I have laid foot in hilly cities before, but I have never once visited a location which seems as though it was crafted from the landscape itself. But if I were to pick one location where the buildings and the history should be so in tune with the rolling vistas which surround the town, I can think of few more suitable and few more seductive backdrops than the ground on which Edinburgh was built.
I had decided to book myself into a self-catered accommodation, to all the more easily take a taste of what the city had to offer. Every step I took further out into the city after arriving, I could feel the constant presence of one particular feature. Everywhere I went, I knew that the castle was there. Even when I could no longer see the shape, the silhouette of it rising up into the sky, I knew it was there. It ducked behind buildings and wrapped itself up in that gossamer mist which suits the city so well and it is impossible to think of the area without picturing this castle crowning the landscape.
Without any of the history, it would still be an architectural marvel and I can think of few buildings which so elegantly seem like an extension of the very ground on which they are built.
Rising up from the rock – once you are stood on the castle battlements – you open yourself up to the entirety of the scenery on offer. My eye was immediately drawn towards the sloped greenery of Arthur’s Seat. Beyond the cathedral spires, the rooftops and the chimneys, the natural power of the formation was described by Robert Louis Stevenson as “a hill for magnitude, a mountain in virtue of its bold design”, and it is exactly that. An imposing, enticing view which watches over the city, offering a glimpse into the area before the city rose up. Whilst the castle might claim to be the heart of the city, Arthur’s Seat offers a breath-taking backdrop which only serves to emphasise the nature of the Scottish landscape from which the city was born.
From the tip of the city, I decided to go a little deeper. Walking through the Gothic fineries of Old Town, even this attempt to formalise and control the Scottish scenery is still unique. The buildings rise up, the roads slope down; the paving slabs meet the cobbled roads and every single piece feels like it would weather a thousand centuries. The enduring nature of the architecture is unlike the delicacy of Parisian design or the dilapidated finery of Rome’s empire-designed wonders. Instead, Old Town offers not only a chance to enjoy some of the finest shopping available in the city, but to bear witness to some of Edinburgh’s most finely designed buildings.
Prince’s Street Gardens
I finished my personal walk around the city with a stroll through the Prince’s Street Gardens. After the powerful and natural experience of the rest of the city, this was almost a silent moment. The cultivated craft of the landscaping contrasted with the rising might of the castle above. But there was a stillness and a calm beauty. At the same time, there was a similar sense of the Scottish landscape being echoed in the wildlife and the plants; this moment of serenity surrounded by the engrossing scenery of Scotland’s most striking city.