Edinburgh Stories and Tips

More Slightly Irreverant Rambles in Edinburgh (please read lightheartedly)

Edinburgh Castle Photo, Edinburgh, Scotland

Leaving Calton Hill

After you climb down from Calton Hill, you can head straight for that big pointy thing that's right across the main drag of Edinburgh. This is Princess Street, the demarcation line between the hippies (Old Town) and the yuppies (New Town). You'll be able to tell the difference right away because the hippies have got all the really good stuff except it's really, really old and falling apart good stuff. The yuppies have got all the new stuff; it's only a couple of hundred years old. The hippies have the upper hand though, because they have the castle and you never saw so many big cannons aimed right at New Town. Good guys win!!! Anyway...

The Sir Walter Scott Monument

The Sir Walter Scott Monument is the pointy Gothic thing, and Sir Walter is sitting right inside with his dog (us Scots love our dogs). Scott was one of the good guys. He wrote "Rob Roy" and "Ivanhoe," so I have nothing bad to say about him at all. He was a rather large character who walked with a limp from a bout with polio as a child. He had periods of great success and huge failure, but he is remembered for things that he brought about through his determination as well as for his writing. He was responsible for bringing the tartan and kilt back into fashion and ending Proscription and his letters were responsible for the Bank of Scotland continuing to print the country's currency. It was through his continuous insistence that a search for a bricked-up room in Edinburgh Castle was initiated. The search culminated in uncovering the Regalia (Royal Jewels) of Scotland, which remain on exhibit in Edinburgh Castle.

Jenner's Department Store
Jenner's Department Store. Would you believe that this was the world's first department store. A lot of people have to thank Mr. Jenner and his buddy Mr. Kennington for going to watch the bang tails (horses) race one day for which they got fired. Neither one of them knew at the time that they were going to become big time Scottish entrepreneurs. All they were just trying to do was to get enough money to go back to the track and win back what they had lost. So anyway, they got rich and famous and then Kennington retired. After Kennington had been dead for 12 years, old Jenner decided that it was time to take his old buddy's name off the marquee. Then it was just Jenner's until 1892 when it burned down, and then it was just ashes. Fortunately, it was ashes with insurance and it was rebuilt and reopened in 1895. Ultimately it became the oldest independent department store in the world which it stayed until the Frasiers bought it (in 2005, would you believe). (Don't tell anybody, but I heard that the Frasier's made all their money rustling cattle and/or sheep back in Rob Roy's day, but that's just a rumor.)

The Scott Monument and the Princess Street Gardens
The Scott Monument and the Princess Street Gardens. Those crocuses were beautiful and it was February. The Princess Street Gardens separate the Old Town of Edinburgh from the New Town. The New Town is from the "New Town" period which didn't start until the 1760's when the Old Town was old. That's when the famous "Yuppies of the 1760's" appeared and wanted to leave Old Town because it was old and smelled of smoke and sewage so they went across Charles Bridge, started their own New Town, and pretended the Old Town no longer existed. Talk about noses in the air. Anyway, they weren't too bright. It appears that these people got lost a lot in Old Town so when the built New Town they built it on a grid with squares and streets that were easy to figure out. It backfired on the planners though, because they couldn't use the old excuse of, "I got lost coming home" after stopping off and trysting (I think that's a dance) with their girlfriends. So it was the poor people who got the last laugh.

John Knox House
John Knox House. Boy did he ever start a lot of trouble. I really don't want to talk about it because when I get into religion I always get in trouble and I'm in enough now.

Paisley Close
Paisley Close. Closes are little openings to little alley's with little shops and tenements. Isn't that quaint? A young lad named Joseph McIver was apparently playing with his trucks and fire engines when the tenement next door collapsed (killing 35 people, unfortunately). Everybody went home and got their picks and shovels and steam shovels, and started digging because they heard him shouting. He cheered on the diggers by calling cadence and shouting, "Heave awa‚ chaps, ah'm no‚ deid yet." I guess they got him out because he was heard to use some pretty strong language at the diggers for being slow and I heard that he got a huge settlement from the city. They had the lawyers even in 1860. On top of that, he even got his face put on the archway. Who wudda thunk it?

The Mercat Cross
This is the Mercat Cross. It was used for communication to the population. The "Hear ye, Hear Ye" guy would do his thing around the town and then come to this monument and wait for a couple of weeks until the population showed up and then he read the proclamation so that everybody knew what right they were about to lose. Besides that it was the center of the market where you could get stale and rotting stuff and get e-coli before you even knew what it was. Oh yeah, I almost forgot, they lopped off a bunch of heads here and other such stuff like a gallows and all that. It was a really popular place to just stand around and watch. It's almost like the sidewalk cafes we have today.

Edinburgh Castle Entrance
This is the entrance to one of the truly great "working castles" in the world. There is always an active duty regiment stationed at the castle. The "Honors of Scotland" are kept, exhibited, and protected here. These are the Crown, Sword, and Scepter of Scotland and the oldest regalia in Europe. The history of the "Honors" is a fascinating story in itself culminating in their rediscovery due to the instigation of a search led by Sir Walter Scott.

Above the entrance to Edinburgh Castle is written the motto of the Queen's Regiment and the Official Motto of Scotland. It reads, "Nemo Me Impune Lacessit" ("No One Assails Me With Impunity"). Another way of putting it is in old Scots, "Wha daur meddle wi' me?" In contemporary English, I suppose one could say, "If you hit me, I'll hit you back." Are they serious? About 30 minutes before the castle closes for the day you will see modern day British soldiers walking inside the castle and around the esplanade. Most are carrying machine guns. They're protecting the Crown Jewels of Scotland. You bet they're serious.

In closing...
After going through the hundreds photographs that I have made in Scotland over the years, and spending time to write some of the first tips and travelogues, I was proofreading a paragraph when I thought, "This reads like a travel guide. That's what I read to put myself to sleep at night." Other than eighth grade Geography, there is nothing more boring. So, I thought, let's have some fun with this. I have, and I hope that you have too.

I also hope that I have not offended anyone in these glimpses of Edinburgh. If I did, it was unintentional and you have my sincere apologies. Edinburgh is my favorite city in the world and I have been coming here since the early 1960's when I was in the military stationed in Germany. In every visit to Edinburgh I can state unequivocally that I have been treated with wonderful kindness by everyone I have ever met. (Parenthetically, Allen at The Craft Collection, you still owe me a sweater.) It still kills me that the Tron no longer has sessions, but there will be others. And today while sitting here doing these pages, I know that I will feel the need to return to Scotland next year. I hope that I am still welcome.

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