To The Palace, Please!

After a good nights sleep in our new surroundings, Dave went across the street and brought back breakfast and I stayed in finishing off the croissants and jam that Beth & Fiona left us. The sun was out and it appeared it would be a nice day. One forgets you’re in Scotland, however! 

Dave and I turned right when we exited the apartment and headed up the hill for our first stop at the impressive and imposing Edinburgh Castle…located on castle rock. 3,000, yes, I said 3,000 years of history are hidden away in the mighty royal castle set upon volcanic rock. The oldest part of the existing castle is St. Margaret’s Chapel, built by her son in 1130. It’s a beautiful, but tiny chapel where weddings can still be held today…with only about 16 guests. 

Despite the fact the castle is naturally well defended being built on such a steep, rocky hill, it has been captured and recaptured several times, which results in its changing role throughout history. Obviously, with the castle’s imposing height over the city, the views it affords of the dwellings and skyline below are spectacular. 

There is even a small dog cemetery where regimental mascots or soldiers dogs have been buried since 1881. 

The most prized possessions at the castle are the “Honours”, or Crown Jewels of Scotland. The Crown, Sceptre, and Sword of State. They were first used together during the coronation of Mary Queen of Scots in 1543 and have too long an eventful history to go into here. But it’s very special to see them. No photos allowed though. 😦 

The rain moved in swiftly and everyone was seeking shelter in any indoor venue possible, Dave and I ventured into the Great Hall where a musician was demonstrating 15th century instruments and music. It was very entertaining and we were able to see some fascinating instruments we have never seen before. 

We were also able to view the room where Mary Queen of Scots gave birth to her son James in 1566. James would become heir to two thrones: not only the Scottish one, but also to the English because Mary’s cousin, Queen Elizabeth I would remain childless. Prince James would one day rule as James VI of Scotland and James I of England. The last true king of Scotland. 

Dave and I grabbed a quick bite to eat on the castle grounds, then made our way back down the Royal Mile to our apartment where I changed into my rain jacket and hat. We then walked down to visit Beth and Fiona at their store and had a nice chat. They’re a lot of fun and very caring. 

Our continued trek down the mile passed by the relatively new and thoroughly (in our opinion) ugly Scottish Parliament building. It is beyond us, how in this city of such classic and traditional architecture, such a modern building could be constructed. Just sayin’. 

We reached the bottom of the Royal Mile and our final destination – The Palace of Holyroodhouse. This is the official home of Her Majesty The Queen in Scotland as well as the rest of the royal family. Last year we would not have been able to tour it because members of the family were staying there, so we were glad they stayed away this time! 

I had done a lot of reading on Mary Queen of Scots last year and was particularly interested in seeing her pubic and private rooms here. I was disappointed no photos were allowed, but we were able to view some very special areas and pieces of history. 

Seeing Mary’s bed chambers and her state bed, which underwent extensive restoration and is now displayed under low lighting and in glass was impressive. Also, the room where her secretary, and rumored lover David Rizzio was murdered by her husband, Lord Darnley, is also marked by a plaque where his body was discovered after a group of people working with Darnley stabbed Rizzio 56 times. 

Also in that room are needlepoint pieces actually done by Mary Queen of Scots. Amazing items when you consider that many of them were complete in the 1500’s. 

The palace itself is a beautiful place. Not as extravagant as Buckingham Palace or Windsor Palace in England. If something this grand can be called “homey” that’s what I’d call it in the grand scheme of palaces. LOL And you cannot beat the setting with the mountains directly around it and a beautiful garden. I could live there easily with only a staff of three, one of whom would be a gardener, of course. 

The next stop, around the palace were the ruins of a 12th century abbey. Many construction problems in the following years, as well as destructive raids from those pesky English were its eventual downfall. What remains is a very romantic and picturesque setting. 

As Dave and I exited the grounds, we then realized we had the task of walking back UP the hill of the Royal Mile. Okay…lets go! We stopped in for dinner tonight at The World’s End across from the apartment. I had venison sausage and mashed potatoes with carmalized onions in a red wine gravy and Dave had their roast lamb dinner. We washed all this down with Belhaven Ale again. YUM! 

Of course, as I write this between 8 and 9 p.m., the sun came back out. That fickle Scottish weather. Who knows what tomorrow will bring!

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