Yesterday we had time to view Holyrood Palace only from the outside, but today we made our way inside. Unlike the ruins of Linlithgow Palace, Holyrood Palace is a fully functional palace and continues to be the queen’s official residence during her annual summer visit to Edinburgh.
The palace itself was built in the late 17th century (except for the northwest tower, which was built in the 16th century), stands three stories tall, is a giant quadrangle with a central courtyard, and is quite symmetrically designed in neoclassicism (indeed, the inner courtyard uses all three classical columns, Doric, Ionic, Corinthian) with two identical towers on the front facade. It was built on the site of Holyrood Abbey, which was founded by David I in 1128, and all that remains of the abbey are the Gothic-style ruins of what was reconstructed from 1195 to 1230.
To be sure, the whole site is a, er, sight to behold, ever more so because Arthur’s Seat, a quite large hill (well, “bluff” might be a better word) towers triumphantly behind the palace and abbey. Indeed, the inside of the palace continues to delight the eyes. As you progress from room to room, the spaces become ever more floridly designed and decorated, increasingly baroque as you go, using massive tapestries intricately woven with pristine detail, great portraits of royals looking bored (why do they always look bored?), majestic plaster ceilings with angels, and only the finest furniture from important people’s collections.
A couple highlights include the royal dining room where the too long table was set according to how the queen would have it set when she would have guests, the great gallery which is the most giant room open to the public and which contains 110 portraits of the Scottish monarchs, and the queen’s apartment which is a set of chambers once occupied by Mary Queen of Scots. A somewhat chilling area is the queen’s oratory, which is the scene of the murder of David Rizzio, the queen’s private secretary. Mary’s husband, Lord Darnley, believed she was having an affair with Rizzio, and so had Rizzio murdered while the very pregnant Mary was held at gunpoint. Rizzio was stabbed 56 times, and the area where his body was is marked with a gold plaque.
The tour of Holyrood also includes viewing the ruins of the gothic style abbey as well as the palace gardens. The gardens are surely a delight to see. They are expertly manicured, well trimmed, and diversely populated with various flowers, trees, and shrubs, and is compete with a smart stoney path. It is on the garden that you can catch the best glimpses of Arthur’s Seat, that impressive bluff (still not the right word… escarpment, maybe?) that towers over Holyrood Palace and Abbey like a Lord Protector. While we were in the gardens we admired and took too many pictures of a quite stately looking, grey, long haired pussy cat relaxing under a tree.
I wasn’t expecting to enjoy Holyrood as much as I did. But, regardless, I quite enjoyed it, and I highly recommend you be sure to visit Holyrood in addition to Edinburgh Castle should you find yourself in this dreamy, magical city. Do make sure to make use of the audio tour at Holyrood, as it’s quite well done and provides a really informative description of all the areas you get to visit.
Following Holyrood, we grabbed a quick sandwich at some lame shop before we headed to Surgeons’ Halls Museum. We first explored the History of Surgery Museum, which presents visitors with Scotland’s advances in surgery over the centuries. It highlights the work of James Syme, Joseph Lister, James Young Simpson, and Joseph Bell. You get to learn about surgery without anesthesia, the discovery of the benefits of chloroform, and the discovery of the uses of antiseptic. You also get to view various surgical instruments from the 1600s, a journal made of the skin of serial killer William Burke, death mask casts, and various items from personal collections like real skeletons of children, preserved human organs, tissues, and limbs, and casts of various bodily anomalies like tumors.
We also enjoyed the Wohl Pathology Museum, which is a collection of rows and rows of preserved items including bones, brains, kidneys, eyes, ears, feet, hands, cervixes, urethras, penises, uteruses, lymph nodes, aortas… the list goes on. If you can name it, they’ll probably have it.
The Surgeons’ Hall Museum really was quite impressive. My sister particularly enjoyed it. But, unless you have an interest in the macabre or medicine or body parts or unless you don’t get easily bored in museums, I can’t fully recommend visiting this museum. But, if, like my sister, you find this terribly interesting, then by all means do go visit. I, myself, got a little bored of looking at rows and rows of a thing in a jar after a thing in a jar. One section that did perk my interest, though, was a section in the Wohl Collection that covered the history of women becoming surgeons.
1. The paint Britons use over here to mark their roads sometimes looks particularly goopy to me, as if it’s more of a melty sludge rather than proper, smooth paint. I did some researching, and they do, indeed, sometimes use a kind of paint called thermoplastic road marking paint that is applied hot at 200 degrees Celsius. It sometimes looks sparkly, too, like a magical faerie, and, indeed, sometimes they add reflective glass beads to the paint.
2. Idiots are everywhere. I sometimes mistakingly think that most of the idiots are in America, but idiots come from every single idiot country on this idiot planet. One idiot we encountered was an idiot man carrying an idiot sign that said “Marriage. 1 man. 1 woman.” We also encountered an idiot man who said he hated all Muslims (this idiot man was himself an Indian immigrant to Scotland who practices Hinduism), and he also approved of what Trump was doing with guns. (I’m not sure what this idiot immigrant man was referring to, because I’m unaware that Trump has actually accomplished anything noteworthy, anything with guns included. What would this idiot president do anyway? Give idiots even more idiot guns?)
3. When we were in Glasgow, the waiter we had at Chaakoo Bombay said that Glaswegians are more friendly than Edinbourgeois. So far, I’m not entirely convinced that’s true. So far, both have rather been equally friendly. We’ll see what happens to our perception of this measure of Scottish friendliness as we head farther north.
4. If there’s one thing about British culture I will never understand, it’s the fact that they STILL have their idiot monarchy. Now, I do admire exploring majestic castles and opulent palaces like Edinburgh Castle and Holyrood Palace, all of which probably wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for such an idiot family, but honestly! Don’t you have better things to spend money on nowadays? Of course, I imagine this is much like complaining about how much the U.S. spends on their idiot military. (I realize that by publishing these sentiments that I’ll probably never get elected to public office, nor will I ever be allowed to become a British citizen.)