Edinburgh Castle

We spent a few days between Christmas and New Year's (er, Hogmanay) in Scotland's capital city.

It's a beautiful city, and we were lucky to have three days of mostly sunny weather to explore it. It does have more of a tourist feel than Glasgow, dotted as it is with whisky shops and stores selling tartan everything. I guess every culture has its aspects that can be distilled down to tourist kitsch, but the Scottish version involves an endless loop of bagpipe music which--and I'm speaking as someone who likes bagpipes--would probably drive you a little crazy if you worked in a shop like Pride of Scotland, or Prestige Scotland, or Thistle Do Nicely, etc. etc. Which is not to say that Edinburgh is a giant tourist trap: it's emphatically not. It's a great mix of history and modernity dotted with good restaurants and amazing views.

Edinburgh Castle, on a rocky hill at the heart of the city, is one of those places that provides these views. It's also an active military base, the Scottish national war memorial, the home of the Scottish crown jewels (which we saw, but weren't allowed to take pictures of), and the launching site of Edinburgh's Hogmanay fireworks display, which they were setting up for, several days in advance (last photo).

If you were wondering how I took the photo at the beginning of this post of Edinburgh Castle from above, here's your answer. There's another, bigger hill in Holyrood park called Arthur's seat (the mound on the left in the first photo of this set), and we intrepidly walked to the top of it. The view was incredible.