First stop: Edinburgh Castle. Easily the most recognizable feature of the city, mostly because it was built upon Castle Rock, a giant volcanic heap of... well, rock. There has been a royal fortress here since the 12th century -- it's home to the Honours of Scotland (Scotland's crown jewels) and has hosted many members of royalty (and many fierce battles... though not recently). Always a bit weird to stand by a giant fireplace and realize there's a good chance that Mary, Queen of Scots stood in that exact same spot warming her rebellious little fingers over the fire...
Here's a fun view from up inside the castle -- the bleachers were being prepared for The Military Tattoo which runs six nights a week for the whole month of August. It's basically a giant outdoor show with all types of music and dancing and fireworks and such -- we were too late to get tickets! It sells out in a flash every year. We did, however, go down to see the fireworks a couple times per week... we could set our clock by them.
Arthur's Seat and Salisbury Crags sat smack dab in the middle of the city -- giant peaks of volcanic rock with man-made paths ribboning all over their surfaces. When we arrived the yellow gorse was just blooming (as seen in the photo), making the whole area smell like coconut... weirdly pleasant. During this week we took our first of many hikes up and around the crags -- it only takes about 45 minutes of decent walking to get to the top of Arthur's Seat. The area as a whole is known as Holyrood Park, taking its name from the Queen's royal residence located just at the base of the crags -- the palace of Holyroodhouse. If you look just above the centre of the photo, and a wee bit to the left, you'll see a boxy square building with a cathedral chunk sticking off the end -- the Queen's hangout when she's in town. I think she was there once or twice over the summer, and I know that Prince Charles was certainly in residence for awhile as well. I used to run past the palace on one of my running routes and had this weird scenario play out in my head where I'd happen to run into the Queen and she'd invite me in for tea and I'd say "Sorry Lizzie, I'm a bit of a sweaty mess and I wouldn't want to ruin your nice furniture but if you'd like I'll take your corgis for a wee jog."
Your mind goes to strange places when you run. On that note... I'd better stop writing before I reveal any more weirdness about the inner workings of my mind.