Once we arrived in Edinburgh, we were happy to spend Christmas here! Our catamaran is in Port Edgar, it’s a famous harbor, because it is situated in the bay of Firth of Forth, under 3 bridges. Quite a special view from your window each day! We took our folding bikes from the boat and cycled along the water, to the city of Edinburgh to explore the Old Town and The Christmas Market in the New Town.
The Old Town
Edinburgh is the capital of Scotland since 1437, and the history is still very alive in the streets! But you have to go to the Old Town, it’s the original part of Edinburgh which is built upon a volcanic rock hill with the Castle on one end. So arriving into the city nowadays, you enter ‘on the ground floor’ and when you look up, you can see the Old Town with the Castle rising almost ‘above’ you, laying on a hill. A spectacular sight.
When you walk up the hill, you end up at the Castle (‘burgh’), and when you start walking the long street from the Castle, called the Royal Mile, it’s a 1,6 kilometer walk on top of that hill looking down on the New Town, you end up at the Holyrood Palace on the other side of the hill. The Royal Mile is packed with old buildings, pubs, churches, really an impressive place. You can easily picture medieval scenes taking place here.
Mary King’s close
Talking about medieval scenes, we never knew that in the hill of the Old Town, there would be an underground city! During the 17th century a new big government building was placed on top of the hill, but it was placed on 4 low alleys (= closes) where poor people lived. These alleys had houses, marketplaces, streets and were sometimes 12 stories high going down the hill. The government ‘chopped’ of the roofs of the upper houses of the alleys and placed the floor and foundation of the large government building bluntly on top of the houses and the allies. So the new building ‘buried’ all the medieval houses. Which therefore stayed preserved very well. We booked a tour in this underground area, fascinated with this story and curious to hear about Mary King who owned a shop in one of the alleys and even Mary, Queen of Scots, stayed in one of the houses when visiting Edinburgh. Also during the tour, stories about the Plague were told which killed half of the 35.000 inhabitants of Edinburgh in a few years, the city and population had to recover the next 40 years.
In the New Town, the Christmas market 2021 was held. About 1 kilometer of traditional booths were placed in Princes street. The booths at the Christmas market had decorations for your Christmas tree, of course Gluhwein and Bratwurst and happy Christmas music! And all this time, when you walked in the Christmas market, you saw the backdrop of the Royal Mile and the Castle rising high above you.
It’s a pleasure to visit Edinburgh in this time, shops and restaurants are decorated Christmas style, there is an ice rink and the Christmas market really adds a happy feeling to the city.