There are some cities that are just made for wandering and Edinburgh is one of my favorite cities to wander. A walk along the Royal Mile had me gazing in wonder at the interesting architecture and trying to fathom the layers of history throughout the city.
The walk began at the Edinburgh Castle sitting on top of Castle Rock. The 12th century saw the first royal castle set on this hill with the reign of David I. Around 1633, it changed from its royal role to being used as military barracks until restoration projects began in the early 19th century. This castle has seen its share of historical conflicts with 26 sieges during its history. Because of this it is claimed the title of being the most besieged place in Great Britain.
Walking through the Greyfriars Kirkyard which was first established in 1562. The name Greyfriars comes as a nod to the Franciscan Friary that use to be on this site and the grey colored habits the friars wore. Most of Edinburgh most notable citizens have been buried here over the centuries and it is considered one of the most famous graveyards in the world. It was here too that J.K. Rowling took inspiration for character names for Harry Potter.
I love the buildings that line the street of the Royal Mile with all the incredible stone architecture and little side streets everywhere. There are places that you can see where the city built on top of itself creating levels and sublevels all in one spot. With fun shops and interesting tours all along this street there is plenty to fill days.
The Royal Mile is called such because it connects the Edinburgh Castle to the other castle of the Palace of Holyrood House. This has been the principal residence of royalty in Scotland since the 16th century. Along with being a residence for the royal family, Holyrood House is also used for state occasions and ceremonies. The historic apartments that were used by Mary Queen of Scots give a sad backdrop to the Scottish queen and her life. On one end of the palace there is now an exhibition space where items from the Royal Collection are presented to visitors. When I was there, the exhibit was the life of the late Queen Elizabeth II through pictures.
While I loved seeing Holyrood House, my favorite part of the visit was seeing the ruins of the Holyrood Abbey. The abbey was established in 1128 at the request of King David I after seeing a visionary cross of light while out hunting. The palace was built next to the abbey in the early 1500’s. The abbey has certainly seen better days, but it is so amazing how much of it remains intact as a beautiful tribute to this building that watched centuries of history unfold.
To really see all of this beautiful city I would need at least a few weeks. Though the time I had there was insufficient, I loved wandering through the streets of Old Town and along the Royal Mile admiring the stunning architecture and feeling overwhelmed by the history. This will always be one of my favorite cities that I have visited.