Circling Eyjafjallajokul - Late Summer 2010 travel blog

Holyrood Abbey

Holyrood Palace


court yard

half windows

low tide

market marker

new parliament building

private school

walking tour

walking tour

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Although Edinburgh lies on the Firth of Forth (a wonderful name that means Forth Fjord) the water is too shallow and the bridges are too low for us to sail all the way in, so we anchored at South Queensferry, a suburb about twenty minutes drive out of town. Independent minded folks could take the commuter train into town and tours went to St. Andrews - home of golf, and the royal yacht Britannia as well as into the capital of Scotland.

Edinburgh is a very picturesque city, but we struggled to photograph it as we walked the Royal Mile from Edinburgh Palace where we had seen the Tattoo to Holyrood Castle. The route teemed with tourists, may of whom probably also had come to see the Tattoo, and trucks and cars parked in front of all the beautiful, old buildings. The Royal Mile comprised the Old Town area although the New Town isn’t all that new either, having been built in the mid 18th century. The guide pointed out many details we would never have noticed on our own. Many of the lintels had initials and dates - the initials of a man and woman and the date the day they were wed. Many of the windows were half glass and half wood. Glass was very expensive and the wooden panes appealed to the thrifty Scots. It was too loud for the guide to talk to us on the Royal Mile itself, so every so often we darted into a Close, a small passageway wide enough for one person to walk. At the end of the close you might find a court yard, a garden, or these days - a garbage dumpster.

Holyrood is the official royal residence of Scotland, which means that the current queen stops by whenever she is heading to her summer palace in the Highlands. She gives a garden party here every July to 8,000 of her closest Scottish friends who groove on those cucumber sandwiches. Holyrood has been housing royals since the 15th century and much of it is restored to look like it did back in the day. Mary Queen of Scots had beautiful rooms modeled after the style that she had grown to love when she lived in France and was married to the French king. He left her a widow at the age of 20 and she went through two more husbands back in Edinburgh before her cousin Elizabeth I had her put to death. She saw her as a serious rival to the throne and in a way Mary got her revenge when her only son James VI took over the British throne when Elizabeth died childless. His rule finally united England, Scotland and Wales as the United Kingdom. As we walked through the palace, wishing we were allowed to take photographs, we listened to headsets describing the royal shenanigans and it felt like we were listening to a soap opera.

On the drive back we saw some magnificent private schools that must have been the inspiration for Hogwarts in Harry Potter. The tuition to attend these schools rivals the cost of attending Harvard or Yale. Scotland has always been education oriented and had four universities at a time when England only had Oxford and Cambridge. There was much more to see here. We’ll have to come again.

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