A Tourist Haven
Edinburgh, one of Scotland’s most famous tourist destinations, has many different personalities. The dark, ominous paths and vibrant tourist hot-spots seem to hold an odd competition with one another. The city’s history, like that of all Scotland, is a contrast in cultures. The Celts, Picts, and Romans each left an indelible mark on the land that was to become Scotland’s beloved Edinburgh.
The Allure of Edinburgh Castle
Most visitors would not dream of seeing Edinburgh without first visiting Edinburgh Castle. When we think of Scotland, the imposing but beautiful walls of the medieval castle will be one of the first things that readily come to mind. The castle itself has an ancient, venerable history filled with sieges, saints and suffering. In the late 13th century, King Edward Longshanks (a less favored personage in Scottish history) laid siege to the castle. Soon after, intrepid Scottish warriors regained their beloved castle with great cunning. For a bit more interesting history, James, the son of Mary Queen of Scots (another legendary character) was born in the castle, furthering its import as a historic site.
Today, there is no limit to the things you will see and do at Edinburgh Castle. It has been beautifully restored and you should be prepared to spend the better part of the day taking in each room with its historical significance. You might be particularly interested in the One O’Clock Gun. Barring Sunday, the gun is set off daily at one o’clock on the nose so that citizens can synchronize their watches. Be warned: If you aren’t expecting the gun to go off or aren’t aware of what time it is, you *will* take notice when it happens. It is a distinct possibility that your heart will jump into your throat.
Edinburgh Castle is full of little surprises and celebrations; you might want to catch the Edinburgh Military Tattoo, usually held in August. St. Margaret’s Chapel is of special interest at the castle. Built in the 1000s, it’s Edinburgh’s oldest and most venerable chapel and you can tie the knot in this ancient chapel if you have the good fortune to be a man of the garrison. This is definitely a great honor for those who are allowed to do so.
A Spooky Side Trip
Once you’ve visited Edinburgh Castle, all of medieval Edinburgh lies waiting to be explored! If you want to experience a spooky part of the city’s past, try Mary King’s Close. This labyrinth of tunnels and streets underneath the modern city is not an attraction for the faint of heart. If you’re lucky you can grab a ghost tour; a guide will take you down each path, thrilling and chilling you with tales from beyond the grave. This is an attraction unlike any other and is a place not seen by many who visit. If you have a camera equipped for shooting in dim light, you will get some dramatic photos of these mysterious stone chambers.
Peace and Tranquility
For a bit of religious history, hop on over to St. Giles Cathedral. This impressive gothic cathedral’s exterior is made up of amazingly detailed architecture; viewing it will make you think you’ve been thrown back in time to the Middle Ages. Like many medieval churches, St. Giles saw much renovation and change over the years until it became the beautiful landmark it is today. Named for a hermit called Giles, this church is a great spot to soak in spiritual peace and take a temporary retreat from the tourist commotion. St. Giles Cathedral is open daily except for Christmas and the day after. If you intend to visit you will have to make sure the church is open for tours at that particular time, as it is still used extensively for worship.
A Wee Bit of History
You may want your next stop to be the Museum of Scotland; this is a particularly good port of call if you want to refresh your knowledge of Scottish history or if you’re traveling with children and want them to appreciate the history of what they are seeing. This oddly-shaped building with strange windows and a huge round tower is worthy of some of your photos as well. Check out the many different exhibits pertaining to Scotland’s rough and rocky history. From ancient Picts and Celts to the more modern industrial era, you are sure to find information on the time period of Scottish history you are most interested in. When you’re done traipsing through this fascinating museum, stop off at the gift shop for some wonderful Scotland- and museum-oriented souvenirs.