After viewing the Crown Jewels it was on to the Royal Palace (pretty sparse), the Great Hall and the Scottish National War Memorial (so cool).
FROM RICK STEVES re: ROYAL PALACE:
Scottish royalty lived here only when safety or protocol required it (they preferred the Palace of Holyrood house at the bottom of the Royal Mile).
The Royal Palace has 2 historic, yet unimpressive rooms and the Great Hall (opposite side of the square).
Enter the Mary, Queen of Scots room, where in 1566 the queen gave birth to James VI of Scotland, who later became James I of England.
The Great Hall was the castle’s ceremonial meeting place in the 16th and 17th centuries. IN later times it was a barracks and a hospital. Although most of what you see is Victorian, 2 medieval elements survive: the fine hammer-beam roof, and the big iron-barred peephole. This allowed the king to spy on his subjects while they partied.
The Scottish National War Memorial was one of my favorite things at Edinburgh Castle.
I just love war memorials of all kinds; I have no idea why.
This particular memorial commemorates Scottish soldiers, and those serving in Scottish regiments, who died in the 2 world wars and conflicts since.
The memorial was formally opened in 1927 out of a remodeled block of barracks
- 149,000 Scottish soldiers lost in WWI
- 58,000 Scottish soldiers lost in WWII
- 800 lost since
FROM RICK STEVES:
Paid for by public donations, each bay is dedicated to a particular Scottish regiment. The main shrine, featuring a green Italian-marble memorial that contains the original WWI rolls of honor sits – almost as if it were sacred – on an exposed chunk of the castle rock. Above, the archangel Michael is busy slaying a dragon.
Andrew and I entered just the 2 of us (though we saw Kevin and Chelsea inside) … The memorial interior is rather hushed – visitors recognizing that this is a place to be respectful, if nowhere else in the castle.
It also felt significantly less crowded that the other wings/buildings we visited. I wonder if that is because cameras aren’t allowed at the memorial.
I wish I could put my finger on why I love war memorials. Maybe it is just a vestige of the romanticizing of war that comes from the books I read growing up …
Either way – all I want to do now is visit Washington DC.
After the War Memorial, Great Hall and Crown Jewels, the 4th building on the square was a “Prisoners of War” exhibit (and now I have ‘Prisoners of Love’ from The Producers in my head)
It was …. Interesting. Not fantastic. Not terrible, but I think I would have enjoyed it more if it wasn’t so crowded.
Part of the exhibit took us under the building to where the prisoners of war were actually held … hammocks and dozens in one room and all.
That took us out and dropped us off one level down, and outside the top gate…. So we walked BACK up the hill to check out St. Margaret’s Chapel – the oldest building in Edinburgh, dating from ~1130 or so.
It’s TINY… and sweet. It feels pure and simple and a bit like I imagine Anne Shirley’s bedroom feeling. Strangely, this tiny quaint chapel is only about 10 feet from Mons Meg – a 6 ton cannon that hasn’t worked since 1681.
FROM RICK STEVES:
St. Margaret’s Chapel
The oldest building in Edinburgh is dedicated to Queen Margaret, who died here in 1093 and was sainted in 1250. Built in 1130 in the Romanesque style of the Norman Invaders, it’s wonderfully simple, with classic Norman zigzags decorating the round arch that separates the tiny nave from the sacristy. It was used as a powder magazine for 400 years; very little survives.
The place is popular for weddings – though it only seats 20 people.
After checking out Mons Meg and St. Margaret’s Chapel, Andrew was SOAKING wet.
His hair was literally dripping.
We started heading back down the hill, through the Middle Ward … and on the way stopped by a couple more exhibits.
One was about a specific regiment – although for the life of me I can’t remember which! I feel like it was probably the Black Watch / Royal Highland regiment …. But, as with all the museums and exhibits at Edinburgh Castle, it was far too crowded for me to take my time and really read and learn.
The other exhibit we stopped at was the Military Prison. They had restored several cells, along with the prison bathroom and a couple other little rooms.
Pretty cool. Pretty crowded.
It was nearly time to meet the others (we said 1 o’clock at the front) .. so we continued on down the hill in the rain…
… and just at about 1 o’clock the big cannon near the wall went off!! And some girl behind us screamed! Apparently they shoot of the gun every day at 1p. Originally to mark the time for ships in the Firth of Forth…. But now mainly as a tourist attraction.
After the gun, Andrew went and got us coffee – and got himself some Haggis potato chips from the castle café…. What a tourist!
Next, we met up with Kevin and Chelsea, we stopped at the Castle gift shop for more postcards (and postcard stamps), walked back down the hill, down the Royal Mile…. All in the rain.
Chelsea stopped to look in a shop, while Andrew went on to look for lunch … . still in the rain….