Sunday, January 31, 2010

Saturday Edinburgh Walkabout - with pictures

We live in the crater of  a volcano.  Really.

Supposedly it is an extinct volcano but are volcanoes ever really extinct?

Thomas Jefferson said that Edinburgh is a city “that no place in the world can pretend to equal.”  On the southern shore of  the Firth of Forth where the estuary  meets the North Sea, Edinburgh sits on seven hills.

Castle rock is actually a volcanic plug at a such  height that you can use it to get your bearings almost anywhere you are in the city.

 Only 500,000 people live here but there are many more than that here all the time - university students, world financial leaders, members of the Scottish parliament, and tourists.  Oh, and people like us who wish the British government would let us live here full-time but must pass through as occasional ex.-pats when we can work it out. The crowds,  the accomplishments, the historical significance, the cultural maelstrom - books, comedy, plays, music, lectures - belie Edinburgh’s relatively small size.  It  is a place like no other on earth and its influence can be felt around the world. 

And fortunately not because the volcano is erupting.

 As I walked around the city with David  on Saturday afternoon I kept having a “pinch me, I really live here” experience again and again.

It started as we walked out our front door.  I looked down the street to the left.
And then as we turned right, crossed London Road and started up Calton Hill, I could see Arthur’s Seat, the largest remaing part of the volcano - right there.
Arthur’s Seat and Calton Hill are two of the seven hills in the city.  All are remnants of the volcano.

As we walked up the Hill past the beautiful Georgian Houses that line the streets of Calton Terrace and London Road Gardens,
I couldn’t help thinking how strange it was that I was climbing one part of what must have been a HUMONGOUSLY BIG volcano and looking over at another part.  When the top  blew off this one it must have been massive - a sort of Mt St Helens or Vesuvius on steroids. Fortunately, the last eruption was 325 million years ago.

But geologists can trace the development of  rock formations all around the city and pinpoint specific marks where the cone erupted.  Often, when you look down at where you are walking  it is obvious that it is volcanic rock beneath your feet.   Hardened lava.
From the top of Calton Hill looking over at Arthur’s Seat 823 feet in the air, you can see great distances in all directions.

Holyroodhouse - Queen of Scotland's official residence
Our Dynamic Earth

The new Scottish Parliament Building
Easter Rd Stadium - about 3 blocks from our flat - Go Hibs!

And just below you can see the beautiful streets of the city.
Looking down Princes Street

On top of the Hill there is an unfinished replica of the Parthenon called the Monument.  Begun during Edinburgh’s Age of Enlightenment construction was halted due to lack of funds.
There was a cute Scotsman standing there

Also, up on the Hill are the original Scottish Observatory, a monument to Lord Nelson and the city’s first park.

It is a steep climb but well worth the aching calves that result.

We walked up the side nearest our flat and then down on the other side ending on Princes Street.
 The Scottish National Archives with Wellington on Horseback standing guard
A few blocks further on we crossed the North Bridge to the center of the Royal Mile, Edinburgh’s most famous street.
 North Bridge
The street was crowded with tourists even on a bitterly cold Saturday afternoon as we walked down the mile to the tea shop.

No seats and a long wait - so we turned and walked back up the Mile, passing pub after pub with barely room for standing and eventually found a seat in Deacon Brodies, one of the oldest pubs in town.
It's always 5 o'clock in an Edinburgh pub!

After we had thawed out a bit over a pint, we walked around the corner and up the stairs for a light supper.  Bundled up again we decided to make the walk back across town to our flat rather than stand in the biting wind and wait for the bus.  We walked back across the bridge as darkness fell.

The amazing full moon was so low and large in the sky that it looked like you could reach out and touch it.

And it seemed to follow us home reappearing around every corner.

Our teeth were chattering so we stopped about half-way to warm up a bit in the Theatre Bar and while I watched all the people who had popped in for a drink before the evening performance David  has a swift pint.

Bundled up again we walked the remaining blocks down London Road in the moonlight under the Shadow of Calton Hill where just hours before we had stood looking down.


  1. Some say, when you walk up the Royal Mile, between Holyrood and the Castle, you are walking on the back of a sleeping dragon.