Edinburgh Rock

Edinburgh is not a city to understand in a flying visit, especially in high season when it is absolutely brimming with tourists and all manner of tartan-clad entertainers and souvenir vendors intent on pocketing their share of dollars, euros or yen as quickly and with as little effort as possible. Again, I have to admit to a woeful ignorance of a place which is, after all, beloved of so many but after fighting our way up through the crowded streets to the castle drawbridge I was treated to a small glimpse of what it really means to be Scottish.

Zoltan and I were met on the steps of the castle by one of the senior custodians who had been alerted to my visit. Promised a visit to the Hungarian Princess’s chapel later in the afternoon, my young companion went off with Molly to take some photographs of the city while I was shown up to the treasury to be re-united with an old friend. The Stone of Destiny, coronation seat of the ancient Kings of Scotland, was an all important symbol of monarchy until its appropriation (some would say theft) by Edward I of England in 1296. To say that bad feeling ensued would be something of an understatement; indeed, many of the picturesque castles of the border regions attest to the subsequent hostilities.

I have already related how, in 1996, I was the in charge of the London end of the operation to remove the stone from Westminster Abbey and bring it home. It may look like a plain old lump of rock to me but it was clear that the stone is an object of great significance to the Scots. The staff who so kindly set aside time from their busy schedule to meet me today were delighted to share their reminiscences and point out how important my modest contribution was to them. They even laughed when I told them how other, more senior, police officers with more Scottish sounding names had telephoned my boss to try and get themselves put in charge of the operation instead. In the event, it remained my own little footnote to history and  probably made my Scottish ancestors proud.

The castle was horribly crowded and I was advised that if I wanted to do the regular tour it would be better to come back in the afternoon so, with considerable efficiency, it was on to the next type of rock. {Actually, since they were trying out the sound system on an enormous temporary amphitheatre in front of the castle we got more than an earful of “rock” as well}. I collected Molly from Zoltan and headed down to the Grassmarket in search of Matt Woods’ famous fossil shop. He kindly went down into the basement through a trap door to get out his collection of Scottish agates and, while he must have met plenty of people as enthusiastic about mineral specimens as I am, not so many who actually talk to the rocks. It made a lovely, cool interlude on a hot and hectic day and was made even nicer when, after a few purchases, Matt agreed to take care of Molly while I went back up the hill to do my touristic duty.

So well organised were we that Zoltan was waiting for me at the top and, although we had complementary tickets to see the castle, we contributed to its upkeep by making a few purchases in the shop (yes, magnets and tartan scarves I’m afraid). I don’t remember a lot of the tour but the views were spectacular and followed by a walk along Prince’s Street to see Scott’s monument. I’ve been reviewing the photographs this evening while Zoltan has been out sampling the nightlife and some are not bad at all. Without a doubt his city shots are much better than mine but then maybe I had too many other things on my mind.

I suspect we will give up on Sterling Castle tomorrow and head off straight to the Highlands, it’s just too dashed busy down here and it will be the weekend as well.


Categories: Britain, Scotland

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