My first full day in Edinburgh would be spent exploring the castle and the Royal Mile. I was staying in what is known as New Town, and the Edinburgh Castle is located up the hill in Old Town. By American standards, New Town is still really old.
It is a short walk up the hill to the start of the Royal Mile, which is the road leading up to the gate of the castle. The Royal Mile is lined with old buildings that contain a variety of shops, restaurants, pubs, whisky stores, and some tourist attractions. I do a little window browsing, but don’t stop in anywhere as I want to make my way to the castle first.
There are cranes and construction crews at the entrance dismantling stands that flank both sides of the entrance. I’m guessing they were setup for the Military Tattoo, which is a large festival that takes place at the castle every year. It makes it tough to get a good shot of the entire castle.
I head inside and the line for tickets is thankfully short. I grab a map and begin to take a self guided tour.
The path from the main gate to the ticket counter continues on uphill to a second interior gate. The construction of the castle was meant to stop invaders from reaching the interior and this was one of the many safeguards put in place.
After crossing into the interior the grounds open and I head to the exterior walls where the canons overlook the valley below, always on watch for an invading army. The view is so good that you can see across the water to the other shore.
This is also the area where the One O’clock gun is situated. It traditionally fires at – you guessed it – one o’clock everyday. Except Sunday’s, which happened to be the day I was visiting.
There are several museums on site, and I had a look around all of them. The first and largest was the military history museum. It takes you from the Bravehart days of the Scottish military to the modern conflicts like Iraq and Afghanistan.
On my way to the next museum I came across the graveyard for dogs that belonged to the soldiers of the barracks.
Next up was the the Royal Scots Dragoon Regiment Museum. It was very crowded and the hallways were quite narrow, making for a claustrophobic tour. There were few things of interest, and I hurried on through to the end.
There were a few other small areas I looked around, like the prisons and a small chapel. After taking in all the museums I finally got in line for the main attraction, the Crown Jewels of Scotland.
There are two lines, one for a full tour and one for a short tour that just gets you into the crown jewels. I opted to take the full tour. It takes you through a series of dioramas and models to explain some of the royal history. Bigger isn’t always better – I could have easily have skipped it and just gone directly to the crown jewels. Unfortunately no photos were allowed.
After taking in the crown jewels, I checked out one last building that had a nice collection of medieval arms and armor.
One last look over the castle walls and across the bay below before concluding my tour of Edinburgh Castle.
As I walked back down the Royal Mile I came across a pillar with Scotland’s National Animal poised on top. I wonder if any other country has a mythical creature as their national animal. Even if they do, I can’t imagine it could be as cool as a unicorn.