Edinburgh Castle – Exploring the Scottish Icon
Perched on the plug of an ancient dormant volcano, called Castle Rock, sits a beautiful castle which towers over the seemingly small buildings belonging to the ancient Scottish capital. It’s a place that echoes the footsteps of its past royal residents, the firing of cannons and the suffering of its prisoners. Indeed, some of you might have guessed it and others may have not, but the castle I’m on about is none other than the iconic Edinburgh Castle which I recently had the pleasure of visiting.
The Castle Esplanade & its Extraordinary Views
Before walking through the gate to buy tickets to visit Edinburgh Castle, I took a look over the walls of the castle’s esplanade. The view atop was simply amazing and frankly I couldn’t wait to buy my tickets to Edinburgh Castle.
Yet, the cold weather got the better of me and I needed a hot drink first. So, I opted to buy a pistachio hot chocolate from the small food truck parked outside the castle before I proceeded to buy a ticket with my better half.
As I sipped on my hot chocolate, I took around the castle esplanade that’s found directly opposite Edinburgh Castle ‘s main gate. The flat area was built in 1753 and served as the place where the military men typically took center stage in times gone by. Today however, after being refurbished, it looks somewhat different though and is not used in the same way. Nowadays, the castle esplanade is usually used as an open space for concerts and provides an outdoor showground for the Edinburgh military tattoo which takes place in August.
As I looked around it, I also noticed that the walls belonging to the esplanade are flanked with four memorials to the Scottish regimental involvements in various wars.
The memorial to the North of the Castle was erected in 1861 and is dedicated to the memory of the 256 men belonging to the 78th Highlanders who fought for their country and died during the Indian Mutiny. Another interesting monument is dedicated to the men of the Scottish Horse who fought in the South African War – notice the emblem on the front of it. The third memorial is dedicated to the men of the 72nd Highlanders who passed away in the Second Anglo-Afghan War that took place in 1878-80. But the memorial on the south wall of the castle esplanade erected in memory of the Gordon Highlanders who passed away in the Second Boer War, the South African War, in 1899-1902 is the one that struck me most. The unique memorial displays a stag head at the very top along with several names of soldiers that fought in the war and is simply stunning and out of the ordinary.
Entering the Portcullis Gate
Once I had sipped my delicious hot chocolate, I walked through the mighty castle’s regal gate embellished with flags, the Scottish emblem and two monuments on either side of it. Then we proceeded to walk up the ticket booth and purchase 2 entry tickets for the day in order to begin our exploration of Edinburgh Castle.
After we had paid the fee, we walked up the narrow cobblestone road and through the Portcullis Gate leading to the Argyle Battery. This battery overlooks Princes Street and has six cannons comprising part of the northern defense of the castle.
When we were done looking around and taking in the views, we then walked up to the higher part of the castle to visit St.Margaret’s Chapel which is thought to be the oldest building in Scotland dating back to the 12th century. The chapel itself is tiny and is still in use today. The view seen from the top of the Edinburgh castle is phenomenal too!
As we walked away from the tiny site to Crown Square to get to the castle’s Royal Palace, I couldn’t help taking a few snapshots of the views from the fortifications small windows where canons peer out at the city.
Once I was done, we headed inside Edinburgh castle’s Royal Palace and entered part of the world of its former royal residents. On walking through the lavishly decorated rooms, it was easy to tell that the kings and queens that resided in this part of the castle lived lavish but sheltered lives from the rest of the public most of the time. For it was here that Queen Mary of Scots endured the difficult birth of her son James VI in 1566 who was later crowned King of Scotland merely a year later on turning one and was also responsible for the uniting of the Scottish and English crowns in 1603. It was also here that the last member of the Scottish monarchy to stay here was Charles I before he was coroneted with the Scottish crown in 1633. Nowadays, there are no royals living here, though its rooms and decor remain well preserved. Right next door to the Royal Palace is the Great Hall dates back to the early 16th century. What’s intriguing about this hall is that it has a remarkable beamed roof. Its walls exhibit weaponry showcasing the medieval might of the Scottish troops. And next door to this, is the Honours of Scotland. A place which is home to the Crown Jewels and several important artefacts belonging to Scotland’s former monarchs.
On exiting the Honours of Scotland, we ended up back in Crown Square. The square, which dates back to the 15th century, served as a courtyard. Apart from the latter I’ve mentioned in this blog post, we also ended up visiting the National War Memorial which houses an exhibit of medals and war memorabilia.
Last stop: The Dismal Prisoners of War Exhibition
Our last stop was the Prisoners of War Exhibition. The exhibition is a re-enactment of the daily lives of foreign prisoners hailing from all over Europe and even as far as America. On walking through the dismal place, you’ll notice that the place, even though very silent, echoes the screams and shouts of former prisoners held captive in its walls. A few sure indicators of their suffering are the hammock beds, the crowded spaces and the early forms of graffiti on a few wooden doors. Indeed, some claim that the site is haunted. Whether it is or not, I don’t know.