I’ve wanted to travel to Scotland for a long time. I have Diana Gabaldon to thank for that. Her historical novel, Outlander was my first foray into Scottish History, and ignited a fascination that has yet to waiver since I first read it 17 years ago. What an amazing country, with a complex and often violent and intriguing political history. Also a photographer’s dream, the landscape is lush and green, offering many opportunities for some brilliant photos. I planned, dreamed and schemed for over a year. So when the date finally came, I was very prepared. I had thought of everything–what I wanted to do, where I wanted to go, what I wanted to see. I had lists, organizers, phone numbers, maps, a Garmin for the car, and a portable wifi with pre-paid data which I unfortunately forgot to pack. Well, it’s not an adventure if you haven’t forgotten something, right? As it turns out, that small forgotten item brought us much entertainment in the end. So, I shrugged my shoulders, kissed the boys goodbye and boarded the plane at 3PM.
I landed in Edinburgh at 8AM the following day in a chilly, 54 degree steady rain, something I fully expected. But when you leave 100+ degree temperatures even the expectation doesn’t live up to the experience. But I didn’t go for the weather, and many back home in the sweltering heat would tell me to shut up and enjoy it. My cab took me to The Blue Yonder, a small bed and breakfast that was a haven of warmth and hot, comforting food. Sue Kinross, the proprietor, was a lovely lady who immediately showed me to the dining room where the other guests had already begun to eat the morning meal. Given that the way they pass time on airplanes is to feed you every couple of hours, I passed on the breakfast and just sipped coffee, striking up interesting coversation with them–or as interesting as can be had on a couple of hours of sleep and a glazed look in my eyes that did not go unnoticed.
I have to admit feeling somewhat in awe, as a group of them had been on a biking holiday, by which I mean the type of bike that lacks a motor and relies solely on muscle power. One gentlemen had biked the Swiss Alps for two weeks before coming here, planning to make his way to London (398 miles), while two of the women had biked from Inverness to Edinburgh, or a distance of about 158 miles. I suddenly felt lazy coming from the airport in a cab. Does walking all over the city count for anything?
After being fortified with hot coffee, I set off for Edinburgh Castle, assured it was about a 10 minute walk from The Blue Yonder. Turns out, 10 minutes was a SLIGHT underestimation. After 15 minutes I stopped and ask someone if I was going the right direction. A lettered smile and a wave, “Just keep going, way down…” was the response. Truth be told, it was more like 30 minutes before I finally see Edinburgh Castle, but it seems no closer to me then the moon, perched high on a hill with a park separating me from it.
The castle stands on volcanic rock which has evidence of human settlements that date back to 900BC. It has been used to house prisoners of war over the years, as well as housing royal families.
In spite of the chilly temps, I was sweating by the time I reached the Royal Mile, which as the name implies, is the mile leading up to the castle.
Once up to the castle, I began to get a feel for what it would have felt like to live there hundreds of years ago, amongst a strong military community. One of the first things you see are all the cannons on the battlements, and it is here you will find Mons Meg, the worlds oldest gun (canon), weighing in a 13,200 pounds (roughly 6 metric tons) and capable of shooting 330 lb. stone cannon balls. This is impressive when you considered that over the last 500 years the Mons Meg has been moved several times over the Scottish terrain at a rate of 3 miles per day.
The Stone of Destiny is also housed at the Castle after having been returned from England in November of 1996. The Stone of Destiny is interesting in that it has much controversy surrounding it’s history. Some believe it is a section of the stone that Jacob used as a pillow when he had his dream that is chronicled in Genesis 28:10-22. It was supposedly used in the coronation of the very first Kings of Ireland (before that coming from Spain, before that Egypt, before that the Holy Land), until it was taken away to Scotland following a war victory, then again to England where it resided under the coronation chair for 700 years before it was returned to Scotland. The room it is in is kept in low light, and photographs are not allowed.
My favorite exhibit though has to be of Bob. Bob of the Scots Fusilier Guards, was a small dog adopted by the battalion there. He was a war hero in Crimea, and his tale of valor is very moving. I guess that is why they chose to stuff him instead of burying him with the other regiment mascots. He was something special.
Bob marked the end of my tour of the Edinburgh Castle. I sat to watch a movie on it, but when I looked to the side and saw two tourists sound asleep on the benches in the back with everyone pointing at them, I decided I should keep moving, lest that be my fate. And so I walked slowly down The Royal Mile, entertained by the window dressings (there really is a man in there).
At the end of the Royal Mile, I found a cab and went back to the airport to meet my friend Robin after which we found a pub for dinner, and consolidated our plans for the rest of our trip. I, couldn’t wait to see as much as I could of the beautiful country of Scotland.