Edinburgh Castle

Top: The Great Hall, formerly
the castle's banquet hall

Bottom: A display of arms,
including basket-hilt swords
and various battle axes



Clockwise from the top left corner:
(1) the western defenses and new barracks from the north, (2) the castle from Johnstone Terrace,
(3) the esplanade to the castle entrance, and
(4) the castle entrance.

Top: Names and Coats of Arms
of Scottish Monarchs

Bottom: Names and Coats of Arms
of the Reformers

This ancient fortress stands as a sentinel, guarding the city and giving silent witness to the tragedies and triumphs, the drama and intrigue, and the poverty and riches of centuries of Scottish history.  One pair of stained glass windows in the Great Hall bears the names and coats of arms of Robert the Bruce and other Scottish monarchs.  In another are the names and coats of arms of Scottish reformers, most of whom were martyred for the faith.

The high basalt rock upon which the castle stands was the site of a Bronze Age hill fort.  During the Roman occupation, it was a thriving settlement.  By the eleventh century, it was firmly established as a principal Scottish royal residence.  The earliest surviving part of the castle was built in the same century by David I.  During its 1,000-year history, the castle has been attacked, damaged, and rebuilt a number of times.  In the sixteenth century, Oliver Cromwell established a permanent military base on the grounds; he, who despised the religious passions of the Reformers, also cared nothing for the aesthetic and historic features of Edinburgh Castle.  His army destroyed and erected buildings at the castle in a manner which evidenced this disregard, creating something of a conglomeration.

In the nineteenth century, fortunately, the re-emergence of a Scottish national identity led to a change in emphasis at Edinburgh Castle.  Sir Walter Scott applied for and was granted permission to look for the Scottish Honours ~ the sixteenth century Scottish Crown regalia consisting of a crown, scepter, and sword ~ which had been missing since about 1707.  He discovered them in the castle, exactly where they had been hidden over a century earlier.  They were placed on display, and the Great Hall subsequently was restored.  In 1923, the Scottish National War Memorial was built, and the main garrison of the British army left the castle. Finally, in 1996, Scotland's Stone of Destiny was returned to Edinburgh Castle from Westminster Abbey, to which it had been "exiled" seven hundred years earlier.  A plain slab of sandstone, the Stone reputedly is the seat on which the ancient Scottish kings were crowned.  Today, the Stone of Destiny and the Honours of Scotland are on display in the Crown Room of Edinburgh Castle.  Photographs are not permitted.

There was so much more of the castle to enjoy, but we were spending only a day in Edinburgh and had yet to see St. Giles and Greyfriars.

St. Giles Cathedral


St. Giles

John Knox



Campbell Monument                                                                 The Pulpit

















While a parish church has been in Edinburgh since about 854 A.D., St. Giles Kirk was built in the 12th century. A fire in 1385 destroyed most of the structure, with four massive pillars in the center of the building possibly being all that survived. Rebuilding began and continued almost unabated until the early 16th century.  In the 17th century, St. Giles was declared a cathedral by Charles I and again by Charles II, a status it lost when Presbyterians gained control of the church.  It is generally considered the mother church of Presbyterianism.
During the Reformation, many changes were made to the interior ~ some publicly and others in secret ~ owing to significant differences in doctrine.  For example, Presbyterians hold that all believers are saints, meaning set aside for God's holy purposes, and that no saint is able to grant favor with or access to God; thus, a statue of the venerated St. Giles was removed in the night by a person or persons unknown and was never recovered.  It may seem ironic that there stands in the church today a statue of John Knox, the reformer whose work gave birth to the Presbyterian Church; the difference, however, is that neither Knox nor any other reformer was venerated, nor regarded as holding an elevated status before God.  The statue standing outside St. Giles is of the Fifth Duke of Buccleuch.

John Knox (1514-1572) preached his first sermon at St. Giles on 1 July 1559.  He was described by his clerk, Richard Bannatyne, as "the light of Scotland, the comfort of the Church ..., the mirror of godliness, a pattern and example to all true ministers, in purity of life, soundness of doctrine, and boldness in reproving of wickedness; one that cared not for the favour of men, how great soever they were."  A less partial man, Principal Smeton, also spoke of Knox in glowing terms: "I know not if ever so much piety and genius were lodged in such a frail and weak body.  Certain I am, that it will be difficult to find one in whom the gifts of the Holy Spirit shone so bright, to the comfort of the Church of Scotland.  None spared himself less in enduring fatigues, bodily and mental; none was more intent on discharging the duties of the province assigned to him.  ... Released from a body exhausted in Christian warfare, and translated to a blessed rest, where he has obtained the sweet reward of his labours, he now triumphs with Christ."

Another prominent name associated with St. Giles is that of Archibald Campbell (1607-1672), First Marquess and Eighth Earl of Argyll.  When religious principle came into question, titles, lands, and power meant nothing to him.  Firmly believing that Christ, and not the king, was sovereign over the church, he signed  Scotland's 1638 "National Covenant," a response to King Charles I's attempts to rule the church in Scotland.  The Covenant emphasized Scotland's loyalty to the king, insofar as the king did not infringe upon religious faith and freedom, and it declared that any attempt to move the church toward Catholicism would be rejected.  Campbell was eventually left both penniless and powerless, and he was charged with conspiracy in the murder of Charles I because he had worked for a time with the Cromwellian government.  Since Cromwell had orchestrated Charles's death, Campbell was declared guilty of the conspiracy as well.  When a sentence of death was pronounced and his wife cried out, "The Lord will pay them back for this!" he quietly admonished her: "Control yourself, Dear. Truly, I pity them. They don't know what they are doing; they may shut me in where they please, but they cannot shut God out from me. For my part, I am as content to be here as in the castle, and as content in the castle as in the Tower of London, and as content there as when at liberty, and I hope to be as content on the scaffold as any of them all."  Archibald Campbell, Covenanter, stood on the scaffold on 27 May 1661 and spoke calmly to those around him.  A physician checked his pulse and found it steady.  And then, he was beheaded. The monument to his memory, above, was later placed in St. Giles.  On it are inscribed these words: "I set the Crown on the King's Head. He hastens me to a better Crown than his own."

While Campbell was memorialized at St. Giles, it was in the kirkyard of another, more modest kirk that the Covenant had been signed.  A walk of a few blocks brought us to ...

Greyfriars Kirk




The first church built in Edinburgh after the Reformation, Greyfriars opened in 1620.  Eighteen years later, on 28 February 1638, the first National Covenant was publicly read and signed in its kirkyard.  King Charles I wished to rule not only Scotland but also, through bishops whom he had appointed, the church.  He required that all kirks follow the English Prayer Book in worship.  The Covenant, co-authored by Archibald Johnston of Warriston and Alexander Henderson, emphasized loyalty to the king but demanded religious freedom.  It was signed immediately by leading individuals, including Archibald Campbell, and the following day by the clergy and burgesses of Edinburgh.  Afterward, copies were circulated throughout Scotland, and 300,000 eventually signed the historic document.  Lord Cromwell, who earlier had pretended to sympathize with the Covenanters, now viciously opposed them.  He placed his army in the kirkyard and made it into a prison.  In 1679, about 1,200 Covenanters were made to live in the open air with only water and four ounces of bread each day.  Many died while others were either executed, sent abroad as slaves, or eventually freed upon signing oaths of allegiance.  Over the course of the century-long Presbyterian struggle, some 30,000 Scots died for their faith.

Contemplating the persecution and suffering of thousands who did nothing worse than resolutely hold to their faith, I thought how easily I sometimes grumble over the smallest inconveniences of life.  I left Greyfriars with no small amount of reflection, and we drove north of Edinburgh to have dinner at a different kind of historic spot.

Queensferry and Hawes Inn

Here, the Forth River flows inland from the Firth of Forth, dividing South Queensferry from Queensferry proper.  Facing the river is Hawes Inn, a favorite haunt of Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-1894).  Stevenson stayed often in room 13 and, according to local tradition, planted the yew tree that still grows behind the inn.  He spent long hours at a desk at the window, where he watched the great sailing ships come in from the sea.   There, inspired by the scene before him, he wrote a major portion of his novel "Kidnapped."  (He was also the author of "Treasure Island" and "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.")

On our visit to Hawes Inn, the host was very gracious, showing us around and apologizing that we could not visit room 13 as it was then occupied.  Our waiter was very cordial, and the food was delicious.  We thoroughly enjoyed our time at the Inn and would gladly return.


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