Before you have ever been to Edinburgh, Scotland, people will tell you, “Edinburgh is a beautiful city.” You think to yourself, “why does everyone say that?” I wondered if I would come away from my trip saying the exact same words to others. I do.
My simple explanation is that the architecture is beautiful. As you walk the city, you may find yourself pausing to admire architecture right and left. Before we even left our hotel, I was enchanted with this view out our window.
The curve of the street leading to the Cathedral in the West End makes lovely leading lines. This photograph was taken in late evening dusk, around 10pm.
*With apology to E. M. Forster for using the name of his book title.
Edinburgh Castle towers over today’s modern city of Edinburgh, Scotland from its perch atop Castle Rock. From the top on a clear day, you can enjoy a beautiful vista clear over to the harbor at the Firth of Forth.
The Castle holds within its walls numerous buildings built from the 12th century to the 20th century. The oldest building is the tiny Saint Margaret’s Chapel, just large enough to hold about 10 people, if they aren’t too large.
The newest building is the Scottish National War Memorial, built after the First World War to commemorate the Scots who gave their lives in wartime.
The Upper Ward and the huge cannon “Mons Meg” represent the 15th and 16th century, a period when the castle was the site of battles.
There is much more to discover in Edinburgh Castle, including the Crown Jewels (which may not be photographed), the Great Hall, a suffocating old prison and a military history museum.
Buy your tickets ahead of time online, and allow yourself plenty of time on what will hopefully be a clear day.
Visiting Edinburgh Scotland for the first time, we had a wonderful time walking the cobblestone streets, admiring the architecture, having a pint in the pub and exploring its castles and cathedrals. Naturally, photography helps to preserve those memories. Shopping for a bit of the culture to bring home will too.
The Scots are known for the colorful plaids that traditionally represent different clans, woven into woolen kilts or warm scarves. Today a dizzying array of plaids sold on soft, cozy scarves and wraps make it very difficult to choose one — or two or three. What will match my winter coat? What will my daughter like? They are all so beautiful!
According to the locals, weather in the Scottish Highlands can be described in one of three ways:
A steady mist kept our windshield peppered with tiny drops as we passed the rugged landscape in Glencoe. The vivid green ground cover attests to the fact that most days here are either atmospheric or dramatic with steady precipitation and rapidly changing conditions.
While this region may look like a hiker’s dream, we heard cautionary tales of hikers who grew fatigued on long treks through thin air who treated themselves to a nap, hoping to awaken refreshed. Many hikers who nap succumb to hypothermia.
For some reason, I find this animal hilarious. Drive the Scottish Highlands, and you will meet a Highland Cow, affectionately known as the “Hairy Coo,” by the locals. Their coat is tough enough to withstand nearly constant rain and long, cold winters. The bangs over their eyes may function as sunglasses, but makes them look like survivors of neglect. Moving slowly, they seem docile and not very smart, but who knows what they are thinking?
After a few days of city life, it feels so good to get out in the countryside and see a far different part of Scotland. Heading north across the Firth of Forth (the estuary of the Forth River), we stopped in the coastal town of Elie to stretch our legs. I wasn’t going to risk getting sand in my shoes, but I’m very glad I did take a few steps on to the quiet beach to admire this lovely crescent shoreline.
In the Middle Ages, stained glass windows taught the Scriptures to the illiterate, but today the educated admire them for their beauty and artistry. Saint Giles Cathedral in the heart of Edinburgh features some stunning stained glass as well as a beautiful architecture.
In St. Giles Cathedral, the leader of the Scottish reformation John Knox preached and converted the church from a Catholic to a Presbyterian place of worship in the 16 century. Knox had the stained glass removed, as he opposed anything that separated one from God, according to travel writer Rick Steves. Nineteenth century Victorians installed the stained glass we admire today.
I photographed these windows by propping the camera on the pew, and setting my Sony a7rII camera on ISO 2000. The images were lightly processed in Adobe Lightroom. I found the Sony performed quite well in dimly lit church interiors.
The ruins of Saint Andrew’s Cathedral might tell stories better than a perfectly restored monument. Wandering through here on a quiet afternoon, one cannot hear the organ or the choir. One cannot see the stained windows that glimmer in other Cathedrals, or gaze up the columns to the arches in the high ceiling.
But you can walk up what was the center aisle, now overgrown with grass and feel the breeze off the North Sea. You can wonder what happened to the missing walls and ceiling.
The town’s people plundered this enormous 12th century Cathedral to build the town? Yes, they did. The 16-century Scottish reformation inspired zealots to dismantle and destroy Catholic churches and abbeys. Today 40% of Scots follow the Church of Scotland, while 20% of Scots are Catholics. Most Catholics are Irish immigrants who live in the Western Highlands.*
My observation is that religion plays a far smaller role in the life of most people today.
The relics of martyr Saint Andrew, who was crucified on a diagonal cross, made Saint Andrews an important pilgrimage site during the Middle Ages. Today, we mainly know of Saint Andrews for its fine university and its 19 century golf course.
If you want to see and hear more about Scotland and northern England, go ahead and subscribe to my blog. There is much more to come from my recent trip there.
I’ve been busy reading and preparing for my upcoming trip to Edinburgh, Scotland and Newcastle, England. Ideas were swirling ’round and ’round in my head as I was trying to fall asleep last night. How many castles, cathedrals and closes will I explore? Will I rely on the train, or will I be bumbling ’round Northumberland on the left side of the road? Will I have time to see the Firth of Forth, or will I be distracted by cashmere on Princes Street?
If you haven’t subscribed to this blog, now might be a good time. I’m feeling inspired!