on January 22, 2012
Edinburgh Castle the crowning glory of the Scottish capital stands on a plug of volcanic rock and makes a dramatic view from Princess Street. To enter the Castle cross the esplanade built in the 18th century as a parade ground. Here in August the area comes alive with colour and music with magnificently outfitted marching bands and regiments during the Edinburgh Military Tattoo. From here you see this historic fortification at its most dramatic. The curving ramparts give Edinburgh Castle its distinctive appearance from miles away. Walking across the drawbridge and through the gatehouse built in the 1880's statues of William Wallace and Robert the Bruce dating back to 1929 greets the visitor. Further on is the Half-Moon Battery where the one-o'clock gun that goes off with a bang every weekday at 1 pm, frightening visitors and reminding people to check their watches in an impressively anachronistic ceremony. Climb up through a second gateway and you come to the oldest surviving building in the complex, the tiny 11th-century St. Margaret's Chapel named in honour of Saxon queen Margaret (1046-93). She was born around 1045, into the royal family of England. After the Norman invasion of 1066, she fled to the court of Malcolm III of Scotland. They soon fell in love and were married. In 1250, Margaret was canonised as St Margaret of Scotland, for her many acts of piety and charity in her adopted country.The Royal Palace Built in the 1430’s was where the royal family stayed when in Edinburgh. It was not very comfortable. The royal family preferred Holyrood Abbey, at the other end of the Royal Mile, but the castle was more secure. It contains the Crown Room, a must-see. It houses the "Honours of Scotland" - the crown, sceptre, and sword that once graced the Scottish monarch. These date from the late 15th and early 16th century. These still play a vital role in Scotland’s ceremonial life. They are formally presented to each new sovereign; and the crown is present at State openings of the Scottish Parliament.On the Stone of Scone, also in the Crown Room, Scottish monarchs once sat during the crowning ceremony. In the Queen Mary's Apartments, Mary, Queen of Scots, gave birth to James VI of Scotland. The Great Hall built in the fifteenth century as the nation’s chief place of ceremony and state assembly is steeped in history. The parliament meetings met here until 1840. Its greatest state occasion was a banquet in honour of Charles I, the night before his coronation as King of Scots in June 1633. Although most of its present decoration dates from Queen Victoria’s the fine hammerbeam roof survives from the original construction. It is one of only two medieval roofs left in Scotland. The hall displays an extensive armoury.Foreign prisoners of war were brought to the castle at various times. French, Dutch, Spanish, Irish, Italian, Danish, Polish and American troops were held here during the Seven Years War (1756–63), the Napoleonic Wars (1803–15) and the American War of Independence (1775–83). The exhibition in the castle vaults recreates the sights, sounds and smells of life in the prisons at that time and gives us some insight into the lives of these prisoners of war. Some of these were very creative. The Prisons of War exhibition includes artefacts they produced, from a detailed scale model of a warship to forged banknotes.Military features of interest include the Scottish National War Memorial opened in 1927 as a tribute to those killed in the First World War. It also now commemorates Scottish servicemen and women who died in the Second World War and later conflicts. The building incorporates scenes from the First World War in stone, bronze and stained glass.Other military features include the Scottish United Services Museum, and the famous 15th-century Belgian-made cannon Mons Meg. This enormous piece of artillery has been silent since 1682, when it exploded while firing a salute for the Duke of York; it now stands in a hall behind the Half-Moon Battery. The Governors house build in 1742 is now the tearooms - a good place to have a break during or after your tour if the crowning glory of the Scottish capital.
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