If you hear about kilts, luxury cashmere, the famous Loch Ness and its mysterious Nessie, Scotch whisky or the Royal Mile, the first image that comes to your mind is Scotland. Let’s focus on Scotland’s capital, Edinburgh. This brilliant, breathtaking and magnificent city has been declared a World Heritage Site. Moreover, the city is split into the old and the new at the level of the medieval Old Town and the Georgian New Town but also at the level of the contrast between the ancient and the modern architecture. No stopover in Scotland’s capital is complete without a trip to Edinburgh Castle, which dominates the whole city.
This fortress has been successively a royal castle and a military base involved in many conflicts such as the Wars of Scottish Independence in the 14th century as well as the Jacobite Rising in the 18th century. Since the 19th century, the Castle has been recognized as a historical monument. Furthermore, the Castle consists of different buildings such as the Great Hall and the National War Museum of Scotland. The so-called St Margaret’s Chapel is the oldest one located in the city. In addition the key attraction of the Castle is the display of the crown, the sceptre and the sword in the ancient crown room used in the coronation of Mary Queen of Scots (1543). These objects are precious symbols of the ancient kingdom and still play an important role in Scotland’s ceremonial life. To my mind, it was the most impressive part of the exhibition that I saw in the Castle. The sight of these treasures took me back five centuries. I tried to imagine how beautiful the official ceremonies must have been. Actually, I nearly felt Queen Mary’s presence in the room. It’s kind of magical, isn’t it? By the way, a lot of mystery surrounds the manufacturing process of the Honours. Some craftsmen who lived in the Castle spruced up the Honours. According to one legend, somebody melted down the gold contained in Robert I’s diadem in order to make the current crown. We have no proof, but nevertheless, this diadem represents the beginning of the remarkable history of the Honours of Scotland. James V inherited later this crown and commissioned a man from Edinburgh called John Mosman to refashion the old crown. What were these crown jewels used for? At that time, an Act became law when the King touched the document with his sceptre. When the sceptre touched the Treaty of Union in 1707, the Kingdom of England and the Kingdom of Scotland became one single country. So, it led to the creation of the United Kingdom of Great Britain. At that time, the Castle swarmed with people, officials as well as prisoners. The vaults were used as prisons of war from 1757 to 1815. Most of the men had been captured at sea during the war. Actually, Great Britain was at war with countries supporting America such as France, Spain and Holland. What surprised me the most was the fact that prisoners were allowed to drink beer each day! Another great discovery was the display of three wooden doors which come from the vaults. The graffiti carved on them provide sufficient clues about the prisoners’ identities. By looking carefully at one of the doors, I saw one of the first versions of the American flag! Finally, our nice guide told us some anecdotes about the life in the Castle. The most striking one gave an account of a baby elephant which had been brought back from an exotic land to Edinburgh’s Castle. It lived there peacefully with the soldiers for a while. When it became too big, the soldiers had no other choice but to leave the elephant. The zoo of Edinburgh thus became its second home.
To sum up, Edinburgh combines the bustle of the city, a complete change of scenery for the tourists and the tranquillity of the countryside. Don’t hesitate, go and visit Scotland’s capital!