FolkestoneJack's Tracks

Craigmillar to Calton Hill

Posted in Edinburgh, Scotland by folkestonejack on June 9, 2013

Another day, another castle! Today’s castle was at Craigmillar, in the south-eastern suburbs of Edinburgh. At one time the castle was a rural retreat, close enough to the city to be accessible but sufficiently set apart to offer Mary Queen of Scots some respite from bloody 16th century politics.

As the bus timetables suggested we had a bit of a wait, we decided to take a walk to the castle. Although we probably didn’t gain anything from this, it offered an interesting stroll out of the city centre and took about an hour. It made it all the more apparent that the castle sits amidst a sea of urban clutter, though the final section of the walk takes you into Craigmillar Country Park which goes some way towards preserving the illusion of the castle as a rural retreat.

The castle itself is a fascinating and handsome sight, having progressed from the earliest phases of construction in the 14th century to become a more complex residence in the 16th century, before finally being reduced to a romantic ruin by the late 18th century. After taking a good look round we opted to take the bus (from the nearby Royal Infirmary at Little France) back into town.

St Andrew's House and Calton Hill

St Andrew’s House and Calton Hill

The afternoon saw us take a somewhat haphazard walk around Edinburgh, incorporating the Royal Mile and the annual exhibition at the Royal Scottish Academy (including a rather remarkable sculpture of a cheetah made from hundreds of wire coat hangers, entitled Spike). Finally, we made it to Calton Hill, which has to be one of my favourite spots in Edinburgh along with the nearby volcanic peak of Arthur’s Seat.

Calton Hill was one of the first public parks in the country. The philosopher David Hume was influential in persuading the council to build a walk ‘for the health and amusement of the inhabitants’ which you can still take today. The eclectic mix of buildings at the top is part of its appeal to me – including the National Monument of Scotland (modelled on the Parthenon), the Nelson Monument and the Dugald Stewart Monument (modelled on the Choragic Monument of Lysicrates).

The Dugald Stewart Monument on Calton Hill

The Dugald Stewart Monument on Calton Hill

The sights of Calton Hill looked as magnificent as ever in the afternoon sun, though that didn’t stop me coming back at sunset (around 10pm) to join a string of photographers trying to grab that perfect shot of the city as the light died. It was never going to be a particularly original shot, but it was fun all the same!


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