July 2015 broke all weather records by being the wettest UK July on record with Scotland being the wettest place of all, so it was a surprise when we woke in the morning and were greeted by clear blue skies and a blazing sun.
This was too good to miss so we hurried back to Calton Hill to get some blue sky pictures of Edinburgh and to see the monuments early before coach loads of visitors started swarming all over them. The walk gave us an appetite and back at the Waverley we tucked into a full Scottish breakfast including haggis. I ate it but I made a mental note to myself not to repeat the mistake of putting it on my plate the following day.
After breakfast we went our separate ways, Kim was drawn to the department stores of Princess Street and I returned to the castle stopping now and then in the tourist gift shops to see if I could find that illusive tartan polo shirt, alas without any luck!
Even at ten o’clock there was a long queue at the ticket office, sensible people buy their tickets on line and get through quicker but I had failed in this instance to think ahead so I waited in line and shuffled slowly to the ticket office. I was cheered up however when I got there and noticed that I qualified for a 20% over 60s concession – there are some benefits to getting older.
I am sure that I have been to the castle before, I visited Edinburgh in 1972 and 1984 but I couldn’t remember it at all. This is another benefit of getting older, you forget things so even if you do them again they are like a whole new experience. This is another benefit of getting older, you forget things so even if you do them again they are like a whole new experience.
Inside the castle I took a quick look at the battlements and the splendid views over Edinburgh but they were swarming with people so I moved on and went to the Scottish National War Museum.
The Scots like military history and the museum sets out the story of the last four hundred years of wars and battles. It conveniently starts after the wars of Scottish independence and a succession of English victories but at least that spares the English visitor from the tedious stories of Bannockburn and William Wallace!
It was a good museum and I enjoyed it but what I wanted to see most of all was the museum of the regiment The Royal Scots Dragoon Guards – The Greys. Being a fan of the Richard Sharp novels and the TV series there was one exhibit that I really wanted to see, the Imperial Eagle of the French 45th Regiment of the Line captured at the Battle of Waterloo by Sergeant Charles Ewart*.
I made my way through the museum stopping regularly to look at the show cases of swords and guns and uniforms and followed the time line to 1815. I wanted to see the painting of the famous cavalry charge Scotland Forever which I assumed would be here but found out that the original is actually in an art gallery in Leeds so I had to make do with a reproduction.
I was getting closer now to Sergeant Charles Ewart’s Imperial Eagle and then I came upon the display case I was looking for. It was empty but for a note saying that it had been loaned to the Scotland National Museum to commemorate the two hundredth anniversary of the Waterloo. What a disappointment, I so wanted to see that Eagle and there wasn’t going to be time now to visit its temporary place of display.
So I visited a couple more regimental museums and then the dungeons and prisons of the old castle before making my way to the very top past Mons Meg, which with a twenty inch calibre is one of the biggest cannons ever made and then past a long line of people shuffling slowly forward to visit a dog cemetery. A dog cemetery! There are so many interesting things to see in the castle but hundreds of visitors queue up for the bizarre reason of seeing where army officers’ pet dogs are buried.
At the top I joined another long line of people waiting in turn to see the Honours of Scotland, The Scottish Crown Jewels, the crown, the sceptre and the sword of state together with the stone of Scone, the Coronation Stone. It took longer than I expected to make my way through a four hundred time line of history which charted every significant event in the history of the honours which seemed to dwell rather a lot on the repeated attempts of the English to steal them and as a consequence hundreds of years hidden under floor boards and locked up in a secret casket.
Eventually the journey through time came to an end and I was in the strong room which houses the valuable artefacts, so valuable it seems that photography is strictly forbidden and there are far more people on duty than really necessary to make sure no one sneaks a picture – even more than at Lenin’s tomb in Moscow.
It was time to leave the castle now so I walked through the Esplanade being prepared for the 2015 Tattoo back along the Royal Mile and getting familiar with the city now a couple of short cuts through unpromising narrow alleys, past Waverley station and back to the hotel where Kim was waiting for me.
* I think it is important not to have regrets in life but I do often wonder why I spent nearly £2,000 collecting model lead soldiers. I cannot even explain it away as a moment of madness because it took nearly four years to build a collection of two hundred Napoleonic soldiers which are now stored in a box and destined to remain there forever. One of the figures in the collection is Sergeant Charles Ewart.