Windy, cloudy, warm, cold–I had typical Scottish weather in just my first hour here (It’s supposed to rain tomorrow, which will complete the deluxe weather package). But the buildings surrounding me more than made up for it. Even my hotel is part of the atmosphere. That’s my window in the turret, above the R in Radisson.
But wait, climb the Royal Mile up Castle Hill with me. I passed St. Giles Cathedral, centerpiece of the Scottish Reformation. Fiery theologian (read: serious troublemaker) John Knox was installed as minister here in 1559, and it’s now known as the Mother Church of World Presbyterianism. I passed it three times in one day, and each time the stones were a different color–once shimmering in the sun, once shivering in the wind, and once quietly watching the sun set, tourists scurrying off for tea or Glenlivet.
The climax of the walk uphill is the castle itself. I’m afraid words can’t do it justice. It’s massive, graceful, cleverly built atop a small plug of volcanic basalt, hardest rock on earth. like every ancient building it’s been repurposed, renovated, burned, and rebuilt over and over.
The ceiling of the Great Hall was built by some 600 years ago by marine architects–so of course it looks like an inverted ship’s hull. Tiny St. Margaret’s Chapel is the oldest building in the city (around 1124), honoring Scotland’s first saint.
The clock tower is stately, backing up to the sheer drop that made the castle site so perfect.
My favorite part of the castle was one in which no photos are allowed–the War Memorial honoring the tens of thousands of people who had died fighting in Scotland’s various wars. Looking around, I saw centuries of regimental colors–and loss, and grief–from around the globe. Gallipoli, Suez, Cuba, India, Falklands, America.
A quote from Thucidydes beautifully summarized the enormous death and profound respect surrounding me:
“The whole earth is the tomb of heroes; not only are they commemorated by columns and inscriptions in their own country, but in foreign lands there dwells also an unwritten memorial of them, graven not on stone but in the hearts of men.”