Tag Archives: westminster abbey

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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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

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London Walking Tour

On my first official morning I opted to take part in a “free” walking tour of the “TV” “London”.  I will explain in further detail why quotes are around the three words in the previous sentence in a bit…

Upon first checking into the hostel they mentioned that there was a “free” walking tour that operated daily leaving the hostel at 10am.  They said that the tour covered central London, but that the main attractions (for example Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, etc) would not be covered, but that the tour would end so close to those areas that they would be easy enough to explore after the tour.

Ok, so here was a great example as to the incompetence of the staff (sadly) at the Generator hostel… First off, the “free” walking tour required a not-free train or bus ticket to get you to the meeting point (Green Park) from which the tour would actually begin.  Now, I’m not complaining about having to buy a train ticket, because as it turned out it came in quite handy for the rest of the day (I bought a day pass from the hostel for 9 pounds that allowed unlimited access to all buses and trains for the entire day, and after my day it was definitely worth its price!) I was just irritated that this little bit of important information wasn’t explained to me when the staff talked about the free walking tour.  Now, I’ve been told I’m too literal a person taking what people say quite literally and to that point I admit that I literally did think that the walking tour would be entirely that… walking.  So when the lady who came to pick up the people participating in the walking tour from the hostel (on foot I may add) we started walking out toward the next hostel where we were to pick up more people when she thankfully asked “do you have a train ticket?”.  My first question of course was “For what?  This is a walking tour, yes?”  To which she explained that we would need a train ticket to get to the meeting point.

So I turned around as she waited outside for me while I worked out the details and purchased the all day train pass.  I’m just saying, if the whole procedure for the “free” walking tour was explained to begin with then that little bit of confusion and wasted time would never had occurred… Oh, and one other little thing… Goes along with the incompetence of the staff at the Generator (who otherwise were very friendly) per their knowledge of this free walking tour that they at least informed people about… ok, so a few more points… #1 no one knew how long the tour would last #2 no one knew exactly what time it started (I was told 10am, at 10am asked where the tour met and was told -by the same person who told me 10am- that it met at 10:15… 10:15 rolled around and I was told once again by the same person, “oh they meet between 10:15 and 10:30… GRRRRR!!!!!) #3 the areas that they said would be covered on the tour in fact were NOT covered at all… I’m not complaining on this point again because the tour actually did cover all the areas I wanted to know more about, i.e. the “TV” areas of London (Big Ben, Buckingham Palace, etc).  All I’m saying again is that there was just a HUGE lack of knowledge from the staff at the Generator hostel about this tour.

Now, to the perhaps credit of the staff, the lady that picked me up from there on foot said that the regular staff were on vacation and that she’d never seen the ones that were there that morning before… so maybe the regular staff are more knowledgeable than the apparently new ones that were there… But I will never know for sure…

Ok, so I’m done venting about the frustrating start to the tour… The tour itself was in one word: brilliant!  The tour guide was funny, friendly and incredibly informative!  As I mentioned above we all met (turned out to be about 30 people in total from various hostels around London) at Green Park and from there began the two hour tour entirely on foot:)

Oh, I almost forgot… the above words in quotes!  So “Free” is in quotes above because as you guessed, the tour wasn’t “free”.  It required a train/bus ticket and a tip for the tour guide.  The guides aren’t paid by the organization that provides the free tours, so they only rely on tips.  “TV” is in quotes simply to mean that the areas covered were in fact the most popular tourist destinations in London, and “London” is in quotes because all the areas we went to (TV areas) are actually in Westminster… London, the REAL London is only one about square mile!!  The rest of what people consider to be London is Westminster.  That’s your first bit of info I got from the tour…

To make it a bit easier for reading perhaps, I’m going to break down each part of the tour and associated stories for each area into links below.  That way this page doesn’t drag on forever!  I’m not going to tell every story told during the tour (I’ve got to leave something out to make you all want to go to London and do the tour yourselves!!) but will give you my favorites.  Cheers and happy reading your free tour with accompanying pictures:)

The Palaces

Red Coats & Gentlemen’s Club

Trafalgar Square

Horse Garden/PM House/Westminster Abbey/Big Ben

Areas Not covered (Eye of London/Brick Lane/Piccadilly Circus)

 

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