Edinburgh Castle sits prominently at one end of the Royal Mile, the main street of medieval Edinburgh. It is incredibly imposing, high on a hill and surrounded by steep cliffs on all sides except the visitor entrance. Yet this model of castle architecture has been taken at least three times in its history, two by siege and one by stealth. Parts of the castle (the Chapel, for instance) date back to the 1100’s although most of it was destroyed by Robert the Bruce in the 1300’s, then rebuilt. The Scottish Crown Jewels, the oldest in Europe, are on display here. The Great Hall is especially impressive, as are the Royal Apartments.
From the castle, walk downhill along the Royal Mile to Holyrood Palace, the house of the Queen when she is in town. Much of it dates back to the 1300’s and includes the bedchamber of Mary, Queen of Scots. The newer part of the palace (1500’s) is extremely dignified and “royal”. Attached to the palace are the ruins of an Abbey and a pretty garden.
Along the way to Holyrood, the Royal Mile traverses the center of Edinburgh‘s Old Town. Now lined with many shops and restaurants, it remains a gathering place for locals and tourists alike. Pay special note of St Giles Cathedral, the High Kirk of Edinburgh, with its distinctive steeple and its dark, Gothic interior.
Beyond Holyrood, climb to the top of Calton Hill for incredible views of Edinburgh, as well as the Firth of Forth, the famous waterway, to the north of Edinburgh, that cuts into the Scottish mainland.
Princes Street is the main thoroughfare in New Town (and also the major shopping area of the city) which is also lively with pubs, shops, and parks. Note especially the elaborate Sir Walter Scott Memorial, on the edge of Princes Street Park, a lovely place to stroll.
1. For a real treat, while visiting Edinburgh, splurge and stay in a genuine castle, Dalhousie Castle, on the outskirts of the city. The rooms of the castle are themed and have furnishings and decorations which complement the theme. Breakfast in the mornings is served in the dungeon of the castle, an extremely interesting setting. Be sure to try the “haggis”, a local tradition.
2. My walking tour incorporates all the best sights of the city. You can find it in the archives, dated 10-25-08.