I have been away from home for a week today, and am just starting to settle into myself, starting to notice the luxury of time.
My journey began in Ireland (Ireland, IRL!) in the companionship of my daughter Clare, son Marc and his friend Chelsea. Ireland is magic, green, extroverted, ancient, and four days in Galway was just right. Clare and I have come now to Edinburgh for two nights, and “vacation” is slipping away along with my companions. Pilgrimage is starting.
I have been in Edinburgh just once before. My frustration with that trip was that I bungled a trip to Edinburgh Castle, missing out on the Honours, or Crown Jewels of Scotland. This was a mistake I did not intend to make this time.
The heavy-walled castle is entered slowly, up a hill, through gates and a portcullis. It sits on the top of a rock which, on a non-foggy day, allows a 360-degree view for miles around. It was the home of Mary, Queen of Scots and birthplace of her sweet baby James, (King James of the eponymous Bible.) It is also the site of the oldest building in Edinburgh, the exceedingly sweet Queen Margaret’s Chapel.
Having bought my ticket ahead of time, I got to the gate as it opened (along with several hundred others. The weather, which can’t be described without profanity, does not deter over 7000 visitors per day.) I walked with purpose up the hill and around the corner and away from the crowd, and bee-lined it for the Honours exhibit.
Oh, my friends. There’s such a strange and poignant juju to Scottish royal history. It’s the stuff of tears and whiskey, legend and song. (Seriously, now. Those damned British!) The exhibit I had come to see was your typical winding rabbit warren with painted walls and costumed statues telling the story of the Honours (which you can look up for yourself.) It was cool, of course, but the most amazing thing was that I was completely alone. Alone in Edinburgh Castle.
My walk through the hallways was quiet and reverent, and by the time I got to the chamber at the end where the treasures themselves were, I didn’t even care about taking pictures. (Plus which: there were docents watching.) The lore of the pieces is a wonderful story: the making, surrendering, burying, the rediscovering.
But one more thing: even more evocative than the jewels and gold was a rock: The Stone of Destiny. You can look that up, too. I wish I could have taken a picture of this one.
Though I have more Irish in me than Scots, I’m feeling all nostalgic right now. I am remembering Connie Dover’s wonderful song On Castle Rock.
Also: here is my (nearly solitary) view as I arrived at the exhibit. That’s the Scottish National War Memorial first, then St. Margaret’s Chapel.