Saturday, 1 June 2013


Today we went to see Gilmerton Cove where in the past was created one of Edinburgh's most intriguing and enigmatic sites and best kept secret. Gilmerton Cove is a series of chambers and passageways hewn from the bedrock sandstone that lie hidden beneath the streets of Gilmerton on the Southside of the City. An archaeological mystery that has baffled investigators for over 300 years with secret chambers and passageways - seven different rooms with rock hewn furniture tables and chairs. After extensive historical and archaeological research investigators it is still not know the exact origins of this site. The Cove has features such as a well, a fireplace, a blacksmiths forge and two back filled tunnels just waiting to be explored - theories abound as to its origins and uses. Secret Drinking Den? Covenanters Refuge? Witches Coven? Secret Meeting Place? Hellfire Club? Knights Templar? 300 or 2000 years old?

A large bowl was carved out of this table with a rim around it - for what we wonder?

We then went to Craigmillar Castle one of Scotland’s most perfectly preserved castles. The castle was so completely undamaged and in such amazing condition it left us in total awe. It began as a simple tower-house residence. Gradually, over time, it developed into a complex of structures and spaces, as subsequent owners attempted to improve its comfort and amenity. As a result, there are many nooks and crannies to explore. Of equal importance were the surrounding gardens and parkland, and the present-day Craigmillar Castle Park has fascinating reminders of the castle’s days as a rural retreat on the edge of Scotland’s capital city. At the core lies the original, late-14th-century tower house, among the first of this new form of castle built in Scotland. It stands 17m high to the battlements, has walls almost 3m thick, and holds a warren of rooms, including a fine great hall on the first floor, and the so-called ‘Queen Mary’s Room’ beside it, where Mary is said to have slept when staying there as a guest of the Prestons. In all probability, Mary resided in a multi-roomed apartment elsewhere in the courtyard, probably in the east range. Also here is a labyrinth of dark spaces, including a grim basement prison where an upright skeleton was found walled up in the early 19th century. The west range was rebuilt as the Gilmour family’s residence after 1660. Beyond the well-preserved 15th-century courtyard wall, complete with gunholes shaped like inverted keyholes, are other buildings including a private family chapel. The views from the tower over the city of Edinburgh, including Holyrood Park and Edinburgh Castle where wonderful on such a lovely day. 

We then walked to the Palace of Holyroodhouse along the Royal Mile.

West Parliment Square

Sir Walter Scott Statue

All the little lanes running off the Royal Mile are named by the stores they use to  service this one the Fishmarket.

Looking down Fishmarket Lane

All the pubs seem to have something over the doorway representing their name this one went further with their own clock.
At the Palace of Holyroodhouse the Queen is in residence during Holyrood week, which usually takes place from the end of June to the beginning of July. Then the Scottish variant of the Royal Standard of the United Kingdom is flown, and the Royal Company of Archers forms Her Majesty's ceremonial bodyguard. The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh entertain around 8,000 guests from all walks of Scottish life during Holyrood week. Her Majesty holds Investitures in the Great Gallery, audiences in the Morning Drawing Room and a Garden Party. The Queen received His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI at Holyroodhouse during The Pope’s official visit to the UK in September 2010. The gift presented by His Holiness to Her Majesty, a facsimile of the Lorsch Gospels, is on display at the Palace. Prince Charles resides at Holyroodhouse for one week a year, carrying out official duties as The Duke of Rothesay. The Royal Family stayed at Holyroodhouse at the time of the wedding of Zara Phillips, The Queen’s granddaughter, to Mike Tindall in Canongate Kirk on 30 July 2011. 

The origins of the Palace of Holyroodhouse lie in the foundation of an Augustinian abbey in 1128 by David I (r.1124-53). This simple first church proved too small for the requirements of the community. From c.1195 to c.1230, extensive monastic buildings were added, including cloisters, a chapter house, a refectory and guest houses. The enlarged foundation prospered, and from an early date contained royal chambers for use by the sovereign. One of the most famous residents of the Palace of Holyroodhouse is undoubtedly Mary, Queen of Scots (r.1542-67). The daughter of James V, Mary came to live at Holyroodhouse in 1561. She married both of her Scottish husbands at the Palace: Henry Stewart, Lord Darnley, in 1565 in the chapel, and James Hepburn, 4th Earl of Bothwell, in 1567 in the Great Hall. It was in her own apartments that she witnessed the brutal murder of David Rizzio, her secretary, at the hands of a group led by the jealous Lord Darnley, on 9 March 1566. 

Unfortunately photos are not permitted within the Palace building itself.

Statue in forecourt

Entrance to the Palace

Crest of Arms

Holyroodhouse Abbey

The 4-hectare Palace gardens are encircled by the Queen’s park and set against the spectacular backdrop of Arthur’s Seat. The first gardens associated with the site were granted in Holyrood Abbey’s foundation charter and belonged to the community of canons. They were established at the foot of Edinburgh Castle, where Princes Street Gardens are today. Over time several more gardens and orchards were created around the Abbey. Holyrood Abbey offered the right of sanctuary for those who could not pay their debts. The debtors, known as ‘Abbey lairds’, found shelter from their creditors within the Abbey boundaries, which included Holyrood Park. As the debtors were only allowed to leave the sanctuary on Sundays, tradesmen saw the opportunity to set up business in the vicinity. Several of them occupied buildings that still survive today in the Abbey Strand.

Looking back at the Abbey

After visiting the Palace we walked up to Arthurs Seat to see the views over the city which were magnificent.

Edinburgh Castle on top of the hill

Palace of Holyroodhouse

Arthur's Seat

Walking back along the Royal Mile

The famous Pommy Red Telephone Boxes

The Royal Mile

No comments: