Tuesday, December 22, 2015 Road Junkies 0 Comments

GAELIC GETAWAY, Chapter 19:  
Day 22:  Edinburgh
Thankfully the property manager for the apartment we had booked was kindly sympathetic to our noisy plight and authorized our early departure without penalty.  After dropping off our bags at the Doubletree, we set off to explore.  Having visited the Edinburgh Castle in 2011, we bypassed it today and made our way down the Royal Mile, which leads from the castle to the Palace of Holyroodhouse.

Near the top of the street, we wandered into the Highland Tolbooth Kirk, now renamed The Hub.  Designed in the neo-Gothic style, it was constructed of dark-colored sandstone between 1842 and 1845. At some 240 feet, its spire is the tallest point in Edinburgh. Though it looks like a church, it was built by the Church of Scotland as a meeting place for its General Assembly.  
Gothic spire of The Hub
After that group moved to a new assembly hall in the 20th century, the building was repurposed as a public arts and events building.  Headquarters of the Edinburgh International Festival, it houses a ticket office, restaurant, information center, and performance venue.

Further down High Street, we visited the gothic cathedral of St. Giles of the Church of Scotland.  For the better part of a thousand years St Giles' has been at the physical and spiritual heart of Scotland's capital city, and many key moments in history have been played out in or around it.  The origins of the building date back to 1130, when a parish church was built on the spot to serve the city of Edinburgh.  Over the centuries,  St Giles grew organically—an aisle appended here, a chapel there, gradually expanding to its current configuration. 
St Giles Cathedral
In the mid-16th century, St Giles was led by John Knox, whose fiery sermon in 1559 sparked the beginning of the Protestant Reformation in Scotland.  His statue stands prominently in the church nave.
John Knox
The Preston Aisle was added to the southern side of the quire in the middle of the 15th century.  The feature was a tribute to William Preston of Gorton, who obtained the arm bone of St Giles from the king of France and brought it to the church.  The aisle leads to the Thistle Chapel, and displays banners of the Knights of the Order of the Thistle.
Preston Aisle
The ceiling of the nave is a ribbed vault, like that of the Preston Aisle.  The addition of color gives it a completely different look.

Blue-ceilinged nave

Like most medieval cathedrals, St. Giles houses the remains of some of its most generous patrons.  One of the more interesting characters interred there is James Graham, the first marquess of Montrose (1612-1650).  Though he lived a short life, Graham had a number of ups and downs.  
A Scottish nobleman and poet, he signed up with the military at an early age.  Choosing the wrong side in the English Civil War, he was subsequently tried for treason by the Scottish Parliament and sentenced to hanging followed by beheading and quartering.  After the Stuart monarchy was restored, Graham's reputation was transformed from traitor to martyr and hero.     
Tomb of James Graham
We continued meandering through Old Town, stopping at a shop or two, until the cold finally drove us into Mrs. McIntyre's Coffee House, a delightful wee cafe with a friendly staff and a good menu.  Most importantly for us at that moment, was the hot tea, but a shared lemon cake was tasty as well.
A spot of tea hit the spot
After warming up a bit, we continued down the Royal Mile and decided to check out the People's Story Museum, located in the old Canongate Tollbooth built in 1591.  Exhibits explore the lives of Edinburgh's ordinary people at work and at rest in the 19th and early 20th centuries.  

People's Story Museum
From there, it was a short walk to Canongate Kirkyard cemetery, where we had planted a letterbox in 2011.  We found it safe and sound where we had left it and decided we were ready to return to the Doubletree.  To give our feet a break, we caught a taxi back to the hotel, where we rested before having dinner in the hotel restaurant.
Found this letterbox without a clue.  Well, we were the ones who put it there.
Scottish lesson of the day:  We visited two interesting facilites today, one housed in a former tolbooth and the other in a building formerly used as a tollbooth.  At first, we thought we had made a spelling error but learned that in Scotland these two are quite different.  
A tolbooth, or town house, was the main municipal building of a Scottish burgh, from medieval times until the 19th century.  The Hub event center is in a former tolbooth.  A tollbooth, like the one where the People's Museum is housed, is an enclosure placed along a toll road that is used for the purpose of collecting a toll from passing traffic—the definition we were more familiar with.  (Class dismissed.)
Daily Stats
  • Started and ended in Edinburgh
  • Mileage:  3.6 by foot          
  • Weather: 45° to 55°, cloudy, rain  space  

Ken climbs the Castle Wynde steps leading from the Grassmarket to the top of Castle Hill.

Edinburgh Castle from below