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Fascinating Scotland – Edinburgh Castle

Sharmila Mohan

As a child, the legend of Robert the Bruce had impressed me no end. Although I still remain terrified of spiders, I had hoped one day to visit the country of the man who defeated an army just by watching the eight legged arachnid weave its web.

Castles are meant to awe, but the location of Edinburgh Castle enhances its all-encompassing nature. Visiting in the summer I was overwhelmed by my first view of this imposing edifice.

The tour bus dropped us at the foot of the approach to the Castle just midway in the Royal Mile. At one end loomed Edinburgh Castle, at the far end Holyrood Palace. (The Scottish home of Queen Elizabeth II).

As we made our way up the cobbled slope, on either side were souvenir and whiskey shops. The biting air and the gentle slope made the climb pleasant. Once inside, we found that hectic preparations were on for the soon to be held Edinburgh festival. The great courtyard was filled with chairs and electronic sound equipment. That, however, did not prevent us tourists from photographing everything we saw.

At the Gatehouse entrance are the imposing statues of Robert the Bruce and William Wallace. After feasting my eyes on the one who had helped form my character and paying obeisance to Braveheart we made our way inside.

We got our tickets and our audio guides and marched through the Portcullis Gate and Argyle Tower. This was built to replace the original Constable’s Tower which was destroyed during the ‘Lang Siege’ of 1571-73.  The structure was further modernized and named after the Duke of Argyle who was imprisoned in the tower prior to his execution.

Edinburgh Castle houses many military museums and it was no surprise that once we passed the tower we were standing on the huge ramparts that housed the Argyle Battery and the famous One O’Clock gun. The One O’Clock gun, as its name implies, is fired every day for one and all to set their timepieces. The panoramic view of the City of Edinburgh from the castle turret is etched in my mind’s eye for all time.

Quite mesmerized by the view I tore myself away for some sustenance at the open air cafe. It was the ideal setting for some cold beer and Haggis.

The snaking lines leading to the Military Museums made our hearts sink so we decided to move on to St. Margaret’s Chapel when the heavens opened.  Totally unprepared for the unpredictable Scottish weather, we rushed for cover right into the gift shop. Ah! No better place to while away time while it pours outside. So, as we lightened our wallets and loaded our bags with Whiskey fudge and sundry other Scottish delights.

Having lost much precious time due to the rain, we rushed in to view the Scottish Crown Jewels. Fortunately there is a direct route to the Honors of Scotland as the Crown Jewels are known. Also referred to as the Scottish Regalia and dating from as far back as the 15th Century, these are the oldest Crown Jewels in the British Isles. They comprise of three elements, the Crown of Scotland, the Scepter of Scotland and the Sword of the State of Scotland and appear on the Royal Crest and the Royal Coat of Arms.

After gazing wide-eyed and longingly at the gem encrusted objects, we made our way to the Great Hall. Aptly named, this is a room of enormous proportions built by James IV in 1511. During our visit, we were privy to a lecture demonstration of the various articles of clothing worn by noble ladies during this time and the art of wearing them correctly. Daunted by the thought of wearing so much weight, we rushed to the Royal Palace.

Built primarily to provide sanctuary during times of unrest, the Royal Palace within Edinburgh Castle was host to many of Scotland’s royalty. The resting place of Queen Mary of Guise, it is also the birthplace of her grandson, James VI, son of Mary Queen of Scots. The opulence of the staterooms left us breathless and transported us to a different time.

Parched, we headed for the cafe in the Crown Courtyard and sat on centuries old stone seats sipping tea, quite overcome by all that we had seen. Saddened that our day at Edinburgh Castle had come to an end and planning another visit sometime in the future.

However, I cannot leave without writing about Mons Meg. Gifted to the Scottish King James II by Duke Phillip of Burgundy in 1457, she is one of the world’s most famous guns. Considered to be cutting edge military technology of her time, she was capable of firing a 150kg gun for up to 3.2km to devastating effect.

With that sobering thought, I leave you with more to come.