Everything I’d ever heard about Edinburgh led me to believe it would be fantastic – the crown jewel of the United Kingdom, I had heard – but nobody had sufficiently explained to me why or how that was.
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, I suppose, and what the beholder sees is totally subjective. One person may like the architecture, another the museums, and someone else may love the restaurants, but for me the truly amazing thing about Edinburgh is the scenery. It’s not just beautiful, it is truly unique and defies description. That amazing volcanic ridge they call the Royal Mile that runs downhill from Edinburgh’s castle to Holyrood Palace is like nothing I’ve ever seen in all my travels.
I had read so much about the Royal Mile – it is the heart of Old Town Edinburgh, after all – but somehow I never grasped that it rose above the rest of the city like the backbone of a prehistoric reptile with churches, museums, shops, restaurants, and all sorts of miscellaneous ancient stone buildings clinging to its sides, looking as if they’re about to slide off into the Princes Street Gardens.
Edinburgh Castle, the pinnacle of the Royal Mile, is on the western end of the ridge. I knew it was on a hill; I’d seen photos. But I had no idea how high that hill was. We saw the castle from the lowlands of New Town our first night. Yes, it was on a hill overlooking the city, but I couldn’t see anything below it in the dark; I had no perspective. Even in the light of the next day I didn’t have true perspective until I stood right below it and thought, We don’t really have to climb that mountain to see the castle, do we? Surely there was some funicular or at the very least bus service that transported tourists to the top. No one told me I would have to scale a mountain. Who knew?
Climb the mountain we did. Not nearly as bad as it looked from the bottom, thank goodness. The views from the highest point of the castle are truly spectacular – well worth the climb. And from up there I could see, as clear as day, what all the fuss is about.