South Queensferry, Scotland is a tender port. One of the last ports we would visit on our 12 day British Isles cruise, it was also the gateway to Edinburgh, Scotland. From the ship anchored some distance from shore, passengers of the Crown Princess had to board small boats that would ferry us to the dock where we would board tour buses or make our way to Edinburgh on our own. After enjoying an early breakfast the morning of our visit, I left the ship for a tour called "Edinburgh Castle and City Drive". I chose to do a tour by myself that day because Mom decided not to take a bouncing and bobbing tender boat to the dock. It was a misty and somewhat rainy morning as I climbed aboard the tender boat and I was glad I had a hat and small umbrella with me to shield me from the elements while exploring the sights in Edinburgh on the tour.
Edinburgh is the capital city of Scotland, the second largest city in Scotland, and the eighth most populous in the United Kingdom. Lying between the Highlands and the Border Hills, Edinburgh, Scotland is a large, fascinating city noted for its beautiful skyline, its impressive architecture and its beautiful parks. Edinburgh is the site of the International Festival, one of the premier European cultural events for over half a century. Among those who have called the city home are the writers, Robert Louis Stevenson (Treasure Island, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hide) Robert Burns, James Boswell, and Sir Walter Scott, as well as philosophers, Adam Smith and David Hume. Edinburgh is also the seat of the Scottish Parliament. The Old Town and New Town districts of Edinburgh were listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1995.
Views of the Edinburgh, Scotland skyline
Arriving in Edinburgh the weather had improved a great deal which was fortuitous as our first stop of the day was the historic Edinburgh Castle. The first thing I noticed about Edinburgh is that the Edinburgh Castle dominates the skyline in an unbelievable way. Sitting high above the city streets, it is an imposing and impressive structure. Over 1000 years of history sit on top of the famous Edinburgh Castle rock. The Castle is also the home of the Royal Crown Jewels of Scotland. Looking up at the castle from the city streets below, you see why this historic site has over a million visitors a year.
Leaving the bus just outside of the Edinburgh Castle wall, we were instructed by our tour guide that we would have some time on our own to explore the castle and to return to the bus at a certain time to continue our city tour. I was happy to have the time to explore on my own as there was so much to see and so much history to take in.
Edinburgh Castle visitors prepare to enter the Castle grounds
Edinburgh Castle chapel
Edinburgh Castle building
Castle Rock as it is called, has been a military base and royal residence for centuries. Edinburgh Castle was built during the 12th century by David I, son of Saint Margaret of Scotland. Conflicts between the English and Scottish monarchies almost always centered on Edinburgh Castle. It was said that "He who held the castle held rule over the city of Edinburgh and, therefore, over all of Scotland". As a consequence, the castle was constantly under siege over the centuries.
The site continued to be a royal residence until the Union of the Crowns in 1603. Mary, Queen of Scots was one of the more famous residents. From the 15th century, the castle's residential role declined, and by the 17th century its principal role was as a military base with a large garrison. As one of the most important fortresses in the Kingdom of Scotland, Edinburgh Castle was involved in many historical conflicts, from the Wars of Scottish Independence in the 14th century, up to the Jacobite Rising of 1745. Most of the castle is now in the care of Historic Scotland, and it is Scotland's most-visited paid tourist attraction.
Mary, Queen of Scots exhibit at Edinburgh Castle
I took my time walking around the enormous castle grounds before making my way inside the castles Royal Palace to see the Honors of Scotland or the Crown Jewels of Scotland which are displayed in the Crown Room of the Palace. The room was built specially for the Honors in 1617, as part of King James VI ‘homecoming’ to Scotland, to celebrate his Golden Jubilee as king of Scots. The crown, scepter and sword date from the late 15th and early 16th centuries. The scepter was presented to James IV in 1494, probably by Pope Alexander VI, and the Sword in 1508 by Pope Julius.
The Honors of Scotland
By the time I made my way out of the Royal Palace after standing in a long line to see the Crown Jewels, it was almost time to meet back at the tour bus. I had just enough time to buy some souvenirs and make the long trek down a steep hill to where the tour bus was parked. I had quite a work out walking around the castle grounds due to several steep hills and a lot of steps. I was more than ready to sit down and ride for a while. From the castle the tour took us down the Royal Mile to the Holyrood Palace (residence of the Scottish Monarch, Queen Elizabeth II when she is in town) and around the city to take in more sites.
The City of Edinburgh grows outwards from the Castle and the first houses were built on the area in front of it and is now called the Lawnmarket. From there, the houses, shops and restaurants continue down High Street and The Cannongate towards the Royal Palace of Holyrood House. These streets form a single street known as The Royal Mile. The Royal Mile got its name over the centuries as Scottish and English kings and queens have travelled back and forth between the Palace of Holyrood House and Edinburgh Castle, thus the name The Royal Mile.
Gates to Holyrood Palace
View of the city from Edinburgh Castle on Castle Rock
Building along the Royal Mile
Home of author Robert Louis Stevenson in Edinburgh, Scotland
By the time we arrived back at the ship after a long day of touring Edinburgh, I was more than tired. I was also exhilarated from being immersed is so much history too. One day was simply not enough to see Edinburgh, so I added it to my growing list of places I had to visit again one day.
Next up, Mom and I visit the amazing city of Paris, France and our fabulous 12 day British Isles cruise comes to an end.
To Be Continued.....
Gerrilyn Grant Gipson Esq.
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