December 3, 2011

0059 UNITED KINGDOM (Scotland) - Edinburgh Castle - part of Old and New Towns of Edinburgh (UNESCO WHS)

0059 Edinburgh Castle during the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo

Edinburgh Castle, which dominates the skyline of the city from its position atop the volcanic Castle Rock, is a recognisable symbol of Edinburgh and of Scotland. There has been a royal castle here since at least the reign of David I in the 12th century, and the site continued to be a royal residence until the Union of the Crowns in 1603. It was involved in many historical conflicts, from the Wars of Scottish Independence in the 14th century, up to the Jacobite Rising of 1745.

During the Lang Siege (1571–1573) the medieval fortifications were largely destroyed by artillery bombardment. The last monarch who sleeping in the castle was Charles I, on the night before his coronation as King of Scotland (1633). In nowaday the castle houses the Scottish National War Memorial and the National War Museum of Scotland and it's the backdrop to the annual Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo, performed by British Armed Forces, Commonwealth and International military bands.

In front of the castle is a long sloping forecourt known as the Esplanade. Originally the Spur, a 16th-century hornwork, was located here. The Gatehouse (or the Entrance Gateway) at the head of the Esplanade, built in 1888, flanked by statues of Robert the Bruce by Thomas Clapperton and William Wallace by Alexander Carrick, opens to a cobbled lane that leads up beneath the 16th-century Portcullis Gate to the cannons ranged along the Argyle and Mills Mount Batteries. The battlements here have great views over the New Town to the Firth of Forth.

At the far end of Mills Mount is One O'Clock Gun, where crowds gather to watch a gleaming WWII 25-pounder fire an ear-splitting time signal at exactly 1pm. South of Mills Mount, the road curls up leftwards through Foog's Gate to the highest part of Castle Rock, crowned by the tiny, Romanesque St Margaret's Chapel, the oldest surviving building in Edinburgh. It was probably built by David I or Alexander I in memory of their mother, Queen Margaret, sometime around 1130.

Beside the chapel stands Mons Meg, a giant 15th-century siege gun built at Mons in 1449. The main group of buildings on the summit of Castle Rock is ranged around Crown Square, dominated by the shrine of the Scottish National War Memorial. Opposite is the Great Hall, built for James IV (r. 1488-1513) as a ceremonial hall and used as a meeting place for the Scottish parliament until 1639. The Castle Vaults beneath the Great Hall were used variously as storerooms, bakeries and a prison.

On the eastern side of the square is the Royal Palace, built during the 15th and 16th centuries, where a series of historical tableaux leads to the highlight of the castle - a strongroom housing the scottish crown jewels, among the oldest surviving in Europe. Locked away in a chest following the Act of Union in 1707, the crown (made in 1540 from the gold of Robert the Bruce's 14th-century coronet), sword and sceptre lay forgotten until they were unearthed at the instigation of the novelist Sir Walter Scott in 1818.

Edinburgh Castle is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site Old and New Towns of Edinburgh, about which I wrote here.


About the stamp
On the back of the postcard is the current Royal Mail 1st Class stamp.

References
Edinburgh Castle - Wikipedia
Edinburgh Castle - Lonely Planet
Edinburgh Castle - Official website

Sender: Colin Conlon
Sent from Edinburgh (Scotland / United Kingdom), on 21.11.2011

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