There is a convenient public bus stop in front of the hotel. The double-decker bus was our means of transportation for getting to and from the city. The area around the Braid Hills Hotel is very dark at night, making it difficult to tell when to get off the bus. We learned to use the Shell gasoline station as a landmark to tell us when our stop was coming up. In one case, the bus driver actually glanced back and nodded at Traci and me to let us know our stop was coming up. This was just another example of the friendly, helpful people we met in Scotland.
waiting for the bus
view of the hotel from the bus stop
According to our planned itinerary, Friday was supposed to be our day of leisurely sightseeing in the city. We figured we'd check out Edinburgh Castle, The Royal Mile, Holyroodhouse Palace, and then climb Arthur's Seat Mountain to get a nice view of Edinburgh. Well, our first mistake was interpreting a day of leisure to mean a day to sleep in. We didn't get downtown until after noon.
We made Edinburgh Castle our first destination. It's a prominent landmark in Edinburgh. Edinburgh Castle sits on top of a rocky extinct volcano in the middle of the city. We bought our admission tickets and the audio tour. The audio tour was a new experience for us. We were given a hand-held number key pad and a set of headphones. There were numbers posted at various locations and exhibits within the castle walls. When we came across something that interested us, we would type the posted number into our keypad and listen to the narration in our headphones.
There are several buildings within the castle walls. Our first stop (after the gift shop) was the National War Museum Of Scotland. This museum tells the history of Scotland in battle from the 17th century to modern times. There are displays of weaponry, uniforms, medals, short films, diaries, and battle scene paintings. Traci and I started off listening to just about every narration available in the museum. Before we knew it, three hours had gone by and we had only seen one building of the castle. We put the headphones away and headed out of the war museum to explore the rest of the castle.
Since the castle sits on a hill, it provides great views of the city and the River Forth (Firth Of Forth). We were there on a mild day just after one of the daily sporadic rain showers. We were treated to the sight of a beautiful rainbow arching over the city. Because of the spontaneous rain showers, we saw at least one bright rainbow each day we were in Scotland.
view from a castle cannon
Over the centuries, Edinburgh Castle has been conquered, destroyed, and rebuilt several times. The only two original structures that remain here are the tiny 12th century Chapel of St. Margaret and David's Tower. We had to walk down steps to get to the remains of the tower because the rest of it was destroyed during an attack in 1573. It looked like an old dungeon with a quarry of rocks roped off as if part of an archaeological dig.
12th century chapel of St. Margaret
stain glass window of the chapel
One of my favorite castle attractions was the Crown Room which houses the Honors Of Scotland (Crown Jewels). The crown was first possessed by Mary, Queen Of Scots who was crowned in 1543 at the age of 9 months. The story of how the crown has been passed from ruler to ruler over the years is told through paintings, mannequins, dioramas, and audio narration. In the medieval days of Scotland, the castle and throne were constantly changing hands. The crown had to be smuggled and hidden during these upheavals. In 1707, the royal crown, scepter, and sword were hidden in a chest in Edinburgh Castle not to be found again until 111 years later. Our tour through the nearly 500 years of history presented in this building ended at the Crown Room where we were able to gaze upon the actually crown, sword, and scepter we had spent the last twenty minutes learning about. The relics were guarded and enclosed in a glass display in the middle of the room. Unfortunately, photography is not permitted. continue...