Last year I amused myself by compiling an A-Z of Edinburgh, and for 2019 my new blog series will explore Edinburgh by numbers! I'm not sure how high I'll go, and I may start skipping digits, but it's my blog and I can make my own rules...!
So here's Edinburgh in numbers, 1 to 3.
The Number 1: No.1 High Street
To begin at the beginning - 1 High Street is an address on the Royal Mile, at the point where the city originally started (and finished, depending which way you were walking!). The junction itself also boasts the World's End, a marker point for the gateway into and out of the city, beyond which many of Edinburgh's residents never would have travelled.
No. 1 High Street is today a pub called No. 1 High Street (for the avoidance of doubt). Above the entrance to the bar you'll find a figure carved in wood, dressed in green and holding a bow in his right hand. He represents the Royal Company of Archers, who have been the official bodyguards of the monarch in Scotland since 1822. It was a largely ceremonial body of men assembled for George IV's historic state visit of that year, but they retain a sense of place and can frequently be seen in the city during the summer, especially during royal visits.
When not 'on duty' the Royal Company of Archers can be seen practising their marksmanship either in the gardens at the Palace of Holyroodhouse, or on the Meadows (near to the path named Archers' Walk which runs across the parkland).
The Number 2: Charles II
Another royal connection for no. 2 - King Charles II, who was a major figure in the development of Holyroodhouse in the seventeenth century, and is represented in a statue on Parliament Square, near St Giles' cathedral.
The statue of Charles was produced by one of the king's favourite artists, Grinling Gibbons. He was known primarily for wood carvings, but the statue of Charles was cast from lead in the 1680s. It commemorates Charles's coronation as king of Scotland in 1649, after the execution of his father, Charles I. It was only after the restoration of the monarchy in England, following the interregnum and brief period of England as Commonwealth, under Oliver Cromwell, that Charles II was formally recognised a king of England too.
Gibbons' statue represents Charles as a Roman general, a very different image from the classic portraits of Charles II in wigs and heavy jackets. The statue was restored in 2011, to remedy a number of misshapen elements from the lead having buckled and twisted over the preceding three-hundred years...
The Number 3: Three Volcanoes
Although the city was traditionally said (like Rome) to have been built on seven hills, there are three major peaks in Edinburgh's city centre - three vents of an ancient volcano which created the dramatic landscape of the city today.
Arthur's Seat is the highest of the three peaks, reaching to 250m above sea level, and is a popular ascent for walkers. Calton Hill is an easier climb, just ten minutes' walk from Princes Street, offering fantastic views over the city, and Castle Rock is the third peak, winding up within the site of Edinburgh Castle itself to a summit near St Margaret's Chapel. The volcanic eruptions which created these features took place around 350,000,000 years ago, when the landscape itself was deep under water.
Between these three summits run a series of deep valleys, created by glacial activity during the last Ice Age, approximately 15,000 years ago.
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