to the valley.  “Closes” were so named because they were simply narrow walkways or streets that were “close” together.  And each close was named after the activity that occurred there.  For example the fish Market close was where you would go to buy fish!  Much more on closes later… But for now, at   least you (hopefully) have a base idea on how Edinburgh was formed and a visual of how the city is situated:)  Oh, and Edinburgh has been recognized as the capital of Scotland since at least the 1500s… Just to give a base idea of how old the city is as well:)

On to Military Tattoo/Fringe Festival

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Horse Garden, PM House, Westminster & Big Ben

Horse Garden

  • To be honest I was too distracted by the horses to hear whether there were any interesting stories on this particular area… oh well!!
  • Once again the fur seen on the saddle blankets are real bear though 😦

Prime Minister House

  • We got some interesting stories about this area…one of which involved the placement of where the Prime Minister lived… it is directly across from a park that has quite the reputation to be able to solicit prostitutes at night… so needless to say, many a rumor flew that the reason he picked that house was so he would have close and more discreet access to the ladies of the park
  • Another interesting story: The large yard in front of the house was actually ear marked to have the equestrian events during the Olympics.  However, not wanting his view soiled by the look of hundreds of horses and the smell of them to boot , the venue for the equestrian events was moved to another location and tons upon tons of sand was brought in to that location so that the Prime Ministers view could be that of… Women’s beach volleyball… Obviously he had only the best intentions for the horses when choosing a different venue for them…
  • See the pictures of the Horse Guard Palace to see where the equestrian events were supposed to be (and where the women’s volleyball competition did happen).  It is all just in front of the Prime Ministers house
  • By the way, I can’t say exactly which of the Prime Ministers were the ones involved in the above activities… I can’t say mainly just because I can’t remember, lol!!

Westminster Abbey

  • Most recently famous for being the site of Prince William and Princess Kate’s marriage
  • Housed the Stone of Destiny for many years until taken back and returned to Scotland (more on this story in the Edinburgh castle section)

Big Ben

  • Big Ben is actually the name of the bell, not the tower.  There are several bells that are up in the tower, 4 small ones if memory serves and one large bell: Big ben
  • Big ben actually has a hole in it from being struck so many times.  It now makes somewhat of a dull ‘gong’ sound that it never used to
  • The actual tower is called simply Queen Elizabeth (if memory serves, lol!!)

Ok, now I know that for many of these areas there are a ton of more interesting facts about each place, but if I gave everything away there wouldn’t be any reason for any readers to either want to find out more or go on a tour themselves when in London!  Also, it is quite difficult to recall EVERYTHING from the tour, especially toward the end as my mind and body were getting quite tired!!

On to Areas Not Covered

Back to London Walking Tour

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