The Main Attraction – Edinburgh Castle

You can’t go to Edinburgh without a visit to the castle, she sits there looming over the city and you just can’t ignore her even if you try.  We arrived in Edinburgh at night, the castle was lit up and looked amazing and daunting; what did the enemies of old make of it as they approached this insurmountable building?

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Against the night sky

 

Walking up to the castle gates makes you feel part of history as you cross their threshold and enter through the castle gates.  They are of course small to only let those through who were welcome.  What were our highlights?

The Military Prison was a real eye opener, French and Spanish prisoners being locked up in such hard conditions so far from home, during the 1700 and 1800’s.  Hammocks are hung everywhere, with tiny windows, gives real insight into what life was like.  Letters from home were allowed at certain times of the year, which must have made their stay just a little, more bearable.

The dog cemetery carves out a quiet little corner, dogs of former soldiers, who must have been great companions during a harsh Scottish winter and a gentle reminder of the lighter side of castle life.

The courtyard offers safety from the wind, with the Great Hall on one side in which Mary Queen of Scots stepped, with sheer drop down the cliff face on one side.  Did anyone every get flung out of the windows I wonder?

The Scottish National War Memorial just stops your breath as you wander around and read all the dedications and memorials; the story of Scotland at war until the present day.   Within the walls of Edinburgh Castle, the National War Museum tells the story of battles lost and won, through military artefacts and personal treasures.  The bronze and metal work alone is worth a visit, the details are incredible.

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Details everywhere

 

Some moving and sobering quotes inside make you stop and really think about what as gone before us.

The Scottish Crown Jewels, known as the Honours of Scotland are a must-see – although a tourist decided to take his shoes and socks off whilst having a rest for us all to see, which was a little distracting!

It’s hard to get your head around the layout of the castle, but I am sure that was part of the design to foil attackers.  But this is also the beauty of the place, add in the views and it’s just WOW.  We even saw Arthur’s Seat which had climbed the day before.

 

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Growing out of the rock

We are blessed in the UK to have a plethora of castles to visit, but this one is unique.  The location alone is just stunning, slap-bang in the middle of the city, which means you can see her peeping out wherever you are in the city. You feel the power and influence this place had been part of over the years.

 

There is the lovely Redcoat Cafe for a warm up of great cakes and tea, with the most amazing views over Edinburgh, in a stylish setting.

With so many details to look at (as shown in the picture above) the whole design and planning of the castle makes your head spin, the way the bricks meld into the rocks as if they grew straight out from the earth rocky crust.

The one o’clock gun fires every day, except Sunday, and this was when the castle seemed most busy.  It’s worth the wait, it’s loud, very loud!  I can imagine the office workers of Edinburgh listen out for it as a marker of when to head off for lunch.

I first visited the castle in the mid 90’s and I loved visiting again.  You must visit when in Edinburgh as she won’t let you forget about her whilst you are in the city.  Visit here to view the website. Audio and tour guides available.

 

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The Royal Yacht Britannia

OK so my two children, boys aged 10 and 14, were not that into the idea of going to look around a boat that once belonged to the Queen.  It was decommissioned in 1997 long before they were born, so fair enough.  I on the other had always had a little bit of love for it, I’d seen in action a couple of times in the 90’s and always thought it was very glamorous.  Situated next to the Ocean Terminal shopping centre I got a sneak-peak as I popped to the loo in Debenhams from which you can see her from; boats, as you know are always referred to the female.

You start right on the top deck in the wheelhouse which seems by today’s standards so quaint.  Lots of knobs and dials, practically nothing at all high-tech.  Did it really go around the 1,000,000 miles around the world?  To visit each section you come and off the yacht via stairs as you go down and finally end up in the launch (you can go back up via a list).  Every level has something joyous to look at, everything takes you right back in time and you it feels like you on the set of a 50’s Grace Kelly movie.  Each room from the formal dining room, to the bar to the bedrooms, feels so homely and cosy you have to remind yourself you are on the sea.  You get such and insight on to what life would have been like, as much has been left as it was, including glasses, bottles of champagne and all decorations.

No wonder the Queen nearly shed a tear when she was decommissioned.  It must have been a place of real privacy and relaxation, a great place to spend time with the family and get away from it all, away from prying eyes.

You get given a hand-held audio guide (child version also available) and you can click at your leisure when you see the relevant number.  You get told some fascinating facts, such as who has been on board, the events held, the gifts given from various travels.

All the staff were so lovely and helpful, with even one posted by the ship’s bell to take a photo for you, and they look so cool in their tartan trousers!

What did my boys think?  From the moment they stepped on board, they were hooked. Of course, they liked things like the engine room, wheelhouse and spears in the dining room.  But they loved hearing all about the history, who worked on board, where the crew slept etc  They especially loved the fact a Phantom Rolls Royce used to travel on board as well!  I haven’t put too many pictures as I think this would spoil your visit as there is so much to absorb, also keep an eye out for the beautiful details such as the wood and brass work.

If you fancy, you can take afternoon tea on the royal deck, which looked simply divine actually prepared on board.  The gift shop has some impressive things to buy and we settled on a fridge magnet and tea towel.  Whatever you think about the royal family, you can help but be impressed by the piece of British history and what she did for Britain around the globe.   The ship, which acted as the Queen’s private yacht between 1954 and 1997, In her latter years Britannia is estimated to have brought in £3bn of commercial trade deals.  Now as Scotland’s second most popular visitor attraction after Edinburgh Castle, she is now bringing a new economy to the area, with jobs and tourism and that is another lease of life I hope continues long into the future.  We then popped to Wagamama for lunch in the Ocean Terminal, after all we had been given a taste for international travels whislt on board!

Open all year round, adults £15.50, children aged 5-17 £13.75, under 5’s free.  Other ticket prices available.  Please check the website before making your booking or trip.

Please visit the website here for more details

 

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