Monday, 11 July 2016

Palace, Parliament, and Peak

Today we explored the Palace of Holyroodhouse, the Scottish Parliament across the street, and Arthur's Seat a little to the south.

Holyrood is one of the Queen's official residences -- owned by the Crown, as opposed to Balmoral Castle, which is owned by the Queen. We couldn't go last week, since she makes an official visit to Scotland in early July each year, for official functions such as opening the Scottish Parliament, and the place is closed to the public then.  The palace dates back to 1501 and the reign of James IV of Scotland; he built it adjacent to the older (12th century) Holyrood Abbey. Like most historical sites in the UK, it (a) has a lot of history and (b) has been extended and renovated many times.

Here is the obligatory I-was-there photo in the forecourt in front of a waterless fountain.
That's the palace in the background -- or most of it.  The two towers on either side illustrate the bit about renovations. The tower on the left:
 has distinctly older stonework than the one on the right:
Inside is a courtyard surrounded by a 3-storey set of buildings with a different type of Greek column on each level:
The simplest, on the ground floor, are Doric. The first floor is Ionic, and the second Corinthian.

We weren't allowed to take pictures inside, but the place is beautiful.  The first dozen rooms on the tour are in active use when the Queen is in residence. It includes a massive hall lined with portraits of former Scottish monarchs, both historical and legendary (such as King Fergus supposedly around 330 BC). The last few on the tour are set up a they would have been in the time of Mary, Queen of Scots.

After the tour, we briefly looked at the ruins of the old abbey:
Then we went across the street to the Scottish Parliament. We had to go through serious security to get in -- metal detector for us, X-ray for our stuff.  We mainly wanted to see the Debating Chamber:
A very pleasant security guard told us about how the consoles for MPs worked; they have ID cards that let them sit anywhere and vote yea, nay, or abstain, for example.  Apparently so far the debates have been a lot more civil than the ones we see in the British and Canadian parliaments.

We then headed a bit south to climb to Arthur's Seat, the highest point of a volcanic extrusion right in the middle of Edinburgh.  This is the view of the Salisbury Crags from the Scottish Parliament; Arthur's Seat is sort of hidden behind it from this angle.
Here is a map of the whole area.
I got a long way up it -- much farther than I thought I could -- but gave out when I got close to the steepest and most vertigo-inducing section at the end.  Margaret went on and finished the climb, while I rested then made my way back down. Here's the view of the peak from where I stopped.
Tomorrow and Wednesday will be much less strenuous.

Edit: here is Margaret's blog about the same day.