Tag Archives: holyrood palace

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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