Castle Adventures

Trip Start May 22, 2009
Trip End Feb 16, 2010

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Flag of United Kingdom  , Scotland,
Saturday, July 25, 2009

Marching up the Royal Mile towards the castle was difficult work.  First, there were the cobbles to jar your step.  Then, there were the bollards - perfectly camouflaged with the street to make tripping over easy.  And finally, there were the mass streams of people in tartan to fight against - as all were moving DOWN the hill for the clan gatherings.  But we finally made it to the castle, and after a small eternity of waiting, and forking over a miniature fortune for admittance, we were in!

The first thing to greet us was the sound of pipes and the one o'clock cannon.  This is a tradition that dates back to 1861 when they fired the cannon so sailors could know the time and set their equipment before sailing off to sea.  Continuing the tradition, this can be heard every day except Sundays, Christmas and Easter. 

Signage posts around the castle state that people have been inhabiting this rock (site of castle) for over 3000 years.  Thankfully for us, the did a little redecorating throughout the years.  Edinburgh Castle, like many others, has gone through a very predictable life cycle.  1) primitive dwelling-place of people..  2) walled city in which a town functions.  3) after the town outgrows the confines of the walls, they spread outward and the walled castle is reserved for the Royals.  4)  when the Royals find new and better places to live, it becomes a military base and a tactical stronghold.  5) finally when no longer needed for military reasons, the castle becomes a tourist attraction.  Edinburgh Castle still occupies #4 and #5.  As a result, there are still people living there and many buildings have been recently added and updated.  But even without this fact, the castle has gone through many changes over the years. 

Most notable 'redecorating' was in 1314 during the time of Robert the Bruce.  While in conflict with the English (surprise), the Scots just didn't have enough men to defend the castle.  After a siege, the Scots decided to destroy the only thing worth having:  the castle.  Leveling it to the ground so the English would have nothing to gain.  Only the tiny St. Margaret's cathedral remained.  Built in the early 12th century in honour of the late Queen Margaret by her bereaved son.  Now the oldest standing building in the castle complex as well as in Edinburgh. 

But the rock from the leveled buildings remained, and has been recycled into new buildings.   The newest being the War Memorial.  This is an awe inspiring place.  Upon entrance you can feel a change in the air.  Everyone who has ever fought with the Scottish is remembered in detail - no matter the war or the nationality.  Books upon books of names are contstantly being updated. 

This castle was also home to Mary Queen of Scots, and is the place where she gave birth to her only child:  King James VI of Scotland.  Later to become Kim James I of England, thus peacefully uniting the 2 countries ever since. 

Prime attraction is of course  the crown jewels.  Oldest in the British Isles they were made in the 15th and 16th centuries.  These have been protected and secured for years.  In 1941 they were burried beneath David's tower in the castle for fear of an attack from the Germans during the War.  They weren't taken out again until 1953 to be used in the coronation of Queen Elizabeth. 

Also on display is the Stone of Destiny.  Used for coronations of Scottish monarchs of old.  Symbolizing the uniting of King/Queen with the Earth and thus the People.  Stolen in 1296 by King Edward, it sat in London under the throne in the West Minister Abby until it was 'stolen' back 700 years later.  It does still hold the condition that it will be returned to the Westminister for future coronation ceremonies. 

Beneath the castle lie a series of vaults that were used as POW holdings.  Seeing these rooms and bricks and doors covered with graffiti as early as 1773 is quite remarkable.  Also on display were some handy-crafts that were completed by the prisoners during all their empty hours of imprisonment.  There are incredibly detailed jewelry boxes with intricate designs made from straw from he beds, or 'ivory' carved from the bones in their meat rations.  I wonder what today's POW"s do with their time...

An interesting journey into the past, this castle was different for me in the fact that there were genuine artifacts to see, the history related to knowledge I already had, and it was still being used!  Not quite like my enchanted castle, but a wonderful journey all the same.
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