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Travel tales from Scotland – Blast from the past !

Blast from the past !

Scotland engages you in more ways that you can imagine!

Not to mention, it is the ultimate paradise for those seeking to soak in peace and serenity. However, it doesn’t disappoint others in the quest of mysteries, history and folklores, either.

In my previous blog, I wrote about Edinburg’s eerie aspect and the idea of ‘horror tourism’ they swear by (Scots, I tell you)! There are mysteries aplenty, in castles, manors, graveyards and museums, waiting to be unfolded. One just shall be willing to explore!

Like most other tourists, visiting the beautiful Edinburgh castle was on my wish list too. We had reached the Edinburgh bus station quite early in the morning and preferred to walk down till their main commercial area, Princes Street. Only to have a ‘feel’ of the historic city.

Strolling on the busy street, I looked up the hill. Standing majestically over the plug of an extinct volcano, the fortress beacons and how! It was more stunning than what I had seen in the pictures and ended up wanting to reach up to it.

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Edinburgh Castle as seen from Princes Street

There, however, was a hitch! The strangest thing I found about Edinburgh is that the hotels have an unusual check-in time at 3pm. With most tourists reaching the city in the morning (as major bus and train services arrive in early hours from various UK cities), finding a hotel to place your luggage and freshen up is difficult.

One will have to manage with public washrooms and tow one’s luggage around to site-seeing on having reached early. So did we!

Nonetheless, it being summers the place is full of enthusiastic travelers. Streets echo with enchanting vintage tunes, courtesy the ‘Kilt’ wearing bagpipers.

We reached up the castle hill only to find a long queue of ticket seekers.

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Long queues at the ticket counters

It is highly recommended to book your tickets online in advance, especially, if visiting in tourist season.

One may find the ticket prices a little too high for a castle at 16 GBP per adult. However, considering how meticulously the 12th century fortress has been maintained, with every detail intact and heritage restored, the entry charges seem justified.

Once in, the view would take your breath away!

 

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Inside the Castle
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View from the deck

The castle stands on a hill not just over-looking the old and new towns of Edinburgh but also the Leith, the Scottish shoreline. The castle deck was especially designed to keep a keen eye on the lands and waters, simultaneously.

The scene from the upper deck of the castle is magnificent and too picture postcard-ish. Don’t forget to carry wide angled camera lenses for capturing extensive frames!

The other thing that instantly would catch one’s attention is the 15th-century siege cannon known as Mons Meg. The massive cannon with gun-stones are on display outside 12th century St. Margaret’s Chapel, the oldest surviving building in Scotland.

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The Historical Canon
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Canon stones

There is also a One O’ Clock cannon that fires exactly at 1p.m everyday. The cannon was installed in the 19th century to give sailors in the Leith and Firth of Forth a reminder of time. There are exceptions on Sundays, Good Fridays and Christmas.

Scotland experiences a wet and cold weather throughout the year. Carry an umbrella or raincoat always. The castle too has a lot of open space and walkways. Keeping raincoats would help you enjoy the experience, unperturbed.

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Long Walkways and corridors inside the castle

We had waited in the queue for long and wanted a refreshments break. The Redcoat Café on the upper deck is a perfect place to relax. The eatery’s benches overlook the Leith and allow you to soak in some warm sun. However, I would like to mention that the castle doesn’t have any drinking water fountain or tap. If your kids are accompanying you, don’t forget to carry water and some refreshments with you.

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The Redcoat Cafe as seen from the deck

Though, the castle is full of rich heritage spots and sections that will usher you into the era bygone, it was Crown Jewels hat left me wide-eyed.

The coronet, Sceptre and Sword Of State are the oldest crown jewels in the British Isles and were worn by Scottish monarchs for generations. Studded with sparkling gems and oozing royalty, the crown jewels have visitors queued up just to catch a glance at the castle!

But behold! Clicking pictures here is strictly prohibited. I am sourcing these pictures of the coronet and the Stone of Destiny from the official website of Scotland Tourism.

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The Royal Scottish Coronet
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The Stone of Destiny

The Stone of Destiny might look like an ordinary chunk of rock, it, however, is the sole surviving witness of palace’s coronation ceremonies for over a thousand years.  Kings of Scotland were enthroned on this rock for centuries. The Great Hall and Royal Palace are magnificent examples of architecture and opulence. Pay attention to the fine details of interiors and artillery on display at War Memorials.

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Inside the crown jewels, there is a beautiful depiction of the chronicles

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The Great Hall
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Artillery on display

Prisons of War is certainly not for faint hearted. Stuffy rat holes and cave like bunkers to jail war prisoners  made me jittery.

It was though interesting to learn about inmates of those dark cells, captured from America, France, Poland, Denmark, Ireland etc, living in stone vaults for decades together. Working hard days and night to earn a piece of bread.

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Prison of War. The dimly lit caves and basement served as jails
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Bunker beds for inmates

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Edinburgh castle, as the saying goes, is built on stories. There are many floating in the air, a tale here, an anecdote there!

There are said to be secrets and mysteries hidden deep in the walls and foundation of the castle. Some suggest about the stealthy tunnels in secret rooms that run under the ground till the old town and served as safety passages in the time of emergencies. While I heard others claiming the castle to be a hub of paranormal activities.

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The castles war museum and memorials are glorious

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The entrance of the castle as seen from the deck

Stories were aplenty and  you must enjoy them. The sun was touching the horizon and we decided to return after our royal rendezvous!

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The panoramic view

 

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