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Edinburgh, Capital of Scotland

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The beautiful and imposing capital of Scotland has been the site of a settlement since at least the Bronze Age as archaeological remains found on Castle Rock prove.

Edinburgh Castle, situated on a volcanic plug of rock, dominates the city that grew up around it from the 11th century. Here Mary Queen of Scots gave birth to James VI of Scotland who also became James I of England.

Features of Interest in the Castle and Park

  • The Scottish Crown Jewels are kept within the castle in the Old Royal Palace.
  • The Scottish United Services Museum has exhibitions of the uniforms, arms, medals, etc of the Scottish armed forces.
  • In the surrounding park, on Princes Street, the oldest floral clock in the world was constructed in 1903.
  • At the opposite end of the gardens is the Church of St John, built by William Burn in 1817 and containing a remarkable collection of 19th century stained glass.

The Royal Mile

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The Royal Mile, one of the most famous streets in Scotland, runs from Edinburgh Castle to Holyrood Abbey. It was the hub from which the city spread outwards and there are so many places to visit.

  • At the castle end of the Royal Mile stands the Scotch Whisky Heritage Centre which recounts the history of whisky over 300 years and also tells how the drink is made.
  • A camera obscura is situated nearby in the Outlook Tower from which the whole panorama of Edinburgh may be seen while visitors listen to a commentary.
  • Gladstone’s Land, a six-story tenement built-in 1620, stands further west along the Royal Mile. Owned by the National Trust for Scotland, the building has been restored as a typical home of the period.
  • The Museum of Childhood contains large collections of dolls, toys, games, and costumes.
  • The People’s Story, near the eastern end, is housed in a former tollbooth and recounts the history of Edinburgh’s residents from the 18th century onwards.
  • Huntly House Museum stands almost opposite and contains important collections of silver, glass, and Scottish pottery as well as exhibitions on local history and topography and relics of Field Marshall Earl Haig. There are many other charming and historic buildings in the Royal Mile, this is only a small selection.

Holyrood

The Palace of Holyrood House and Holyrood Abbey lies at the eastern end of the Royal Mile. It is the official residence of the Queen in Scotland.

Although there has been a palace here since the early 16th century, built around the abbey’s guest house, the present building is largely late 17th century. Bonnie Prince Charlie, the Young Pretender, stayed here in 1745.

Little now survives of Holyrood Abbey except for the ruined church although it was once a great and powerful religious house founded in 1128.

Since devolution, Holyrood is now home to the Scottish Parliament in its revolutionary and sometimes controversial building.

Other Museums

Edinburgh contains many other museums, these include:

  • The City Art Centre at 2 Market Street, with works by late 19th and 20th-century artists.
  • The Scottish National Portrait Gallery at 1 Queen Street.
  • The Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art in Belford Road.
  • The Royal Museum of Scotland, Chambers Street, contains the national collections of decorative arts, natural history, geology, technology, etc.
  • The National Gallery of Scotland, The Mound, has excellent exhibitions of pictures including works by El Greco, Rembrandt, Vermeer, Turner, Constable, Degas, Monet, etc.

The Edinburgh Festival

Probably the city’s best-known event is the annual Edinburgh International Festival which dominates the city every summer.

It began in 1947 because many of the European arts festivals were not taking place due to the devastation caused by the Second World War.

Since then, it has gone from strength to strength. While some of the performers are famous and mainstream, the Edinburgh Fringe attracts many unknown artists ranging from the talented to the bizarre.

© 2020 Sid mark