In the Edinburgh area, there are so many castles and palaces that are on the “must-see” list that it would take a solid week to see them all. Over the past month, we’ve visited Edinburgh Castle, Holyrood Palace, Linlithgow Castle and Rosslyn Chapel, and have passed up visiting the others. I’ve already mentioned Edinburgh Castle, and the most memorable aspect of Holyrood is that the Queen still stays there periodically. Of the interior, I only remember that we passed a beautiful figured granite table. The ruins are impressive, and the archaeological remains of Holyrood Abbey are clearly marked in the sod behind the ruins of a later abbey. The sequence of Palace, ruined abbey and archaeological remain of the older abbey are visually impressive.
All of Holyrood Park extends beyond the castle as far as Arthur’s Seat, a beautiful setting.
We managed to stay out of the rain during our visit.
The chevrons on the archway below show that it dates to Norman times, possibly around 1128 when the Augustinian Holyrood Abbey was founded.
Next up in our castle itinerary was Linlithgow. It’s not far from Edinburgh, most easily accessible by train. Crossing the village to the castle is only a short walk and it is a postcard-pretty place.
The village and the ruined castle are full of interesting details like the elaborate well in the photo above.
We enjoyed the ruins more than we would probably have enjoyed another set of furnished rooms. Plus, it seems that you’re never allowed to photograph restored interiors. There is a spacious park and a small loch by Linlithgow. The walk around the park is about 5 miles, and would be perfect on a warm day. We were dodging showers of rain and contented ourselves with a short walk along the loch and tea in the town.
There is a bit of controversy in Linlithgow. The church was first constructed in 1242, and after many changes, the crown spire (similar to that on St. Giles in Edinburgh) was dismantled for fear of its collapse. The spire was replaced in 1964 with a contemporary aluminum steeple that some say is out of character with the village and castle.
We didn’t make it to Stirling Castle. As they say, “So many castles, so little time.”
I did make the trip out to Rosslyn Chapel, partly in homage to the DaVinci Code by Dan Brown, and partly to see the chapel’s rightly famous detailed stonework.
Once again, the restored interior cannot be photographed and the postcards don’t do it justice. The carving is really, really intricate, beyond all reason or prudence, which is what makes it so much fun to look at. There are lots of “Green Man” carvings peeking out from under a leaf or chewing on a stem, alongside pillars carved with twisting designs or detailed flowers. Carved projections line the stone ribs of the chapel ceiling. It’s a fantasy, with no surviving plans. Built by William Sinclair, 1st Earl of Caithness, the meticulous stonework required 40 years of work, and the overall project ended at the death of the Earl. His intention had been to complete a much larger church. We can enjoy what he was able to accomplish.
Restoration of the chapel from a ruin took place a couple of times during the 1900s, most recently in 1995. The movie of the DaVinci Code may have saved the chapel from long term ruin by increasing the number of visitors. Now thoroughly restored, the chapel is in good condition for now. It’s difficult to predict what will happen over centuries.
The trip to Rosslyn Chapel highlighted the good and bad of a weekly/monthly bus pass. Yes, travel to Rosslyn was included on my bus pass. No, it wasn’t rapid, taking almost an hour, well, maybe a bit more than an hour each way. The village of Roslin is only 6 miles south of central Edinburgh. Buses are reliable, but not fast.