I arrived in Scotland very early on Friday morning and was lucky enough to get into my hotel room right away. My hotel is very close to the Scottish Parliament, a very modern building not to my taste, and the Palace of Holyroodhouse, the Queen’s official residence in Scotland, which is. They are located at the bottom of the Royal Mile, a medieval street, which runs up to the Edinburgh Castle. I walked up the Royal Mile on my way to the Scottish National Gallery which displays masterpieces by Botticelli, Raphael, Titian, Rembrandt, Vermeer, Constable, Turner, Monet, Van Gogh and Gauguin, amongst many others. It also has a comprehensive collection covering the history of Scottish painting with major artists such as Ramsay, Raeburn, Wilkie and McTaggart, represented. I thought the Gallery was well worth the visit. En route I passed the Memorial to Sir Walter Scott. Afterward, I walked down Princes Street and then through some streets in the Medieval quarter where my hotel is located, checking out the cashmere and silver jewellery shops on the way.
Early on Saturday I went to The Palace of Holyroodhouse. The palace stands at the end of Edinburgh’s Royal Mile against the backdrop of Arthur’s Seat, one of four hill forts dating from around 2,000 years ago. Situated within Holyrood Park, Arthur’s Seat offers walks, wildlife, and wonderful views of the city. Holyroodhouse is used by The Queen when carrying out official engagements in Scotland. The State Apartments have been redecorated by various monarchs over the years, and are renowned for their fine plasterwork ceilings, excellent collection of Brussels tapestries, numerous fine paintings and other works of art. During the visit one sees Mary, Queen of Scots’ Chambers and the Darnley Rooms, and in the Palace’s west corner tower Mary’s Bedchamber, described as ‘the most famous room in Scotland’, and her Outer Chamber, the scene of the murder of her Italian secretary, David Rizzio. No photos are permitted in the palace. The tour includes a free audio guide and ends in the ruins of Holyrood Abbey, which lies adjacent to the Palace, and the gardens.
I then went to a medieval area called the Grassmarket which is situated below the Castle. There was a very small Saturday market in progress though I found it disappointing. I followed a pamphlet which pointed out various points of interest though today, they are shops and pubs.
I then went to the nearby Museum of Scotland. This is a very modern museum which boasts that it contains artefacts showing everything you would want to know about Scottish history. I have no doubt that they aren’t missing much if anything. However, I found it overwhelming with too many small cards explaining too many artefacts, printed in small type at the bottom of dim display cases. I did find a few interesting things – some ancient stones with Celtic crosses and some actual machinery, such as a loom, a machine for pounding cloth and a steam pump for pumping water out of mines all from the age of the industrial revolution.
Today, my organized tour started with a city tour during which I saw more of the 18th century New Town with its classical Adam façades. Back over in the Old Town, we visited the castle which has a complex building history. The oldest part, St Margaret’s Chapel, dates from the 12th century; the Great Hall was erected by James IV around 1510; the Half Moon Battery by the Regent Morton in the late 16th century; and the Scottish National War Memorial after the First World War. The castle houses the Honours (Crown Jewels) of Scotland, the Stone of Destiny, the famous 15th century gun Mons Meg, the One O’ Clock Gun and the National War Museum of Scotland. We were able to visit the castle on our own and could return to the hotel in our own time. Again there were rooms associated with Mary Queen of Scots who gave birth to her son in a very tiny room in the Castle. Her son became James the VI of Scotland and James the 1st of England.
In the afternoon, I opted for a tour to Rosslyn Chapel, situated abut 45 minutes out of Edinburgh. The pretty medieval chapel has become famous because of its association with the book, the Da Vinci Code. The chapel was a virtual ruin 50 or so years ago, and the tourism revenues have enabled extensive renovations. Originally a Catholic Chapel, it is now a working Protestant Church. Unfortunately no photos were permitted inside which has extensive stone carvings, but I include a few of the exterior.