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Kings of the Castle (of Edinburgh)

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"I can not be a traitor, for I owe him no allegiance. He is not my Sovereign; he never received my homage; and whilst life is in this persecuted body, he never shall receive it." - Spoken by William Wallace at his execution

Foodie moment

A traditional British Pub meal at the lucky Maggie Dicksons pub. Beef and Ale Pie and 'Bangers and Mash'. Good comfort food!


Cultural moment

It was time to visit the much awaited 'Edinburgh Dungeon', which I had given as a voucher to Mark for Christmas. It was a fantastic hour or so of interactive performances covering gory Scottish history such as torturers, the hunt for the cannibalistic family of Sawney Bean, Burke and Hare (the serial killers who murdered to sell bodies to medical schools), Mary King's Ghost (a girl accused of having the plague and locked in her house to die a long slow death of starvation), Maggie Dickson and of course the execution of William Wallace. There was also a ride called 'The long drop' where we 'hung' for our crimes! Overall a lot of laughs, pretty damn scary and we learnt a bit along the way! Even funnier was the Asian gentleman who was in our group, who didn't speak much English, and I don't think had any idea what type of 'museum' the Dungeon was! Things were being squirted at him and touching him, actors getting in his face and he was just freaking out with no idea at all of what was going on and why! I'd love to know the story he told about it when he got home!! (Sorry no photos allowed inside)


Wow moment


First stop today was to visit the famous Edinburgh Castle, sitting atop an extinct volcano, now called Castle Rock, overlooking the Old town. On the way in you walk through the grandstands set up for the Royal Military Tattoo performances each night, unfortunately they were completely booked up for the time we were there, but they looked like it would have been pretty spectacular. The castle itself is exactly as a castle should be; turreted towers, dungeons, cannons, big dining halls and spectacular views from all directions. It is filled with stories having been involved in many battles and important moments in history. No real surprise that it is the most visited paid tourist attraction in Scotland, with 1.3 million visitors a year!


What we learnt today

The Edinburgh castle is home to two of Scotland's most precious items, the Honours of Scotland and the Destiny Stone (no photos allowed sorry). The Honours of Scotland are the Scottish crown jewels and were used in the coronation of Scottish Kings and Queens. They are lucky to still be in one piece as when Thomas Cromwell was in power, he ordered all royal regalia to be broken or melted down. The Honours were hidden in Dunnottar Castle, and then later smuggled out of the castle past the English Army when Cromwell came to Scotland to claim them. Once Scotland officially became part of Great Britian, the honors had no sybolic role to play and they were buried in a chest in Edinburgh castle, and basically forgotten about. Years later a group including Sir Walter Scott set out to find their hiding place and after finding all pieces safe and sound, they were put on display.


The Stone of Scone or Destiny Stone is another important part of the coronation of Kings and Queens. It is an large oblong block of red sandstone, and has many stories and legends linking to its age and how it came to be symbolic, some linking back to biblical times. Although it was Scottish tradition to use the Destiny Stone in coronations, later the English added the tradition to their ceremonies, consequently moving the stone down to Westminster Abbey. After many attempts to get it back to Scotland (both legally and illegally!) the English finally agreed that the Stone could be kept at Edinburgh castle and transported down to Westminster when needed. It was last used in the coronation of Queen Elizabeth.


A point missed from yesterday's blog: On our tour we visited a cemetery in Edinburgh,and here our guide explained what a Mortsafe is. Basically, during the Victorian era there was a big problem with Grave Robbers, people who snuck into cemeteries late at night to dig up fresh bodies. They would then steal any valuables from the body then sell the corpse to medical colleges for them to use for training. To avoid this atrocity happening to their family, relatives of the deceased would take turns to sit up near the freshly buried family member until enough time had passed that they were decomposed enough to be of no value to grave robbers. This is where the phrase "Doing the Graveyard Shift" came from. To prevent family members having to do this, the Mortsafe was invented. It is a metal cage built over a section of the cemetery, which could be locked shut. Family members could pay for temporary or permanent use. If you could only afford temporary use, the body would stay buried under the cage until it had decomposed, then it was dug up and reburied in an open plot. If you were wealthy enough you could pay for a permanent Mortsafe, and not be re-dug up, or the even wealthier had a family mausoleum.


Whilst at the cemetery we also learnt that JK Rowling did a lot of her writing of Harry Potter in cafes nearby, and got much of her inspiration from the names of gravestones and the neighbouring school for orphan boys. We found a McGonagal grave as well as the very popular Thomas Riddell - He who shall not be named!!


Posted by travellinglise 06:45 Archived in Scotland

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