Photo by Waldo Miguez / Pixabay
At St Giles’ Cathedral, Edinburgh’s historic church and one of the architectural landmarks along its Royal Mile in Old Town, I see a groom and his friends in matching kilts, with the bride in traditional white.
Beside the cathedral is the Heart of Midlothian, a stone symbol set into the cobbles. It is not as romantic as it might sound; it marks the site of a former prison and spitting on the stones is said to ward off bad luck. Well, that is what the guides tell tourists, who enthusiastically let fly, I suspect to the bemusement of the Scots themselves.
On the other side of the cathedral is a lead statue of King Charles II, the oldest in Scotland. It was erected in 1685, the year of his death, and marks perhaps the last time Scotland and England fully agreed on a monarch. His son, King James VII of Scotland, was overthrown by the Dutch William of Orange, widening a schism between Protestants and Catholics that led directly to the Jacobite Risings (“Jacobus” is Latin for James).
The differences persist to this day; the red Scottish post boxes do not carry the same royal cypher as the rest of the “United” Kingdom. I ask David Withers what makes someone Scottish. “Having a deep love for your country,” he says, “It tugs on your heart to live in such a beautiful place that so many people pay so much to come see. I get it for free.”
At bottom of the Royal Mile, a slice of that beautiful country points right at the heart of Edinburgh. Holyrood Park is busy with joggers, dog walkers and visitors like myself admiring the view. I stop to pick blackberries, then climb high in the fresh Scottish air to enjoy one of the best city views in the world from the peak of Arthur’s Seat. Robert Louis Stevenson described it with a local writer’s passion: “No situation could be more commanding for the head of a kingdom; none better chosen for noble prospects”.
Down below is Holyrood Palace, seat of the British monarch when they visit Scotland. It is no coincidence that the startlingly modern new Scottish Parliament has been built directly opposite the historic royal residence.
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