After a week in Galway, Kelley, my parents, and I flew to Edinburgh, Scotland. It has been the historical, cultural, and political heart of Scotland since the 12th century. To get acquainted with the city we took a walking tour along the Royal Mile, which is the central artery of the old city. Our tour guide was enthusiastic about the city and brought to life its history. The city has a fun energy. In London, we felt overwhelmed by the number of people but Edinburgh is much smaller and has a college town vibe.
The Holyrood House is the official residence of the Queen Elizabeth II when she is in the hood… Each summer she spends one week in the palace, where she gets the keys to Edinburgh, drinks tea, and invites a couple of thousand random Scots to a garden party each year. When the Royal family is not in residence the palace is open to the public and you can walk around the grounds and inside the palace apartments. The most notable apartment was that of Mary Queen of Scots where her husband brutally murdered her Italian secretary, David Rizzio, who was rumoured to be the father of her child – #drama #itscomplicated.
The next day we walked to the top of Calton Hill to get a birds-eye view of the city and view the unfinished parthenon-like structure built to honor the soldiers who died fighting in the Napoleonic Wars.
The big to do was visiting Edinburgh Castle, which dominates the skyline of Edinburgh. The first castle was constructed in the 12th century and like most castles its structures and weapons have been evolving since then. The castle has been under siege 26 times in its history but today the only invaders our tourists. The grounds are home to an expansive Scottish war museum, the Scottish War Memorial (I am sensing a theme here), the Scottish crown jewels, a prison, and the One O’Clock Gun. The firing of the gun at 1 p.m. each day dates back to 1861, when finding your longitudinal location was impossible without an accurate reference time. As a result each day at 1 p.m. the gun was fired to help mariners set their clocks as they leave port. Today it is a complete tourist trap but I like explosions and loud noises like any boy. If you want to learn more about the history of sea navigation, the book Longitude is a great read.
The last place we visited was Dunbar, which is the birthplace of John Muir. The museum is built within John Muir’s childhood home and it chronicles the life and legacy of one of the early advocates for the protection of our public lands in the United States. The most invigorating aspect of the museum was seeing pictures and videos of our beloved Sierra Nevada Mountains – oh how I miss rambling through your valleys and scrambling to your mountain tops.
After the museum, we walked to the newly rebuilt port of Dunbar and enjoyed our remaining time with my parents.