Well our luck ran out on Sunday in Edinburgh. The first rain we have seen all week arrived at dawn and the Guest House we stayed at was, ‘dodgy,’ yeah, I think that’s what the locals would call it. It was O.K. but compared to the Park Plaza in London it was mediocre. We ate a Scottish breakfast at a bar downtown. It was one of the only things open early on a Sunday. We took it easy today and just went to see the Edinburgh Castle.
It was very impressive. it seems to rise right out of the rock at the center of the old city. Continuing a theme of sites of terrible crimes against humanity there is a bloody history with the castle: much death and destruction. My favourite terrible story is about Sir William Crichton, keeper of the castle in 1440. Using his position he invited his arch-rivals the sixth Earl of Douglas and his younger brother to dine with the king in the castle. When the great feast was over Crichton presented the Earl with a bulls head which was the sign of condemnation to death. The king who was less than ten at the time protested but to no effect, the Douglases were taken and tried on trumped up charges of treason and beheaded out in the courtyard.
We saw the honours of Scotland, their version of the crown jewels. They include the crown of James V (1540), the scepter of James IV (1494) presented by the Pope Alexander VI no less, the sword of state, give to James IV by Pope Julius II in 1507, the ruby ring of George III given in 1807 by Cardinal Henry York (who happens to be brother of Bonnie Prince Charlie, more on him later) and a sweet collar (I forget the name). What is cool about all these is that they were hidden from Oliver Cromwell who had killed the the English King and outlawed the monarchy in 1649. He destroyed the English crown Jewels and then came to Edinburgh to destroy these. They were smuggled out of the castle in some firewood carried by a servant woman and hidden for years. Later they were put into storage and forgotten for 110 years. Walter Scott is famous for ‘discovering’ them, which is funny cause all he did was look in the last place where they were seen. Well spotted Walt!
My favourite part was seeing the ‘stone of destiny’. Every King (or Queen) since 1714 has been crowned while sitting in the Coronation chair (remember that?) with the stone loaded in a handy pocket underneath. Some say the stone is the altar of St. Columba (7th century Irish Priest), some say it is the pillow used by Jacob at Bethel (weighing in at 150 kg? I think not) but I say it is totally awesome. If you are crowning kings you have got to have a stone of destiny. What a great idea!
Next came the most terrifying part of the trip: We picked up our rental car downtown Edinburgh: a Vauxhall Corsa and drove out of town. Driving in the UK is tough. First you have the standard shifter and the mirror on the left. Add to that driving on the left side of the road. On top of that there is construction all over the place in Edinburgh. Julie was having kittens. Through miraculous intervention (I still don’t know how we did it) we found our way out of town and crossed the Firth of Fourth. I love the names of things here. Firth is a Gaelic word for bay. So you name a place Fourth Bay? It becomes the Firth of Fourth. There is an island called Fife. It has five bays. The Fifth Firth of Fife! Fantastic! It sounds like a Dr. Seuss book! On our way north we also saw the Commando Monument, a fitting monument for Scotland.
Only slightly less terrifying was Julie almost losing her purse. We arrived in Inverness (Niagara On The Lake with Kilts) and Julie couldn’t find her purse. We eventually found it under the seat of the car. Whew! Inverness is beautiful and we love walking the River Ness through town. We found a really nice restaurant and our waiter’s name was Collum. Julie just melted every time the guy spoke. I though he was laying it on a bit thick though.
The Bed and Breakfast here in Inverness is fantastic. We will be staying here two nights. Yea! Tomorrow we are off for more mayhem at the Battle Fields of Culloden. Nighty night!