The city divided into old and new

UMA BALASUBRAMANIAM
Published Jan 5, 2014, 5:39 pm IST
Updated Mar 19, 2019, 4:48 am IST
Writers, inventors, and kings and queens, of course, once lived in Edinburgh.

Surrounded by seven hills, the city of Edinburgh, with the North Sea lapping at its fringes, is divided into old and new. We drive along the streets of the 18th-century part of the city where terraced Georgian houses stand tall. These houses are characterised by large windows at the centre while higher up, the windows belonging to the nursery become smaller. Those belonging to the dining rooms are the largest, much in the manner of a showpiece to display to guests, their size and number being indicative of one’s social status.

We drive past the statue of Arthur Conan Doyle. Sherlock Holmes’s creator had lived here. High Street comprises the principal shopping area, the original 18th century buildings opening out to shopping arcades below. George’s Street, named after King George III, leads to the museums that the city is known for, the Royal Scottish Academy and art galleries, famous for their Renaissance paintings.

 

Alexander Bell, the inventor of the telephone, who also lived in these parts, has many  pubs named after him. Queens Street has retained most of its original ambience, a house with a doorway marked No. 17 having been home to poet and writer R.L. Stevenson who had lived there as a child with his nursery at the top of the house! The views and the botanical gardens close by inspired him to write Treasure Island. R.L. Stevenson came from a very wealthy family and used Edinburgh as the base for the writing of Jekyll and Hyde.

As we drive on, the greenery of the city opens up, past Parliament House, which stands opposite the Queens Gallery and we get a peek at the imposing façade of Holyrood Palace or Queens Park, the name changing according to the ruler of the period. Up the winding roads, past rolling parklands, dotted with lakes, and we finally arrive at Edinburgh Castle, which sits on the remnants of an old volcano. This majestic castle  has dominated its surroundings for centuries. It has been the residence of Scotland’s monarchs, a prison for enemies, a repository of treasures and, at all times, a military stronghold.

Built on a steep volcanic rock, the castle is well defended. There is the one o’ clock gun salute on Mills Mount Battery, fired every noon, which has citizens check their watches and visitors jump out of their skins. A spectacular view of the city of Edinburgh can be had from the top the castle; spread out below lies the 18th century ‘New Town’, one of the greatest works of Georgian town planning in the British isle.

It is late afternoon and we leave the castle, overcome by the marvellous views from the battlements and its history.

 

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