Thursday, March 15, 2007

Wednesday in Edinburgh -- the Gallery and Castle

We hit the National Gallery
and Edinburgh Castle ...

... and have a capital time.

Bob says:

We get up early in the morning and I use the hot towels from the hot towel rack. The towels are not toasty -- not freezing, but not toasty -- and I am not exactly sure what the fuss is about. As an advertised amenity, I would have to say that it ranks far below, let’s say, thick towels or fluffy pillows or a phonebook. We get up and out of the room, quickly repacking our stuff. I would say that our room was serviceable. Our plan is to drop our bags off at the train station, go to the National Gallery, and then make it to the Castle and down the Royal Mile and then back to Dundee. We set off at a brisk pace down the equally brisk streets. I am starving and I know exactly what I want for breakfast. One of the traditional take-away breakfasts in Scotland is a pie. Not a fruit pie, but a meat pie. Rowan seems a little reluctant, but I blithely ignore her. I can tell that she is thinking that this is not very high-class, but I am very pleased at the thought of a yummy meat pie for breakfast in Edinburgh. I marked some bakeries on the street as we walked to the hotel last night and am determined to have a pie for breakfast. Maybe two.

Rowan writes:

We get ourselves together early on Wednesday, and leave the hotel in search of breakfast. The hotel version is expensive, and we are keen to hunt down something on the hoof. As we yomp up the narrow pavement from the hotel towards town, we pass a small bakery, fairly typical of those small establishments tucked away in the back-streets of Scottish cities. Wee old-fashioned bakeries. The backbone, or rather, the hardened arteries of Scotland. The foundation of many a spare-tyre. Our cultural anchor. The wee unpretentious high-cholesterol bakery… purveyor of saturated fat and succulent mutton to the nation. These wee bakeries do sausage rolls, mutton pies, treacle scones, fruit scones, cheese scones…plain rolls, hard-fired rolls, floury rolls, butter rolls…all yummy. All filling a distinctive niche, and doing their bit to create new ones.

I wonder what Bob will choose. It is an Edinburgh shop, so I am not quite certain as to what is what. I would know my way around locally, in Dundee, but this is all a little alien. We have time to peruse, as we are herded aside at the door by a troupe of hungry and rather strapping workmen, clad in their day-glo yellow vests. They are aware that they are ever so slightly strapping, and there is a cheerful testosteroney vibe to their good-humoured orders for filled rolls and pies for their morning “piece” a mid-morning or lunchtime snack. The workmen file out, and we are left to make out choices. The girl serving is fairly helpful, when Bob asks her to point out what the different articles before us contain. Bob chooses a meat pie, and, as it is an Edinburgh pie and I do not know what the meat is, I go for a triangular bran scone. It is a very dry scone, and it is soon ingested. I wish I had bought another one, but I am too greed-conscience-stricken to run back. Bob only has one item, and it seems to have sufficed. I am being breakfast-austerity competitive.

Bob says:

The girl waiting on us is very kind, but seems to be taken aback by my questions about what we are eating. I ask her what she would have, if she were having breakfast, but she says that she does not eat the wares. I am amused. Her accent is pretty heavy and I do not understand everything that she says. I pick a minced beef pie. Rowan is very funny – she is dubious about the baked goods, as it is Edinburgh, not Dundee. You would think that it was a world away. Apparently there are culinary differences between pies in different cities. I can't see saying -- oh, that is a doughnut from Pacoima and that is one from Pasadena. I refrain from teasing her, but it is quite an effort. We leave and I unwrap my pie. It is like a hand-held pot-pie. Minced beef turns out to be ground beef – not crumbly, but soft. The seasonings are different – mild. It is quite nice, and we walk along, looking into store windows while we eat. It is cold enough that my breakfast steams and keeps my hands warm. The streets are a little busy with people rushing off to work.

We leave the train station and a piper is playing on the corner.

A group of children stopped and listened to him. He finishes the Scottish air that he is playing, and, slyly, slips into a rendition of "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer". The children are delighted.

We walked past the Ferris Wheel and then browsed for a moment or two in the market. The Loch Ness hat is still calling to me, but I resist.

We went into the National Gallery for the next few hours. The Gallery is much like Scotland, so much packed into a small space. It is a little like a pocket-universe -- impossibly bigger on the inside than on the outside.

Rowan writes:

We stride down the street, past the Edinburgh Playhouse, feeling chuffed that we have saved the cost of breakfast, and keen to have a nose about the shops in the hope of being tempted to spend the sponduliks in other ways. We are heading inexorably towards the castle…all roads lead to the castle today. I am not quite sure how to get there, but know it will involve a steeeeep climb. Have memories of a previous steeeep climb. I am wondering if I was heavier or lighter than I am now. I am thinking I was likely lighter….

Before negotiating the climb, we decide to go into the National Gallery of Scotland. I am aware that this will be a marvellous experience. It is many years since I have been here - about fifteen years or so, but the memories of surprises and happy discoveries still remain. The building is fronted by colonnades, and tasteful banners promoting one of their most prized exhibits, a wonderful Botticelli, “The Virgin Adoring the Sleeping Christ Child.” This was painted in fourteen oatcake, and it absolutely stunning, in the most luminous hues of blue and pink and gold. I think it is my favourite exhibit, before I even go in and see it for reals, and the other contenders for the title.

We enter the foyer and chat to the pleasant security guy, who tells us there is a cloakroom for bags and coats. We decide to take ours with us, and climb the marble staircase to the top floor.

There are wonderful Mediaeval and Renaissance paintings in here, many with Biblical subjects, beautifully portrayed.

This is my sort of place. I am not good in museums, but a bit of a gallery geek. I like portraits… representations of people in the throes of thought: pondering, reacting, puzzling, qualifying, appealing, worshipping.

I love the texture of light and shadow, the play of sun and shade on the earnest faces which look out of the heavy ornate gilded frames. We step back, breathless at what we are seeing.

There is a party of schoolchildren being told about the gory story behind the portrait of St Nicholas. They are rapt, as they sit cross-legged in their green jerseys and grey skirts and trousers, putting up their hands politely to ask and answer questions.

Bob says:

The Gallery is just ... spectacular. We start out on the top floor and find ourselves in the midst of the Medieval and Renaissance art.

The colors are stunning – rich reds and blues and golds.

The quality of the color is hard to describe, it goes beyond vision and becomes something that is almost palpable.

I like the triptychs.

Some of them are massive.

There are a number of paintings depicting the Madonnna and Child, and it seems appropriate to the season. I love Christmas. This one was one of my favorites -- the scarlet of her cloak is almost black. Very unexpected.

The angels were surprising, as well. What wonderful wings.

There are things that one cannot even begin to adequately to describe, and the art that I see is like that. It is beautiful and powerful. I listen to the guide talking to the children, and learn what I can, as he explains the symbolism of the colors in the paintings.

I wish that I had time to really study each item and know what the symbols mean.

There is an exhibit of Scottish art, of famous people and places.

Some of the canvases are more than life-sized. The gallery has an amazing roster – Dali, El Greco, Botticelli, Rembrandt, Reubens, Cezanne, sketches by Da Vinci.

A Van Dyck...

It is just mind-blowing, especially in such a tiny place.

Did I mention Titian?

Rowan writes:

The atmosphere is solemn, but the suppressed excitement generated by the beauty of the paintings is palpable and intense. We just stand and soak up the paintings, drifting down to the lower levels, where there are more romantic scenes of stags and glens, aristocratic figures painted with their horses and entourages on shoots, scenes from clan battles, and romanticised views of dense forests and cascading waterfalls.

Some of the canvasses are huge. I am happy to find that some of the ones I like are on loan from the McManus galleries in Dundee, our lovely Museum/gallery which is being refurbished.

Looking around, I find one of my favourite paintings, Raeburn’s “The Reverend Robert Walker Skating”, and the fabulous Rembrandt self-portrait.

I remember seeing a picture of this painting in my sisters’ “History of Art” textbook.

It is truly fab. We sit for a little while, and listen to a talk being given by an elderly lady (she is giving off artist vibes) to a party of elderly ladies and gents who are sitting before her. She talks knowledgeably about the paintings and with a hint of authority, as though her audience is going to somehow challenge her point of view. I am hoping that someone will, as I am finding myself getting irritated, taking issue with her explanations, somewhat inexplicably. The gentle audience, who I suspect are her painting class, drink in the information quietly and patiently.

After looking at the paintings, we have a wachle around the gift shop, looking at the nicely presented items, the books reflecting the various art collections, pens, posters, notebooks, writing paper. We make a few small purchases, and go to check out the café.

It is in a nice open setting, looking out towards Prince St Gardens. The fare is fairly Spartan, as there is a fancy restaurant next-door. I order mushroom soup and bread for us, and attempt to carry the tray over to the table. I am finding the task more than usually difficult, as the ceramic bowls are a sort of arty and off-centre, sheared off at one side, so that the soup slops out. Bob is good at balancing trays, but she does not raise an eyebrow at me. I think she is with me on the silly design of the bowls. I am thinking that a mistake has been made somewhere in hospitality management, and the pot plant holders are being used mistakenly as soup-bowls. Heads will roll. The soup tastes kind of funny, but the thick wholemeal bread is nice.

Bob says:

Actually, I was afraid that Rowan was going to do herself an injury with the soup bowls and the trays. I took them from her and set them down on the table. The soup tasted hoity-toity – a thick mushroomy taste. It is fine, but the pub lunch yesterday was better. We eat and then head outside to walk across Princes Garden and up the hill to Edinburgh Castle. I ask directions on how best to get to the Castle, and get one of those “oh, it’s really easy …” type sets of directions that take about three minutes to relay. I stop listening after 15 seconds and try to remember the main points – across, turn right, long stairway, steep climb …

Things were simpler in the 1800s ...

I like being in a city that is this old.

We catch a glimpse of the train tracks as we cross behind the station.

As we near the top of the hill, we come across this little garden.

I wonder how many gazillion pounds you have to have to live here.

I have completely forgotten our directions. I am not completely lost, because the castle is at the top of a hill – I figure that we should just keep going up until we see it. At the top of the hill begins the Royal Mile. This is the view down that road.

I like the narrow street.

Panting a little, we get to the top of the hill and walk through the parking lot. There are huge stone crosses lining the edge of the hill over looking the city.

It is a wonderful sight – the massive crosses etched against the sky.

Rowan writes:

The steps are interminable, and my thigh muscles are complaining bitterly. We ask a passer-by as to our direction, and are pointed in the right direction. It is an imposing setting. The castle opens out at the top of our long climb, and we can see the powerful bulk of fortress Edinburgh.

Edinburgh castle is a very ancient seat, an impenetrable stronghold dominating the city skyline. I am going to leave the history bit up to Bob, as I know she will want to do it. I am generous that way.

Bob says:

Castle Rock is where Edinburgh began. The site was inhabited - and probably fortified after a fashion - in prehistoric times. Recent archaeological excavations have discovered evidence for a settlement of round houses on the rock dating back to the late Bronze Age (about 900BC). The Castle stands on the core of an extinct volcano. Though the castle existed in the 6th century, very little is known about its role. From time to time it had been starved into submission or betrayed from within, but only twice was Edinburgh Castle ever captured in combat, once through an attacker's stratagem and once - fearsome thought - by direct frontal assault over the walls. On each occasion the victors were Scots vanquishing an English garrison.

This is the view coming into the castle.

Rowan writes:

The Castle entrance reflects a no-nonsense gritty and almost challenging vibe to the visitors who climb the cobbled hill to reach it. Grim, imposing, slightly ironic in a dismissive sort of way. “Come awa in then, if yiz hae tull. Geez yer money. Dinna drap sweetie papers or ye’ll feel the back o’ ma haun’.”

I love the castle. It is very, very cold this afternoon – I am coveting Bob’s scarf. It is way better than the shop-bought varieties, which tend to be skinny and leave gaps for the frost to attack. We roam around the cobbled quadrangle, exploring the various buildings – the military museum, the military memorial, the prison, the jewel room and corridors painted and dressed with tableaux from history. I like mannequins in historical garb. They almost never look right. I don’t know why they have to be so startlingly unrealistic, but they invariably are … hats askew, moustaches awry. I am enjoying myself. The comparison with the Tower of London is unavoidable – I loved the Tower too – Edinburgh Castle is more austere, the rough-diamond cousin, canny, unpretentious, volatile.

There are staircases which lead to unexpected chambers, wonderful state rooms with floors resounding with hundreds of years of footfalls. Bob would say that this place has serious heft, and one could not but agree. It is heft-mungous. You can sense the thickness of the walls, hear them hiss inflammatory oaths at potential invaders disguised as passing tourists. The Historic Scotland curators who lurk in the corners of the buildings are friendly, and look positively ill with hypothermia. The cheerful young man who huddles in the corner of the tiny and ancient St Margaret’s chapel, looks ready to pass out with the cold. The chill factor is undoubtedly sub-zero. He confides in us that he has several thermal layers, but he looks as though he ought to sue the manufacturers. These poor dudes need heaters. Just sayin.

What is a castle without a portcullis?

The phone boxes are a nice contrast, I think. Very pragmatic.

We walk past a row of cannon.

And catch this lovely view of the city.

Rowan writes:

We admire the row of cannon, facing out through the ramparts towards the city. The sun is low, and the sky a beautiful azure, fading into a soft gold, over the jumble of spires and rooftops far below. It is a charming vista. Edinburgh has a charm of its own – elegant, and sophisticated, yet thoroughly chunky and substantial. Edinburgh is a plus size diva, who looks the biz and knows it, and lounges with style.

Bob says:

The oldest part of the castle dates back to the Normans, and there are buildings and fortifications covering every period since. The castle is home to the Scottish Crown Jewels (Honours), the Stone of Destiny, the giant 15th century siege gun, Mons Meg, the Scottish National War Memorial ...

and the famous One O'Clock Gun, which is fired daily at 1.00 pm.

We missed the firing of the gun. The castle also contains several military and regimental museums, which we thoroughly enjoyed.

Here are some more pictures of the outside of the War Memorial.

I liked the fierce eagles. Or gryphons. Or eagles. They were fierce.

I am not sure why this was a favorite shot. I think it is because of all of the different textures of stone and the gorgeous light. And the beautiful horse.

This is the Great Hall. There are lots of weapons.

The sun was streaming through the windows.

The Great Hall of the Castle was built in 1511 on the orders of King James IV. It has a hammer beam roof. It was used for meetings of the Parliament of Scotland prior to the building of Parliament Hall next to St Giles Cathedral in 1639.

The Great Hall is still sometimes used for ceremonial occasions.

This is the view looking at the entrance. You can almost see the detail -- the carving is wonderful.

This is the view as we left --

... the colors from the stained glass window splashed across the walls.

We took our time wandering through the Castle. We got to see the Honours of Scotland -- Crown jewels and regalia. The crown dates from 1540, is made of Scottish gold and is set with 94 pearls, ten diamonds and 33 other precious and semi-precious gemstones. The most treasured possession of Scotland is also located among the honours. It is the Stone of Destiny, otherwise known as the Stone of Scone and upon which the monarchs of Scotland are traditionally crowned. It had been taken to England and incorporated into the Coronation Throne in Westminster Abbey but was returned to Scotland in 1996.

The Castle has its own jail -- it was once used for Scottish soldiers.

This is one of the cells. I wonder what it is like to be locked up here.

The Castle was used as a prison at different times. We walked through a kind of eerie dramatic re-enactment. You walk through the prison part of the castle, and they project scary shadows on the wall and it is just like you were there -- an imprisoned American sailor. Sort of.

I don't know where the staircase went. However, as we walked up the steep cobbled street, a gaggle of school children ran past us, wearing paper crowns and safety vests. Some brandished cardboard swords.

We catch a glimpse of Edinburgh spread out below.

It is a beautiful sight. The city is beginning to emerge below us, and the massive walls of the Castle are to our right.

The kids rush past us, as they hurry to see the city from the walls of the Castle. We take it a little more slowly, admiring the beauty of the stone walls.

The streets are surprisingly broad, and you can imagine donkey-drawn carts laboring up the cobbles.

There is evidence that the Picts inhabited this area -- it is amazing to think of prehistoric ruins here. There is an organic feel to the walls, almost that they were the bones hidden under the rock and revealed rather than built.

Rowan writes:

We spend a good couple of hours at the castle – there is a great deal to see. A guided tour group settle near us, and we drift close enough to hear some rather interesting snippets of history wafting on the air towards us. I am suddenly gripped by a sense of guilt, realising that Bob might have enjoyed an informative structured element to her visit. I am not a good native guide. I am good at sniffing out cafes and gift shops, though, and know my Botticellis from my Raphaels. Just don’t ask me when stuff was built and who lived there. I may well just make something up, to cover my tracks.

Rowan and I stopped to get a picture taken. You can see what we see. Rowan is on the right -- I thought that we were the same size. How did she get taller than me!? We are proudly wearing our hoodies. We are hopeless ... but we find ourselves amusing.

Rowan writes:

The equally bloodless and pleasant young man in the little booth in the western corner of the quadrangle is helpful, and kindly takes a couple of photographs of us. I feel sorry for him, having to work in those temperatures, and hope that the booth is heated. If it is, I am hoping he swaps over at regular intervals with the ice-man look-alike in the freezing chapel.

Bob says:

This is the view from the castle wall. It is cold and clear and very quiet -- like being on a mountain top. The colors are wonderful, aren't they?

You can see Princes Street -- the department stores and Princes Garden.

The colors of the castle are echoed in the city below. You can see what a gorgeous city Edinburgh is -- and a little of what it was like to be a defender on the wall. If you look very closely, you can see a blue sign.

It is the corner of the Soldier's dog cemetery. I can just barely see a little bit of the site.

The picture looks a little skewed, but that is because I was hanging over the wall. The curve of the wall is a little woozifying.

I am pleased to see Mons Meg, a cannon that I have read about. I try to imagine what a cannonball that size looks like when it is hurtled through the air.

In 1457, King James II was presented with two massive siege guns by his uncle by marriage, Philip the Good, Duke of Burgundy. The surviving gun is now called Mons Meg and it is displayed in Edinburgh Castle. ("Meg" in Scotland is one of the short forms of "Margaret"). Made in Mons in Belgium it fired missiles weighing 330lbs (150kg) over two and a half miles. It saw action against the English at the siege of Norham Castle in 1497. But its great weight (over six tons) meant that it could only be moved at the rate of three miles a day so it was retired and used only on ceremonial occasions.

St. Margaret's Chapel resembles some of the primitive Celtic chapels of both Scotland and Ireland in being small and irregular. Essentially, it is a rectangular structure, with an apsed sanctuary and a nave separated by a chancel arch decorated with chevron mouldings.

The oldest building in all Edinburgh is to be found within the Castle precincts. It is St. Margaret's Chapel, a tiny Norman building which has been standing there intact for more than 900 years. This panel depicts St. Margaret.

The Chapel has survived all the sieges and bombardments to which the fortress on the rock was subjected during that period. On several occasions the castle was razed - but the demolishers invariably spared the chapel of the good St Margaret because of its religious significance. Today, members of the castle garrison still have the right to be married within the Chapel.

It is a very small building, set atop of the Castle. It is a rectangle with the altar at the front and small stained-glass windows, set in deep arches in the walls.

Each tells another tale. This is Christ calming the waves.

I especially liked this one. The fiery reds are a distinct contrast with the greens, blues, and purples of the other windows. This one ( I think) is the one on the back wall.

We walked out of the little chapel and again stopped to survey the city below. It is a sight that I could go to again and again. It is remarkably peaceful, sitting atop the craggy hill at the top of the city.

Rowan writes:

As we prepare to leave, we take some more last minute photos, and peer over the parapet once more in the fading brightness of this lovely winter afternoon.

The Lang Stairs are the original stairs into the castle in the Middle Ages.

Lang’ from Scots, word meaning long.

And we leave the Castle.

Rowan writes:

We are laughing uproariously – it is one of those days when every quip and rejoinder is funnier than the last. It is sooo cold – our laughter prevents our jaws from freezing solid. We drift into a couple of the souvenir shops, on our way back towards the entrance. In the smart one, we examine maps, history books, and meritorious facsimiles of meaningful documents. We pick up a couple of souvenirs. In the more tacky shop (they become progressively more tacky as we skirt towards the castle perimeter). I buy a couple of packets of Edinburgh Rock. I am keen for Bob to try this. Unlike the usual seaside rock which you can buy -- which is hard candy -- Edinburgh rock is soft and melts in the mouth. It has its own special consistency, and breaks with the soft thump of solid icing sugar, which it may well actually be.

Pastel coloured, fruit flavoured solid icing sugar, with added sugar, just for good measure. It is indescribably sweet, and makes the eater tachycardic after the first couple of bites. Lub-dup/ Lub – wtf? /Wtf-wtf?/Wtfwtfwtfwtf… Edinburgh Rock is a cardiac workout. Not a sweetmeat for the fainthearted. It needs working up to. I watch Bob take a piece of livid pink rock from its cellophane, hear the soft snap, and watch her eyes open in a way which tells me that she is not too overly keen. I think she is wondering what to do with the bit she has bitten off, but is a trooper and swallows it. I do not think Edinburgh Rock has made a transatlantic convert. I am secretly pleased…all the more for me…

Bob says:

I admit that my kids were not overwhelmed with the Edinburgh Rock.

This is what the packets looked like in, oh, February. Before I threw them out. But they were only a pound! Such a deal!

The Royal Mile beckons. I have yet to have fish and chips, and I am feeling culturally deprived. I ask a young woman at the guard shack at the end of the castle parking lot about where a good fish and chips shop might be. She recommends the Clam Shell and we walk down the hill toward dinner.

Rowan writes:

The castle sits at the top of the Royal Mile, a lovely long thoroughfare full of historical buildings, interesting nooks and niches, shops and pubs.

We peek into a couple of tartan shops, listen to a piper, and prevaricate over going into a cosy pub for an early evening meal.

Bob is keen to walk on, as there is still daylight left for exploring. We drift on down the Mile, and come to the frontage of an ornate and beautiful building. The outside stonework is being refurbished, but it is possible to go inside.

Bob says:

We were walking along, and approached what was clearly a construction area. I don't know who the famous person is, but I liked the orange cone perched cheekily on his head.

We walked up some stairs, where the workers were going in and out. It was very dark and our steps echoed. We did not even know where we were, and as we walked around the sheet of plywood that was inside the door, we were greeted by this.

I think that we just stopped -- trying to figure out where we were. You could not see much, as it was dim. The impression was of space and age. It was dusty and cold. As we wandered around, details began to emerge and finally, in a moment, we realized that we were in a cathedral. The cathedral is famous for its stained glass, and rightfully so. (Please forgive the poor quality of the pictures -- the subject deserved much better than my poor attempts.)

Rowan writes:

The interior is breathtaking.

Ornately carved wooden buttresses, and an amazing intricately-wrought pulpit,

sit amidst the splendour of the most unrivalled stained-glass panorama I have ever encountered. It is getting dark – way too dark to see the St Giles Cathedral at its best, but it is still a truly humbling and breathtaking experience.

It is not a place you want to leave. I want to stand still and download. I think part of me is still there, saving files from St Giles.

It is a truly remarkable cathedral. It is too dark for photography – Bob wants to return another day to fully appreciate the stained glass with the gift of sunlight to reveal the full extent of its beauty. I am very glad – I am looking forward to my return visit too.

Bob says:

There is record of a parish church in Edinburgh by the year 854, served by a vicar from a monastic house, probably in England. It is possible that the first church, a modest affair, was in use for several centuries before it was formally dedicated by the bishop of St Andrews on 6 October 1243.

The carvings are wonderful.

As we left the dark interior, we saw this celtic cross, just to the right of the construction entrance. I can just barely see the stained glass, and I can imagine that it is truly glorious in the sunlight. Friday is our free day -- it is a day that we had nothing particular planned and I decided that I am coming back to Edinburgh. It is an amazing city and I feel like we just scratched the surface. I know that I want to see the stained glass with the daylight streaming through.

Rowan writes:

After gleaning some useful information from a salesgirl in one of the shops about good fish and We come to the take out shop and order fish and white pudding and chicken pakora. Bob asks for napkins.

We drift back around the corner into Cockburn Street, eating our hot pakora (yum) and looking in the windows of the grungy hippy shops and piercing parlours. Princes Street is still busy and alive, and we take a final peek at the Christmas market before heading toward Waverley Station and the train home. We do another lightening raid on the tiny Marks and Spencer’s shop. I buy chocolate snowballs for the children – two big packs, as I am planning to give a good help with demolishing them. Inexplicably, neither child has a sweet tooth. Hot coffee beckons – I order a cappuccino and we wait on the chilly, busy platform for the Dundee train.

Bob says:

The whole day was a little otherworldly. So much beauty and with Time being a palpable presence. The day was filled with moments of stillness -- the present weaving in and out of the past. I will have to go back to Edinburgh. No question about it. There are places that I would like to see again, and St. Margaret's Chapel is one. It is small, and not very ornate, but it has beautiful stained glass windows and you can feel that people for centuries have been coming up here to gain a sense of peace, even amid turmoil. I liked the message from The Guild of St. Margaret.

This holy place, which crowns the Castle of Scotland's Capital, is open for all to visit. In the turmoil of our modern life, whether amid the turbulence of strife, or the restlessness of peace, people come here; and here receive even for a moment something of that real peace; and the peace of God which passes all understanding; and here the gracious words of Him who is the Prince of Peace can be heard again. "I tell you not to be anxious...Consider how the lilies grow in the fields; they do not work, they do not spin; yet even Solomon in all his splendour was not attired like one of these...Set your mind on God's kingdom and his justice before everything else, and all the rest will come to you as well."

So in that spirit, will you come in imagination out of the world into a few minutes of God's peace, and go back again to whatever work you have to do, renewed and refreshed, feeling that it was good to have been here.