If you grew up in the US you were raised to believe that Castles only exist in fairy tales. In the rugged lands of Scotland, however, they are more than just hearsay and lore. The Edinburgh Castle is an ever-present fixture and overseeing guardian of the Scottish Capital. The Castle, the fortified birthplace of the city, was built on a hillside over 1,300 years ago and there it still rests, stoically overlooking the grand capital.
After a thorough exploration of my first Castle, its grounds, armory and the Scottish Crown Jewels, I took to the streets of Edinburgh and ended up in the enchanting and peaceful Princess Street Gardens. This public park is located in the center of the city and full of well-tended gardens, fountains, and monuments. Most importantly, it is the BEST place to view the Edinburgh Castle. This is because from the gardens below you can get a full understanding of the Castle’s strength and authoritative presence over the city. As you gaze up at the watchful guardian along the rugged hills you understand that its perfect location is the reason for its 1300-year longevity.
A tour of the City of Edinburgh would not be complete without seeing Holyrood Palace, where the Queen resides when she visits Scotland, St. Giles Cathedral or Carlton Hill. Carlton Hill is one of my favorite places because it not only houses several interesting monuments it also provides you with a fantastic view of the city skyline, including a view of the Iconic Sir Walter Scott Monument.
If you go to Scotland you must attend a traditional Scottish Ceilidh! A Ceilidh (pronounced Kay Lee) is a Gaelic festival or party with traditional Scottish music, dancing, kilts, bagpipes and of course Haggis. At the end of the night’s festivities after hours of dancing and eating, they bring out the Haggis.
Haggis is ground up sheep’s intestines stuffed and boiled inside of a sheep’s stomach. YUM…… Yes, I tried the Haggis. It tasted just about as good as it sounds. Like most intercultural experiences, I am glad I did it. Everyone who goes to Scotland must try the Haggis at least once because it is so important to the Scottish tradition. In fact when they brought out the haggis, someone recited the famous Robert Burns’ poem “Address to a Haggis” and gave a toast to the dish. Afterward someone used a knife to cut open the stomach then preceded to squeeze out the Scottish delicacy for all to enjoy. I think Robert Burns said it best:
The trembling earth resounds his tread.
Clap in his walie nieve a blade,
He’ll make it whissle;
An’ legs, an’ arms, an’ heads will sned,
Like taps o’ thrissle. Ye Pow’rs wha mak mankind your care,
And dish them out their bill o ‘fare,
Auld Scotland wants nae skinking ware
That jaups in luggies;
But, if ye wish her gratefu’ prayer,
Gie her a Haggis!