Scotland‘s capital Edinburgh – or Dùn Èideann, as it is called in Scottish Gaelic – is one of the most mystical cities I know. When walking down narrow alleyways winding themselves around the hills, you can easily imagine where J.K. Rowling came up with Hogwarts’ and Hogsmeade’s designs. During the summer months, you can find a Quidditch Stadium right in front of Edinburgh Castle; one Tom Marvolo Riddle is buried in the cemetery.
In one form or another, the settlements surrounding Castle Rock have existed for thousands of years. The first fort may have been built during the Iron Age. About 2000 years ago, it came to be the official center of the Gododdin kingdom, the first royal family to have resided there. Only during the Middle Ages did it become the royal burgh of the Scots. Subsequently, it was described as the Scottish capital, and as such, it was the site for many revolts. Of course, it was also at the core of conflicts and wars with England. During the Wars of Independence, it suffered many attacks and it changed hands several times.
The two kingdoms merged somewhat through the Union of the Crowns in 1603, when King James VI of Scotland also succeeded to the English throne as Kind James I. He replaced Elizabeth I, who was the last Tudor monarch and Queen of England and Ireland. Young James, only 13 months old, was the first to rule over these three kingdoms. As king of Great Britain, with one head of state and several parliaments, he was no longer interested in Edinburgh. He based his court in England and only returned to Scotland once.
But even after the Treaty of Union in 1706, the conflicts between the two peoples did not come to their end. They were just of a different nature: religion. While Scotland remained fiercely Catholic, most of England was Protestant under Elizabeth I’s reign.
Supposedly, Edinburgh was one of Europe’s most unsanitary towns, long after the Middle Ages. If you go on one of the free walking tours offered in the historic center, you will undoubtedly hear about Gardez l’Eau – the official warning shout before someone dumped their chamber pot onto the narrow streets and the people who were not quick enough to evade them.
The town was very densely populated; some would say overcrowded. Due to the dark brick and smoke residue, which can still be perceived today, it looked even more dilapidated.
In an effort to restore Edinburgh as a cultural center, improvements were carried out in imitation of London. It became an intellectual center during the 18th century, as writers and thinkers like Tobias Smollet or Adam Smith resided there. Consequently – and for its neo-classical buildings – the town was nicknamed Athens of the North.
The most famous street in Edinburgh is the Royal Mile. It is usually crowded with tourists and buskers playing the bagpipes.
For this reason, we made our way down to the ocean and came across several cute buildings as well as Hollyrood Palace, the Queen’s official residence in Scotland. Side note: Did you know the Scottish coat of arms bears a unicorn? They wanted an animal that was stronger than the English lion. A symbol of their resistance.