Fourth Stop: Edinburgh
Edinburgh is a sprawling, grey-stone, cobble-road city. Built on seven hills, its landscape dominated by an extinct volcano called Arthur’s Seat. Strolling up on a slow incline, Ashleigh and I passed restaurants advertising their tasty haggis, souvenir shops selling far too many knock-off kilts, and marvellous stone-work buildings. The Royal Mile, in the old town, led up to a great fortress called Edinburgh Castle, which overlooked the city below from its position upon the aptly named Castle Rock. The entry fee was pricey, as it is with many of the more well-known tourist attractions, but it was a sacrifice we were willing to make.
Archeologists have established that Castle Rock and the surrounding area have been occupied by settlers since the late Bronze Age, with evidence of a hill fort on Castle Rock and some of the surrounding hills. The recorded history of Edinburgh Castle is long and arduous; The hill fort of Din Eidyn upon Castle Rock was first written to be owned in 600 AD by a King Mynyddog Mwynfawr and his tribe of Gododdins, who, after feasting and drinking for a year, decided to wage war against the Angles (due to sheer boredom), and were subsequently wiped out during a battle at Catterick, Yorkshire. The Gododdins in Din Eidyn were then invaded by the Angles and the site of was renamed to ‘Edinburgh’. The fort remained in Anglian hands along with the entire region of Lothian until they were forced to withdraw, due to several rebellions by the native peoples, and the area became a part of Scotland during the reign of King Indulf in 954. The Castle of Edinburgh that you see today was (mostly) built in 1130 by King David I who developed Edinburgh as a seat of royal power. Over subsequent years Edinburgh Castle was the site of many sieges, changing hands between the Scottish and the English at least four times over a 50 year period, and has been rebuilt, remade, and remodelled over the centuries. By 1999 Edinburgh Castle had become one of the top tourist destinations in Scotland, and now has more than 1 million visits per year.
Edinburgh Castle was built upon the plug of an extinct volcano called Castle Rock, the summit rising to the height of 260 feet above the surrounding landscape. All sides are surrounded by sheer cliffs except for one readily accessible route where the ridge slopes more gently, and the castle is situated accordingly with several gates protecting the route to the summit. The first main defensive is the gatehouse featuring two statues of the Scottish heroes Robert the Bruce and William Wallace, with ‘Argyle tower’ and the portcullis gate being the second defense. Within the walls are the military barracks built in the 18th century accompanied by many war history museums. The Upper ward, at the highest point of Castle Rock, can be accessed via the 17th century ‘Fog’s Gate’. Within it are various buildings and gun batteries that surround the focal point of the castle, the Crown Square. Around Crown Square are the most popular attractions of the castle, including the Honours of Scotland (Crown Jewels), Scottish National War Museum, Royal Palace, and Great Hall. And lastly, at the very tippy-top of Castle Rock, is the oldest building Edinburgh: St. Margaret’s Chapel. King David I built it in the 12th century as a private chapel for the royal family and dedicated it to his mother, Saint Margaret of Scotland, who died in the castle in 1093.
Edinburgh has been called one of the most haunted cities in all of Europe. On various occasions, visitors to Edinburgh castle have reported their encounters with several peculiar spectres. A phantom piper, a headless drummer, the spirits of French prisoners from the Seven Years War, and colonial prisoners from the American Revolutionary War – even the ghost of a dog wandering in the grounds’ dog cemetery. The story of the phantom piper is an interesting one: legend has it that one day the people discovered a secret tunnel within Edinburgh Castle that stretched all the way down The Royal Mile road to Holyrood Palace two kilometres away. A lone piper volunteered to explore the tunnel whilst playing his bagpipes so that the others above ground would know where he was. The people followed the blaring of his bagpipes down The Royal Mile until all of the sudden the music stopped. Search parties were gathered to go into the tunnels after the piper, but no trace of him was ever found. It is said that one can still hear the sound of his pipes reverberating within the bowels of Edinburgh.