Waking up in Edinburgh, I was filled with joy. I would FINALLY get to go to Edinburgh Castle, after missing it four years ago. The castle is situated on a cliff that over looks the city. It was a grey, misty and dreary morning as we climbed the hill to enter the site. We started with the free 30-minute tour to orient ourselves to the place (or, for my British friends, ‘orientate ourselves’). The castle was begun in the 11th century when the king of Scotland at the time decided to spend more time at what was then a hunting lodge. Over the centuries it has grown around the top of the cliff, which has created a layout and feeling unlike most castles.
[I like a nice bagpipe to underscore my entrance into a castle, it seems somehow fitting.]
[This is the ceiling in the room where Mary, Queen of Scots gave birth to her son, the future King James VI of Scotland and I of England. The "IR' stands for Iacobus Rex (King James in Latin).]
[The same room. The 'MR' stands for Maria Regina (Queen Mary, in Latin).]
[This is a hall built off of Mary's apartments. During Mary's reign she was not very safe (a good deal of the country, including her nobles, hated her) and she had to move from the Palace of Holyrood House to the safer confines of Edinburgh Castle.]
[This is a Victorian recreation (read: fantasy) of what the castle's medieval hall looked like.]
[This is the Scottish National War Memorial, built in the 1920s. It is the most impressive war memorial I have seen. There are no pictures from the inside as photography is not allowed. Inside are shrines to the each Scottish regiment, including their flags and books of the dead, which you can actually open up and look through.]
[This is the memorial from the other side. The part that sticks out is the actual shrine. There is a green granite altar, on which sits a silver casket that holds over 150,000 names of the dead. The altar is placed directly above the highest point on the cliff, on the exposed rock that sticks through the floor. Above it hangs a carving of St Michael the Archangel, carved from an oak tree. It was beautiful.]
[In Victorian times the soldiers stationed at the castle began using this small plot of grass as a cemetery for their dead dogs, and other regimental mascots.]
[I believe this is called Mogs Meg. It is an enormous cannon given to the king of Scotland as a wedding present in the mid-medieval period. To give you an idea of its size, each of those stone balls on the ground is about twice the size of a soccer ball.]
[This is the chapel of St Margaret. Margaret was the Mother of King David of Scotland. When she died, he had this chapel built in her honor. She was soon canonized (made a saint) and it was christened under her patronage. The interior is small (only holds about 20 guests if you are having a wedding) and includes one of the only Norman archways in Scotland (Norman architecture entered Scotland though England, where is was introduced by the invading Normans. By the time the English had invaded Scotland, Norman architecture was on the way out, explaining why there is so little Norman architecture in the country).]
[This is the closest the castle has to a dungeon. From about 1750 until 1815 the castle was used to hold prisoners caught by the British at sea. ]
[In case you can't read this sign, it is a list of the daily rations given to each prisoner in the castle. The note at the bottom says that Americans were considered pirates, and so only received one pound of bread a day, not one and a half. I guess when you rebel against your mother country, they don't think of you as any normal criminal.]
Out next big stop was to be The Palace of Holyrood House, the Queen’s residence in Edinburgh. For those of you who do not know, Edinburgh has a very famous High Street, called The Royal Mile. It starts (or ends, depending on how you look at it) at the castle and goes in a straight line, downhill, to the palace. Along this street are many other famous sites, including St Giles’ Cathedral, Mary King’s Close and The Vaults, as well as more tacky souvenir shops and kilt makers than you can wiggle a sporran at (if you do not know what a sporran is, look it up, then imagine someone wiggling one…I promise the mental image will at least make you chuckle, if not laugh out loud).
Now here comes the sad part, and disappointment number three of our trip (Hardwick Hall and Glamis Castle being one and two): the Queen was home, meaning the palace was closed. I have never been to the palace, and neither has Jamie, who was in Edinburgh a month before our trip, so we were very excited to see it. It was quite a disappointment. The Queen’s Gallery was open, but we were geared up for the palace. We turned on our heals, took a brief jaunt through the gift shop (we had walked all that way, we might as well do something) and headed back up The Royal Mile.
What followed was mostly the uneventful ducking into and out of tourist shops that is a sure sign of a bored tourist trying to kill some time.
[No explanation needed.]
We stopped in St Giles’ Cathedral and had a look around. And so now, some history: While it is called a Cathedral, St Giles’ is not actually a cathedral. The church is a conglomeration of six Scottish churches that make up the founding church of Presbyterianism. Presbyterianism does not have Bishops, and a cathedral is a cathedral because it contains a cathedra, or Bishop’s throne. Therefore St Giles’ is not and cannot be a cathedral in the literal sense. The word cathedral is added to imply its importance to Presbyterianism by comparing it to its non-Presbyterian counterpart, the Episcopal cathedral. SIDE NOTE: the Church of Scotland is Presbyterian, while the Episcopal Church of Scotland is like the Church of England, the Church of Wales or the Episcopal Church of America, because it has Bishops, around who the hierarchy is situated. Episcopal comes from the Latin word for Bishop: episcopus.
[The outside of the cathedral, showing the crown shaped turret, for which it is so famous.]
[The interior of the cathedral.]
[This is looking east down the central aisle. One big difference between Presbyterian churches and Episcopal churches is the orientation of the congregation. Traditionally the congregation faces east, towards the altar, but in Presbyterian churches the actual direction does not matter. So in St Giles' the altar is placed in the crossing (it is the white cube in the middle) and the congregation is seated, all facing in towards the center, completely surrounding the altar. This is not true of all Presbyterian churches, but in doing this the church has taken a step to distance itself from more high church practices. The logic being that the idea of facing east is not in the bible, and therefore has no apostolic or biblical precedence to be followed, the same reason used for the exclusion of Bishops in the church.]
Now for some brief religious history (you had to have known it was going to come at some point). The reformation occurred in Scotland separate from England and created a distinctly unique form of Protestantism (remember, England and Scotland were not joined under one crown until 1603, when Elizabeth I died and her cousin, James VI of Scotland, was crowned James I of England). Scottish Protestantism was more of a grass roots movement, having relatively more to do with the general population’s feelings than in England, where (depending on which historians you read) the Reformation was a top-down affair. In 1637, Charles I ordered uniformity in religious worship in his kingdom, imposing the English Book of Common Prayer on the Presbyterian Scots. This may have sounded small to some, but the Reformation had made the Scottish Presbyterian church more low-church than the English Church (the contention over Bishops is still alive today). The day that the Book of Common Prayer was to be instituted in Scotland was in July 1637. On that day a man began reading from the Book of Common Prayer in St Giles’ Cathedral, when Janet Geddes (possibly not actually her, but the oral tradition says it was she) stood up from her three-legged stool, picked it up, and threw it at the pulpit, causing others to do the same, which then caused a riot in the church. This began The Prayer Book Rebellion, which quickly spread though out the country.
[This is a sculpture in the cathedral commemorating Janet Geddes, supposedly near the spot where she actually threw the stool.]
We said good-bye to Edinburgh and headed south for the border and the walled town of Berwick-on-Tweed, in England. This town, situated on the river Tweed, hence the name, was a point of contention between the Scots and English for centuries. Being so close to the border it was constantly held by one side and then attacked by the other, before switching hands, at which point the fighting would start again. As part of its defenses the town is nearly completely encircled by a medieval wall. We decided to stay here because I have wanted to see Holy Island (site of Lindisfarne Priory, home of the Lindisfarne Gospel) for years, and it is not very easy to get to without a car. Well as the name implies, it is an island. A few times each day the tides recede and allow for access to and from the island via a causeway (like the house from The Woman in Black, in case you have seen that movie). When we got to our hostel in Berwick-on-Tweed I saw the posted tidal times. The first time we could cross was not until noon the next day, and we would not be able to come back until 5pm. We were out of luck. We would have to go somewhere else.
Berwick has had a military history since the middle ages. The military ran the town for centuries, and that is still evident when you walk the walls.
We ate dinner at a lovely restaurant called the Queen’s Head Inn and then walked the walls of the town before going to bed. For the next day, we decided to go to Hadrian’s Wall since our plans for Holy Island had to be binned.
The following pictures are from our walk on the wall.
[Notice the paved areas on the left? This is where cannons were once stationed, looking out over the river.]
[The estuary where the Tweed flows into the North Sea.]
[This is an 18th century gunpowder supply building for the military. Notice the buttresses on the side? These seem strange for such a small building, but they are there in order to add extra strength, should the gun powder explode.]
Here are some random pictures that did not make it into the story above. Enjoy!
[Should I storm the castle? Or should I get tea?]
[Tea it is. I am happy with my decision.]
[Bachelor party in Edinburgh.]
[The inside of the Clamshell Chippy, where I got my deep fried Mars bar. It you have not had one, you need to try it.]
[Me, contemplating my deep fried Mars bar (on the paper in front of me) and a delicious beer.]
[The interior of the fried wonderfulness. The coating is not the good part, the good part is the warm, melted goodness of the bar.]