After a gorgeous first day yesterday, we woke up this morning to a chilly, wet Scottish day. We experienced a full Scottish breakfast of potato scones, beans, tomatoes, haggis, an egg, bacon, sausage, toast, fruit, cereal, and tea–quite a hearty start to the day! We got to try our hand at ethnographic observations on Princes Street and at the mall, and then we ventured up a very steep and slippery cobblestone road to Edinburgh Castle. We broke up for the day after doing a little more observing, and Tansy and I decided not to let a little wind and some rain (and possibly snow) stop us from taking in everything the castle had to offer. We saw everything from the underground prison cells to the Honours of Scotland and some stunning views of Edinburgh like this one!
I really enjoyed learning about some Scottish history while seeing these great sights. For example, the Honours (the crown, scepter, and sword used for unaugurating Scottish royalty) were locked away in a chest for over 200 years until Sir Walter Scott and his crew re-discovered them and put them on display in 1819. In 1941, the Scots feared that the Honours would be taken in a German raid, so they buried them under the castle until 1945, when they were returned to the Crown Room.
Next to the Honours in the Crown Room is the Stone of Scone, which looks like nothing more than a gray slab of rock, but has a very colorful past. The Stone was used in ancient coronations of Scottish royalty, but in 1296 it was taken by the English to Wesminster Abbey, where it remained until some college students stole it in 1950 and returned it to Scotland. However, the English took it back again until 1996, when they finally returned the stone in an attempt to settle some political dissatisfaction. The stone really wasn’t much to look at, but this story is one of my favorites.
Some other highlights of the castle were seeing the chamber where Mary, Queen of Scots gave birth to James II and hearing the one o’clock cannon (it is shot at one instead of twelve to avoid wasting those extra eleven rounds every day). Although the weather was not beautiful when we were touring it, it helped Tansy and I realize exactly how damp, dank, dark, and dreary castles really were for the folks who lived there, especially the ones unlucky enough to be living in the underground prison cells! We were definitely grateful to return to our warm, dry hotel room afterwards. The weather was quite miserable compared to yesterday, but we agreed that we had seen a lot worse in the frozen tundra of Fargo/Moorhead and, as the title of this entry says, at least we weren’t wearing kilts. Speaking of which, I have been keeping a daily “kilt count” since we arrived, and even in the cold, windy weather, we saw seven kilt-clad Scotsmen today! Now that is dedication.