Sunday, March 11, 2018

Edinburgh Castle and the Saint Margaret Chapel

Edinburgh Castle
11th to 21st century

We'd come here in 1991 and now (2 1/2 decades later) we were back! Those are my parents, in their hats, walking ahead of me and toward the statues of Robert the Bruce and William Wallace, below.

This was on the same day that we'd visited the Scottish National Galleries. After enjoying the beautiful art, and having sandwiches downstairs with our view of Princes Street Gardens, we walked up to the Castle. 

Yet another imposing gate ...

Below, the governors residence (on the left.)

I hadn't remembered that there were so many structures up on the hill!

This tour guide was filmed on more than one occasion, as I found him at least twice on YouTube. There is quite a lot of good information if you want to watch a bit of it. Plus, what better accent is there then the Scots?

I love that there's this little "Cemetery for Soldiers' Dogs."

The Great Hall

The Great Hall was built for James IV and completed in 1511. He was killed 2 years later so he didn't get much of chance to enjoy it. This huge hall was one of the the things I remembered of my first trip to Edinburgh ... a room filled with armor and swords and large stained glass windows.

Check out the incredible oak beams, built by ship builders. There are no nails but huge wooden pegs. You can imagine it being used for large royal ceremonies and function, but in 1650 Oliver Cromwell turned it into military barracks. 

In the 1880s they cleared it out and restored it. That might have had something do with Queen Victoria's fascination and love of Scotland? Maybe I'm just watching too much Masterpiece Theater and making the leap.

Some of the armor looks rather small!

Love these little seating niches with the coats of arms.

In Rick Steves Edinburgh episode, he gets some views that I didn't get of the city, as well as of the Royal Yacht Britannia. (My previous post.) The first part of the episode is at Edinburgh Castle.

Amazing views from the Edinburgh Castle ...

Scottish National War Memorial

1 in 3 adult men in Scotland were killed in WWI, and the names of all Scottish soldiers killed in that war, and in military action since, are commemorated in this building. The building dates to the 1700s but it was opened to the public as a war memorial in 1927.

Saint Margaret's Chapel
1130 a.d.

I was excited to come back to this tiny chapel, the oldest building on the castle hill, but it was packed full of people that day! It was rather unlike our visit so many years ago when it had had a quiet serene charm, but the crowds in town for the Festivals have definitely exploded in recent years. This day people were lining up to get into this very small space. 

from the website:

"Scotland’s royals once knelt to worship in this serene private chapel. It was built around 1130 by David I and dedicated to his mother Queen Margaret. St Margaret was a member of the English royal family who fled the Norman invasion and married Malcolm III.
Reputed to have performed many acts of charity she was canonised by Pope Innocent IV in 1250.
The decorated chancel arch is original, while other features, such as the stained glass windows, are more recent.
... There are always fresh flowers in the chapel. These are provided by St Margaret’s Chapel Guild whose members all share the name Margaret and live in Scotland.
The chapel is still used for christenings and weddings."

The Queen who became Saint Margaret ...

Even with all the people, it was still worth the visit!

A year and a half ago when I was getting in to the groove of planning our trip, my sister and I discussed our long ago, and brief, stay in Edinburgh. The thing we both most vividly remembered was St. Margaret's chapel with its little bouquets of flowers on the altar, and in front of each of the small stained glass windows.

So, for my sister's 50th birthday I started a painting for her to honor the memory of our visit, along with our Scottish heritage.

I changed the face a bit and did a little simplifying of this tiny painting ...

But here it is ... A little painting of the Saint Margaret stained glass window. It's an oil painting with gold leaf on a small wood panel, and I included the tiny fresh bouquet of flowers.

There is so much history and too much to try to cover here but one of my favorite things on this trip was seeing the Stone of Destiny or the "Stone of Scone."  It is kept in Edinburgh Castle with the Scottish Crown Jewels, first worn by Mary, Queen of Scots. (Who gave birth to her son at the Castle and this child would be successor to Queen Elizabeth I of England and King of Scotland.)

Anyway, back to the stone. It's a huge part of Scottish history and a symbol of the Scottish monarchy. It's been imbued with so much meaning as a sacred object, and the Ancient Scottish Kings were crowned upon it, starting with Kenneth I in 843 a.d. Prior to that it was said to have been in Ireland as well as attached to the biblical story of Jacob and that it was the pillow on which he dreamed of angels. One legend says it held up the arc of the covenant. 

(No photos in the room with the Stone of Scone and Crown Jewels, so I did this sketch from an old photo I found online of it with the Scottish flag.)

In 1296 Edward I of England took it from Scotland and built it into his throne, and at which point it started getting used by the monarchs of England for their coronation ceremonies. 

You might want to do more reading on it because clearly I'm not a historian but anyway, as you can imagine taking the stone out of Scotland didn't go over well with many Scots. On Christmas day of 1950, 4 students from Scotland showed up at Westminster Abbey, in London, to remedy the situation. 

There is a great little movie I highly recommend called the Stone of Destiny, which came out a few years ago. Here's the trailer.

After you hike up the hill and all around the buildings, there are fortunately plenty of spots to take a load off. My little down jacket and waterproof oxfords turned out to be perfect for Edinburgh, by the way. (Psst! Wait for the sales but Cole Haan has cute waterproof Oxfords!)

We could have spent a whole lot more time there and gotten into all the nooks and crannies. I could have sketched, we could have listened to the tour guides, and had teas in the café, but we were off to the Royal Yacht Britannia, in Leith, but since we'd been there before we decided to move on.

If it's not clear after all these posts of Edinburgh, or if you haven't seen the previous 5 I've posted, I love Edinburgh. It is definitely one of my all time favorite cities. And, if you are lucky enough to get there, definitely head to the Castle for the Military Tattoo and stroll around its historic stones.

OH! And I know I post a lot of "in case you are interested" videos, but here are one or two more. They are by an adorable Scottish YouTuber called "Wee Scottish Lass" and my dad and I started watching her videos before the trip. Here's an example ...

Scottish endearments and compliments ...

As the Wee Scottish Lass says ...

"Haste ye back!"

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Royal Yacht Britannia and The Ship on the Shore

I travel not to go anywhere, but to go.
I travel for travel's sake.
The great affair is to move.

~Robert Louis Stevenson
Born Edinburgh, 1850

Day 3 part II

The Royal Yacht Britannia
Leith Harbor, Scotland
Launched April 16, 1953

Friends of my parents told them they had to see the Britannia and it was definitely high on their "to do" list. I must admit I didn't really have a huge urge to see it but I liked the idea of heading to the coast in the afternoon, and we had a rental car, so what the heck?! Let's go! 

We were a bit late in getting there and I think we were the last ones to get tickets for the day. We were definitely the last ones to leave, not counting the workers who were getting ready to throw a party that night.

This old film reel is fun! The Queen launching the Britannia!

The ship was decommissioned in 1994 but there is still quite a bit of entertaining on board. In fact, the night before our visit, someone said there had been a dinner that William and Kate attended. 

Members of the Royal Family do attend functions there, but the queen hasn't been on board since it was decommissioned. We read that when she left for the last time, it was the only time the public saw her get so emotional. I'm sure that with all of the memories they had on board the Britannia, it was extremely difficult. 

The ship is 412 feet, 3 inches in overall length, maximum breadth moulded 55 feet. It's big.

The sun lounge (following photo) was her majesty's favorite room on the Britannia. Lots of teak and the light was beautiful. I don't know if there was the toile and stripes, back in the day, but it was definitely the best looking room to my eye. There was a bar, a record player, and board games for the kids and family to play together, as well.


Here is the little bar setup in the sun lounge. Apparently they'd also have their afternoon tea and breakfast there and really, why not?

The Queen's Royal Bedroom

You can tell it's the 1950s. For one, look at the furniture. And secondly, Prince Philip had his own digs. (with an interconnecting door.) There was also a Honeymoon suite that had one bed. It was used for Royal Honeymoons, including Prince Charles and Princess Diana.

Upstairs, there is a huge area where you can have tea, snacks or a cocktail! We decided this would be a great little way to take a load off after our morning tour of Mary King's Close, the National Gallery of Scotland (previous post), and then Edinburgh Castle. (I'll post that later.)

My dad's cappuccino with a dusting of Royal Yacht!

Me in my new hat from Edinburgh! A little hat shop at the edge of Grassmarket called Fabhatrix. Fantastic little shop! I got another amazing hat there too!

To travel hopefully
is a better thing
than to arrive.
~Robert Louis Stevenson

The State Dining Room

This room hosted everyone from Nelson Mandela, to Reagan, Yeltsin and Churchill. They were busy getting ready for a dinner in there that night but we were still making our way through with our little audio handsets. They were very nice about it, even though I didn't see any other tourists on board at that point. 

You do have to check the website to make sure it's open and you can book your tickets ahead online.

There was also an officers dining room, and another smaller dining room that we saw. I loved this little cabinet to put your napkin in when you're done with your meal!

The State Drawing Room

On the website it said that Princess Diana, Princess Margaret, and Noël Coward all played the baby grand on board.

Crew bunks!


We are all travelers in the wilderness of this world,
and the best we can fin in our travels
is an honest friend.
~Robert Louis Stevenson

Higher up the chain of command ...

This was one corner of the rather large laundry room ...

There were a few different bars on board. (None selling actual alcohol) They had these hats you could put on and be silly and take pictures in, so of course we did!

That man is a success 
who has lived well, laughed often
and loved much.
~Robert Louis Stevenson

Definitely a fun and interesting outing if you like boats, and the history of the royal family. It's said the Queen felt it was the one place she could truly be herself.

I'd done a little research on seafood restaurants in Leith and had gotten a reservation, the day before. As I mentioned, everything was very busy with the festivals going on and you really need reservations at many of the better restaurants.



We parked right along this street, close to the restaurant. I think I found it on Trip Advisor, if I recall correctly.

Keep your fears to yourself,
but share your courage with others.
~Robert Louis Stevenson

The Ship on the Shore

The place was even more charming in person and they played great old music. The bread was really good and we started with delicious Shetland Mussels with garlic and herbs. Yum! And I had a little Talisker Scotch, from the Isle of Skye. I don't think it was on the menu but we also ordered a huge salad and split it.

Looking toward the bar ...

While waiting for the entrees, I ran outside to take some photos!

Can you blame me? These might have to become paintings. There's really nothing like being on the water!

I ordered the one above ... Lemon sole Meuniere with French Beans and baby heritage potatoes and my parents got the whole Sea Bass with Sautéed baby potatoes, cherry tomatoes and Basil. The seafood in Scotland was incredible. Of course, they had steak and lamb and so forth but this was heavenly for me.

I loved it!

Back out on the water ...


I could definitely spend more time in Leith! (Especially eating.) It's the old maritime center of Edinburgh and we barely scratched the surface.

Here is one more little film of the Britannia ...


There are no foreign lands.
It is the traveler only
who is foreign.
~Robert Louis Stevenson