Living in the shadow of Edinburgh castle

Edinburgh Castle hulks over the city and never fails to impress Leah Petr. Photo by Leah Petr

Edinburgh Castle is undoubtedly the most evocative image of Scotland’s capital city.

Perched high on an extinct volcano in the very heart of the city, the worn walls stand as sentinels over all the citizens going about their business below.

As Edinburgh becomes more and more like home, I keep reminding myself not to take this place for granted.

I know that I am definitely still a newcomer, but I now know my way around, and I look local enough for tourists to stop me on the street and ask me for directions, so I’m on my guard for the ambivalence of familiarity.

However, I don’t have to try hard at all to preserve the awe that I have every time I see the castle, whether lit up by the spotlights around the walls or by the setting sun, or the perfection of a row of New Town townhouses.

The castle’s stony countenance is often out of sight farther from the city center or on streets lined by taller buildings, but it’s those amazing moments when I turn a corner and catch an unexpected glimpse that take my breath away.

If I walk back to my flat from my university’s Merchiston campus, just around a slight bend in the road, the castle all of a sudden appears directly in front of me, framed by the buildings lining the street.

Every time I take this walk, I have to stop and appreciate the beauty.

The same goes for many other places in the city, especially the Grassmarket.

This little square filled with quaint shops and local pubs is literally in the shadow of the castle.  So have a pint and enjoy a great view up the back side of this ancient fortress!

The main shopping street, Princes Street, also boasts a stunning view of the castle, as well as the backside of the Old Town buildings lining the Royal Mile which lead from the castle to the palace at the bottom of the hill.

The Princes Street Starbucks completely capitalizes on this priceless commodity with floor-to-ceiling bay windows so you can marvel the rocky promontory while sipping your mocha or attempting to do your homework.

Although many of the buildings currently standing are less than 300 years old, the whole place has an air of antiquity about it.

Archaeologists have found traces of humans living on the site of the castle dating back over 1,200 years, with the oldest existing building, St. Margaret’s Chapel, an artifact of the 12th century, so the feeling is understandable.

Castle Rock itself, the rocky volcanic outcropping that serves as a base for the fortifications, is pretty astounding. But add the picturesque castle complex to the top, and it is a dominating vision.

When I traveled to northern England this past weekend, I found myself snootily looking down on cities that didn’t have castles in their skylines.  Darlington, for example, just seemed so average with its mall and little church in the center of town.

It seems I’ve become a bit of a castle snob, but I’m really ok with that.

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