Scotland: Big, Bold…Fragile

I walk the steep road to the top of the Royal Mile. A whipping wind swirls my hair in icicle cold. I am resolute to conquer the road which curves its way up a volcanic hillside.I want to say goodbye to Edinburgh Castle, a huge monolith perched on top of its windswept cliff.

I’ve talked about “wee things” on my blog. Today, I focus on the big, bold, yet fragile, beauty of Scotland.

Climbing my hill, I pass huge owls perched on shoulders of skillful snapshot sellers.

Harry Potter is definitely a “thing” here where J K Rowling sat in The Elephant House and penned her famous books.

I continue to climb with an odd mix of music swirling about me. James Taylor and Phil Collins croon from pub doors. A bagpipe’s squeal whistles and wheezes from a  sidewalk performer.

I climb.

Near the top of the hill, a poor, frozen guitarist rasps folk songs from a sidewalk blanket near the castle barricade. I feel sorry for her, all bundled there. No one seems to notice.

I pause at the Witches’ Well, a snake’s head drinking trough which commemorates the death of some 300 “witches” who were executed on this rugged road.The sky behind the castle is water-colored golden-pink. Skeletal trees sway in the wash of color.  I snap a photo goodbye and begin my decent.

I pass Deacon Brodie’s Tavern, a haunt of William Brodie, whose drunken crime sprees became an infamous inspiration for Robert Louis Stevenson’s Dr Jekyl and Mr. Hyde, published in 1886.  Brodie was hung on the gallows of this road in 1788..

The gallows site is imbedded in the road, oddly, in the shape of a heart.  Many Scots spit on this place. 

Fading guitar music follows me down this cobbled hillside. Its whispery breath creates a ghost-like soundtrack to the darkening stone surroundings.
This is appropriate. Edinburgh brags of ghosts in tours which drag curious onlookers in well-formed lines down slender, daunting, dark passages.

I’m on a narrow walk below massive grey walls of churches with steeples reaching up for the last glint of light in the sky.Now, black silhouettes beckon me homeward. The curling road dances with moonlight and lamplights shimmer. Far away, on the horizon, the sun casts it last light on the North Sea. The water strokes an ever-present pale blue line which stands guard beyond this city.

I gaze around to drink it all in.  Then…I say goodbye.

Scotland is big and bold . Tis a land of giant castles, towering walls, vast green hills and green-gray mountains once ruled by lords, knights and kings.  

Princes and lords are but the breath of kings, ‘an honest man’s the noblest work o’ god’.”     —Thomas Carlyle (1795-1881)

Scotland is a fragile land with ancient grave stones lining hillsides dotted with daffodil or clinging to the sides of churches, mournful and solemn.

Like all lands, Scotland balances on ancient threads of frail people, great and small, their delicate lives nestled in the arms of God.  Their history is kept alive by meticulous caretakers. 

In majestic palaces, crumbling castles, vaulted museums and massive libraries, Scotland’s antique remnants lie beneath glass cases, behind roped displays and beyond gilded gates, all suspended there forever in monitored light.

The souls of the righteous are in the hand of God. There shall no evil happen to them. They are in peace.” – Scottish National War Memorial 


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