I've been on my travels again. This time I've headed north rather than south, and spent a few days in Edinburgh. Although you'd never know it if you heard me speak, this is where I was born and grew up; I lived in or near the city until I went to college.
My parents grew up not far from where I now live
, and moved back down here 18 years ago. This was only my second trip to Scotland since then. I had a great time, so this is a very picture-heavy post all about the Scottish capital.
Edinburgh truly is a tale of two cities, or to be more precise, towns. The original settlement was what is now called the Old Town, and grew up around the castle.
|The entrance to Edinburgh Castle|
The photo above doesn't do justice to how truly castle-y Edinburgh Castle actually is. It is perched on a rock, and dominates the city.
|Looking up at the castle from the Grassmarket|
Although the Scottish Crown Jewels are kept in the castle, it is not the official royal residence in Scotland. Instead that is Holyrood Palace, at the foot of the Royal Mile. The Queen stays here for a week each year.
Edinburgh is very, very hilly, and the Royal Mile slopes downhill from the castle along a ridge. For a long time the city was confined within walls, so the only was to accommodate a growing population was to build upwards.
|The Tron Kirk on the Royal Mile|
|John Knox's house (centre) on the Royal Mile|
Many of the buildings along the Royal Mile are part of the original medieval city, but some are much more recent. It's hard to believe that this hotel was only built in 1990.
|A modern addition|
Most of the streets which lead off the Royal Mile go sharply downhill.
|Victoria Street curves down to the Grassmarket|
The Grassmarket was one of Edinburgh's main markets, where horses and cattle were sold.
|The Grassmarket and the castle|
Just up from the Grassmarket is Greyfriars Kirk, the final resting place of Greyfriars Bobby
and his owner John Grey. The famous statue is nearby. Judging from the extreme shininess of the dog's nose, it must get rubbed a lot!
|The statue of Greyfriars Bobby|
Also leading off the Royal Mile are lots of narrow, pedestrian-only streets called 'closes'. Some of these open into little courtyards.
|Lady Stairs Close|
As well as steep streets, there are lots of flights of stairs.
|Steps leading up to the Royal Mile|
Eventually the overcrowding in the Old Town grew so bad that something had to be done. Rather than simply expand the existing town beyond the city walls, the decision was taken to build the New Town to the north of the Royal Mile. This was begun in 1767, and still retains much of its original Georgian architecture.
|Part of Charlotte Square in the New Town|
Many of the houses retain their original features, such as boot scrapers by the doors, and snuffers to put out the torches carried to light the way while travelling.
|The snuffer is the diagonal tube in the lamp stand|
|Bute House, official residence of the First Minister|
The area between the Old and New Towns was originally a loch (lake). This was drained and now contains the main railway line and station, the National Gallery of Scotland and Princes Street Gardens.
|The Old Town and castle, with the National Gallery in front|
Finally (and well done for making it this far!) this photograph of the Balmoral Hotel on Princes Street was taken at seven minutes past three. The hotel was originally the railway hotel, and the clock can be seen most of the way along Princes Street, the main shopping street. It is deliberately kept three minutes fast, to ensure that people don't miss their train! The only time that it is set to the correct time is on Hogmanay (New Year's Eve).
|The Balmoral Hotel, the North Bridge and Arthur's Seat|