David's Monkish Meanderings 2010 travel blog

Mary King

John Knox in St Giles Cathedral

Edinburgh Castle

Wedding at St Margaret's Chapel on St Margaret's Day

Queen Margaret

Braveheart (William Wallace)

St Andrew

St Columba

Holyrood Royal Castle

Elizabethan defences at Berwick-upon-Tweed


On leaving Holy Island I took a quick day trip up to Edinburgh - less than an hour on the train. People often say that Dunedin is the Edinburgh of the south, and I can see why. There is an uncanny similarity of feel and landscapes that struck me, despite the obvious differences in size and history.

I started my day with the slums of the urban poor and ended with a royal visit. A couple of people had recommended the "Real Mary King's Close" tour, which takes you underneath the present buildings to the cramped "closes" which were built over and left as they were. The tour guide tells stories of the people, the conditions, the plagues, ghosts etc. It was quite good, but a little gimmicky in parts. I did come out feeling very grateful to live in New Zealand in the modern era.

I had a quick look in St Giles Cathedral, where John Knox - the father of the Scottish Reformation, and Presbyterianism - preached for many years. Then up to Edinburgh Castle, which is more than just one castle building (as I had assumed). It was impressive. I liked the oldest surviving building: St Margaret's Chapel. Margaret (1045-1093) was a member of a royal Anglo-Saxon family and married a Scottish king, Malcolm III. She was made a saint because of the way she lived out her faith, including her work for the poor and for orphans. The day I was there was St Margaret's day in the church calendar (I realised later). Initially the chapel was closed because a wedding was happening there. Perhaps the bride's name was Margaret??

Then it was a walk to the other end of the "Royal Mile" to the Royal Castle: Holyrood. The Queen uses it for special occasions. It was great to wander through, starting in the dining room and ending in the rooms which were inhabited by Mary Queen of Scots, who was married at Holyrood to Lord Darnley. The afore-mentioned John Knox preached against the Catholic Mary, "condemning her for hearing Mass, dancing, dressing too elaborately, and many other real and imagined offences" (Wikipedia). Lord Darnley was jealous of Mary's friendship with her private secretary David Rizzio, and conspired in his murder - a sign marks the spot where he was said to have been stabbed to death. Darnley in turn was murdered at the castle, and Mary, as we know, eventually lost her head when the Protestant Elizabeth I, her second cousin, finally signed her death warrant. I wonder what Elizabeth II thinks about all of this as she wanders around the castle?

Mentioning Elizabeth I brings me to the end of the day when I returned to Berwick-upon-Tweed. I walked along some of the huge earth ramparts that Elizabeth had built there, as a defence against the pesky Scots from the north. Apparently she spent more on these defences than she did on the Spanish Amarda. The town was at various times part of Scottish territory, and, as my taxi driver told me, Berwick Rangers are still the only English football team to play exclusively in the Scottish league. He said he wanted to fly an English flag on his taxi, as he did during the last world cup, but Scottish passengers have been known to refuse to get into a taxi with an English flag on it!

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