Edinburgh: Holyrood Park and Arthur's Seat

May 31, 2014

Holyrood Park is a nature park in the middle of Edinburgh, in it you will find hills, of which Arthur's Seat is the biggest, glens and some small lochs. It amazes me that this place is actually right in the middle of Scotland's capital.

Arthur's Seat

The most famous of the hills is Arthur's Seat. It is the highest point in Edinburgh. Out of all the hikes and hillwalks we did this was by far the most crowded one. Arthur's Seat is relatively easy to walk and its short distance from the city probably accounts for it's popularity. There are many theories as to where the name derives from. The first thing that comes to mind is of course the Arthurian mythology. There are some voices who support this theory. Now at university I've read quite a lot Arthurian stories for my Old and Middle English courses and I take any excuse to launch into a lengthy speech about the latest old English document I had to research or the much debated location of Camelot...but the truth is that the name of the hill probably has nothing to do with King Arthur at all. There is no certainity to the name's origins, nor is there a traditional Scottish Gealic name for the hill, but the leading theory says the name is a corruption of "Archer's Seat".

St Anthony's Chapel

The origins of St Anthony's Chapel are a bit murky. We know that it was built before 1426 , as there are records saved of the Pope giving money to have the chapel repaired. The chapel's ruin flanked by hills, glens and St Margaret's Loch makes for a quite a spectacular sight indeed. Kate Davies fans might recognize the chapel as it's the backdrop for the photos of one of her designs.


St Margaret's Loch

St Margaret's Loch is the biggest loch in Holyrood Park. It is a shallow, man made loch. Initially I needed to get used a bit to calling it a loch, precisely because of it being shallow and man made. We had visited Loch Lomond, one of the bigger natural lochs, before and there is a world of difference between them. Still if you're visiting Holyrood Park, it is a nice place to go by as well.

 Next time we'll be leaving Edinburgh and explore some other places in Scotland.


Other posts about Edinburgh: 


Edinburgh: The city

May 29, 2014

The royal mile

Castle Rock is connected to the rest of Edinburgh through the Royal Mile, a mile-long road running from the castle to the Holyrood Palace. This mile is the central street in the Old Town, the medieval part of the city. Many shops and attractions open their doors onto the mile, and many more are hidden just out of view on the many narrow closes that run from the mile.

And nobody can walk past so many blue police-boxes
without straightening their imaginary bowties at least once

Princess Street Garden
Princess street garden, lays surprisingly next to Princess street. Princess street is Edinburgh main shopping street, and the definite borderline of the New Town, which was built mostly in the Georgian period. All of the big retail companies are on this street, so if that's your thing be sure to go by Princess street. But beware... for yarnstores, you have to venture far further into New Town.

Between Princess street and the Old Town lays the park. Although it's only open during daylight, it's a beautiful and quiet place. The famous Scott Monument is in the park, and on the sides of it are Waverly Station and the National Gallery.

National Museum of Scotland

Because it did rain a bit when I was in Edinburgh (how unexpected), I took advantage of the fact that Scottish museums are free, so I spend half a day wandering through the National Museum of Scotland. The museum is located not far from George IV Bridge (where Rowling wrote Harry Potter), and has a very extensive collection. The museum does invite a lot of wandering though, because although there's a rough divide into departments and themes, there's no single route within the themes, leaving the visitor to explore on their own. I was very impressed with the Egyptian department. Seriously, you should have seen my face when, while just entering the museum, I was eye to eye with a thousand year old sarcophagus...which you could just reach out and touch! (even though I didn't because it was an ancient sarcophagus)...there was no glass or bars or whatsoever. I liked the Pictish and Viking departments as well, and my inner child marvelled at the dinosaur skeletons.

Calton Hill

At the far end of the Royal Mile, there are two hills. One is Arthur's Seat in Holyrood Park, which I will discuss in a later post, the other is Calton Hill.Calton Hill both provides a great view on the city, the Firth of Forth and Holyrood Park. It is a great place to get away from the hustle and bustle that Edinburgh can be and one of the monuments shares my name. So what's not to love?

Greyfriars Kirkyard

There's a legend in Edinburgh about a small dog that sat on it's owner's grave for fourteen years, which has subsequently made said graveyard a popular tourist attraction. Although I don't know about the dog -after all, I'm very much a cat person, and my cats would certainly have something to meow about if I didn't feed them for fourteen years- but the place was magical. The dark atmosphere, creepy monuments and fantastic view on the roofs of Old Town made it easy to see how Edinburgh might have helped inspire horror stories such as Jekyll & Hyde.

Off course, no self respecting horror-location is complete without a community garden.

Well that's it for today folks, Stay tuned for the next part of the epic Scotland Journey when we'll be visiting Holyrood Park and climb Arthur's Seat.


Other Blog Posts about Edinburgh:


"Wha daur meddle wi me?": The Might of Edinburgh Castle

May 20, 2014

I promised to share some photos and stories of my trip to Scotland. I know this is not a travel blog but I think some of you will be interested in them (and there will be yarn!). I will spread them over a couple of posts, otherwise I only drown you all in photos. I did something similar when I went to Dublin and it seemed to work well.

In Scotland we stayed in Edinburg, and from there we visisted some other places in Scotland as well as explored the city itself. Let me start out by saying that Edinburg is a beautiful city, possibly the most beautiful I've ever visited. Scotland has an extremely rich history and the city, the landscape, each mountain, each building breathes that history. The city draws a lot of tourists, and understandably so. Interesting fact though, is that many of the tourists are British or even Scottish themselves.  To non-British tourists it is worth noting that in Scotland entrance to museums is free of charge, while entrance to monuments can be quite expensive: in the Netherlands it is the other way around.

One of Edinburgh's greatest sights of interests is Edingburgh Castle. Built on Castle Rock, an ancient volcanic rock, it towers over the city. At castle rock your got a spectacular view over the city, as well as Arthur's seat and Conan Hill. When visiting Edinburgh, or Scotland in general, make sure you got your walking shoes as the city doesn't have an inch of flat soil. Everything is either hills or stairs.

Some of the views from the castle, including:
Camera Obscura, the Hub, the Firth of Forth, Calton Hill, the Scott Monument,
the National Gallery and Edinburgh railway station.
You enter the castle from a large esplanade, through a relatively young gatehouse, built in the late nineteenth century. It has statues of William Wallace and Robert the Bruce. The rest of the castle however, is much older: the eldest part remaining is a chapel commissioned and finished during the reign of King David, who dedicated it to his mother, Saint Margaret, in the first half of the 12th century.

The gatehouse

Wallace and the Bruce watching over the entrance

The castle is an impressive sight, with a rich history. It is a puzzle of buildings of different era's and different purposes. For a long part of it's existence, the castle has been a residence for the Stuart dynasty. The royal palace and the great hall are testimony to this. The royal palace now holds a museum to the history of the Scottish monarchy, including several very special artifacts: the Scottish Crown Jewels, and the Stone of Destiny. This last artifact is a stone which has served as the seat of Scottish (and later British) kings since, according to legend, far before the twelfth century. It was taken as part of the spoils of war when King Edward conquered Scotland, and returned only in 1996.

The inner gate, complete with porticullis

On the public square, after the gatehouse but before the ticket booth,
a bit of recent history

The castle has seen military use as well. Not only as one of the most important fortifications of medieval Scotland, but also as barracks in renaissance and early modern times until 1923. Sieges have marred the castle and created the patchwork of buildings that it is now. One of those sieges is the Lang Siege of 1571 to 1573. When Mary Queen of Scots was forced to abdicate in favour of her son James, Edinburgh was in the hands of James' supporters, the castle commander changed sides to support Mary. He held the castle long after all others on that side, including Mary herself, had long given up. It took 27 English cannons to conclude the siege.

If you are a fan of history, the Castle is a must see. It is definately worth the entrance fee, especially when you plan on visiting other monuments like Stirling Castle, because you can get a combination ticket, which we did. Even if you're not into history that much, the sights are impressive enough in itself. The day we left, we spent significant time sitting on a bench in a open square of the castle -in the rain of course- enjoying the sights of the city, the castle walls, the bare rock and the throng of people.

In a few days, I'll post another post about the sights of Edinburgh town, and the other places we've visited such as Stirling Caslte, Loch Lomond and the Lothian Coast. Somewhere, far behind that, rest assured, this blog will return to it's normal, crafty, content. I can not promise though, that no knitting or crafting will show up during the travelogue.


Accounting for absence

May 08, 2014 that me? Have I really been knitting, on the bonnie, bonnie banks of Loch Lomond?

This is why I've been absent from the internet for while: I've been off on a wild rumpus in Scotland! It was beautiful, brilliant and.........
I've got lots of stories to tell and pictures to share, but I'll come back for those later. I'm now going to have to bribe my cats into forgiving me for leaving them (In caring hands, mind you!) and catching up on some much needed sleep.

Normal services should continue shortly!


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