Thursday, April 6, 2017

Scotlland's fortitude is personified in Edinburgh Castle

The Edinburgh Military Tattoo is a festival unlike any other
EDINBURGH, SCOTLAND  For some mysterious reason, medieval castles have a long history of appeal for travelers of all ages. Perhaps it has something to do with the fairy tales we have all heard since we were children. Or possibly there is a sense of foreboding that drains all color from their exteriors, turning them into darkened silhouettes peering down from elevated hilltops. Little girls dream of being a princess and living in colorful Camelot-style environs in a world filled with rainbows.
The castle dominates from
above  (wikipedia)
Whatever the mystique, Edinburgh Castle is a symbol of strength and resilience for the people of Scotland. People who have for centuries been a stronghold of freedom, liberty and self-reliance.
Massive and dominating in size, Edinburgh Castle sits atop a rock overlooking the city as a powerful symbol of  Scotland's national heritage. There is evidence that the site has been occupied by humans as far back as the Iron Age.
Loch Lomond at twilight is another familiar Scottish landmark  (wikipedia)
One thing is certain, there has been a royal castle on the site since the 12th century, and it continued to be a royal residence until 1633.
Situated at one of the extremities of the Royal Mile, Edinburgh Castle is the most-visited paid tourist attraction in Scotland playing host to more than 1.4 million people each year.
The Edinburgh Tattoo attracts thousands to Edinburgh Castle each summer
It also serves as the site for the Edinburgh Military Tattoo which has taken place on the Esplanade during the annual Edinburgh International Festival each August since 1952. The Tattoo has become such a fixture in Scottish tradition that the annual live audience attracts nearly 220,000 visitors while television broadcasts reaches 100,000 million viewers in more than 30 countries.
Parades, pipers, drums and performers from every corner of the world join with Scottish regiments to participate in the grand military celebration that always concludes with a lone piper on the castle battlements playing a traditional "pibroch."
Another tradition, the one o'clock
gun (
A pibroch consists of a medley of extended compositions featuring elaborate variations. In the simplest of terms pibroch means "piping."
The castle was built upon an extinct volcano which rose about 350 million years ago and was then "plugged." With rocky cliffs rising 450 feet above sea level on three sides, the only readily accessible route to the castle is from the east, making it an obvious defensive stronghold.
The Royal Mile from the castle to Holyrood Palace is famous for its "closes" (wikipedia)
Edinburgh, with its ancient alleyways  known as "closes," emerges from the main street, or Royal Mile at the castle, to Holyrood Palace which is the official residence of Her Majesty the Queen in Scotland. Closes are small private alleys and courtyards branching off to the north and south and were usually named after a memorable resident.
Scotland's highland sheep
Compactly nestled among heather-carpeted hills, wind swept valleys and dales and illustrious citizens like Robert the Bruce, Robert Burns, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, J.K Rowling, John Knox, Sir Walter Scott, Mary Queen of Scots and Robert Louis Stevenson to mention a few among hundreds, Edinburgh conjures images of a perpetual time machine.
The castle is only accessible on one side  (wikipedia)
The first documented reference to a castle at Edinburgh was written in an account of the death of King Malcolm III by John of Fordun in "Castle of Maidens" in the fall of 1093.
Upon the death of King Alexander III in 1288, Edward I of England was appointed to determine competing claims for the vacant Scottish crown. He later chose to attack Edinburgh and claim the throne for himself in the First War of Scottish Independence in 1296. 
The one o'clock gun always
draws a crowd

It took Edward just three days to accomplish the task.
In 1314, Robert the Bruce hand-picked thirty men to attack the castle along its north face, where it was believed to be easier to scale the wall, hoping to reclaim the fortress.
In his epic poem "The Brus," John Barbour relates that when Bruce succeeded, he immediately ordered the destruction of the castle walls to prevent re-occupation by the British.
By then, Bruce had re-taken most of the castles in Scotland, and four months later, he won a decisive victory at Bannockburn, a date as memorable for every Scot as the Fourth of July is for Americans.
It took 14 more years for Robert the Bruce to eventually claim full victory at the negotiating table, but the victorious he was, and it remains, in its own way, Scotland's version of D-Day.
Who better to guard the entrance than Robert the Bruce and William Wallace (wikipedia)
Today, statues of Robert the Bruce by Thomas Clapperton and William Wallace by Alexander Carrick have watched over the Gatehouse entrance of Edinburgh Castle since 1929.
In the mid-16th century, the only surviving legitimate child of James V of Scotland was his daughter Mary who was only six days old when her father died.

Mary spent most of her youth in France, while Scotland was run by regents. She returned to Scotland in August, 1561 nine months after the death of her husband, King Francis II. Following a tumultuous reign, Mary, Queen of Scots was beheaded in 1587 as a result of a death warrant signed by her half sister Elizabeth I. 
The oldest building in the castle, as well as Edinburgh itself, is tiny St. Margaret's Chapel. Constructed as a private chapel for the royal family in the 12th century, it is still used today used for religious ceremonies, such as weddings.
The main courtyard of the fortress was designed in the 15th century by James III. Now known as Crown Square, or Palace Yard, the vaults were used as a prison until the 19th century.
Grand finale at the Edinburgh Military Tattoo -- Now that's a tattoo (wikipedia)
The square is comprised of the Royal Palace to the east, the Great Hall to the south, the Queen Anne Building to the west, and the National War Memorial to the north.
The Scottish National War Memorial honors Scottish soldiers and those who have served or are serving in Scottish regiments, as well as soldiers who died in the two world wars and more recent conflicts.
Perhaps the best known tradition at Edinburgh Castle is the One O'clock gun which is fired every day precisely at 1 p.m. except Sundays, Good Friday and Christmas Day. The tradition was established in 1861 as a signal for ships in the Harbor of Leith and the Firth of Forth so they would know the time. 
Edinburgh Castle is massive, but it beckons to be explored
You see there are castles and then there are CASTLES, and everyone should agree that Edinburgh Castle is readily worthy of its very own Tattoo.