Last weekend went off with chum for drive over the Forth, ended up at Loch Leven (where, among others things, the castle on an island in the loch was once prison to that unfortunate lady, Mary Queen of Scots), then over to the Fife coastal route back home, paused for the traditional bag of chips on the seafront at Burntisland, then head for home. When you follow the coastal road out of Burntisland it goes up quite high and gives spectacular views across the mighty Firth of Forth, not least towards the wonderful Forth Rail Bridge, which rises from the waters like some Victorian steel sea beast:
That same vantage point also offers views of my home, Edinburgh, from a different perspective, viewed from the opposite side of this vast river which cuts its way right into the geology and coast of the land. In this one (if you click to go to the larger versions you can see on my Flickr pic) you can just make out Edinburgh Castle on the centre right of the photo, glimsped from the Fife side of the river looking over to the capital:
And in this view of the harbour, docks and new buildings around the port of Leith you can also see the Royal Yacht Britannia on the far left. Images are not as clear as I’d like but on max zoom shooting through a lot of atmosphere and over water so they were never going to be as sharp as I would like. Still a wonderful view to see parts of my city from that angle.
And here’s the distinctive shape of Arthur’s Seat, the summit and the outline of the Salisbury Crags, the vast extinct volcano which sits at the heart of Edinburgh and is visible for miles around, it and the the volcanic ridge it caused (on which the Old Town perches and the Castle sits at the highest point) and the other hills help give Edinburgh its spectacular background, like few other cities in the world. Also keeps you fit walking and cycling up and down all those slopes! That’s why we need so many pubs to take a little rest in… You can see from this why this area has been settled for thousands of years – Edinburgh Castle is an ancient and imposing fortress, but millennia before it was built our Iron Age ancestors – and probably even earlier peoples – had fortifications on the side of Arthur’s Seat, offering them security, natural fortifications and views across the land and river to Fife, and even down the coast to North Berwick. You can see from this why an early people would choose to settle there.
Edinburgh, this evening, just after sunset, the National Gallery of Scotland in the foreground, above, standing sentinel over the city, the vast bulk of Edinburgh Castle atop the giant volcanic rock, sun has set but there’s still a tiny little bit of the palest light left in the western horizon
During my recent night photography session in Edinburgh I had a little fun prowling the dark bone orchards – this one looks quiet, dark, still, but actually it is Saint Cuthbert’s, which is right in the middle of the town with a very busy street just a few yards away. Up above you can see Edinburgh Castle, all floodlit while the massive volcanic rock it sits atop is in darkness, giving the illusion that the Castle is floating above the city like something from Gulliver’s Travels:
It’s Saint Andrew’s Day again in Scotland, here’s a night shot I managed to improvise of Edinburgh Castle lit up in blue like our Saltire especially for the occassion. I was on my way home from my book group so didn’t have a tripod, but when I saw this I improvised, jammed the camera as best I could between some railings above Princes Street Gardens and tried to brace it to hold it steady enough for a night shot, helped by it being lighter than usual with all the snow we had at the time reflecting a lot more ambient light and after a few shots one finally came out reasonably well (click for larger image on my Flickr):
The traditional Winter Wonderland in Princes Street Gardens is up and running, the small fair and the German Market on the Mound. I felt very sorry for them during the heavy snow, all set up but with hardly anyone going round them due to the weather. Even the other night when I took some of these it was much quieter than it usually is, despite there being no snow for a few days. Bitterly cold, sure, but it always is in December when this is here and it doesn’t stop people, but a week to Christmas and even on late night opening there were people around but nowhere near as busy as I normally see it at this time of year. Still pretty to walk around though, the light and warmth and the smell of hot, spiced drinks and food against the cold, dark, winter night.
Just as I pressed the shutter the lady leaned forward with something from the stall and kids all smiled at just the right time. Sometimes you get lucky in street photograpy (and also lucky it came out considering it was night and it was all freehand and no use of flash)
Chocolates and sweeties!
Hot, spiced drinks warm the bones in the cold night
Looking across Princes Street Gardens, the ice rink down below in the valley, the National Gallery of Scotland behind it and above it all Edinburgh Castle.
It’s Saint Andrew’s Day in a very snowy Scotland and Edinburgh Castle has been specially lit with a pale, blue light, reminiscent of our Saltire. I managed to get a shot this evening on the way home from the book group tonight, no tripod with me as I had gone right from work to the group meeting, so improvised (as I do for most of my night shots!), jammed camera as best I could between the railings of Princes Street Gardens just above the Ross Bandstand. Seems to have worked, although it meant I couldn’t angle the camera as I’d like to get the whole thing in – did try that but camera wasn’t steady enough, came out blurred, so have to settle for this one – I do like the light in conjunction with all the heavy snow we’ve had, makes an eerie effect, almost like something from a fantasy film:
Recently I did something I hadn’t done before – in fact something I didn’t even know you could do: go onto the roof of the National Museum of Scotland on Chambers Street. I’ve been in many times but I had no idea there is a large roof terrace (with native plant garden) that you are free to visit too. I’ve wandered around the museum many times but the signs to the roof aren’t too obvious and most folks in Edinburgh I mentioned it too didn’t realise you could go up there either. Lovely spot offering pretty much 360 degree views over the roofs of the Old Town towards the Mile, over historic Greyfriars Kirk, nearby Edinburgh University, the Pentland Hills beyond the city, Arthur’s Seat, the huge extinct volcano which rears out of the royal park right in the middle of Edinburgh, and, of course, the Castle. Again I find myself wishing I could afford to upgrade to the camera I have my eye on which has much more zoom power, but even so it was still a great and quiet spot to stand and take in the view and shoot a few pics:
After finishing work for the year I walked up a very snowy Royal Mile to the Castle gates. For the first time ever I had it all to myself, not another soul there for ten minutes, just me standing in snow that came over the toes of my boots, that soft scrunching sound that reminds you instantly of childhood playtimes in the snow. Just me and the cold and the snow and the Castle glowing in the night above the city, dusted with snow like icing on a historical cake. Below and around me views across the whole of Edinburgh, right out to the Pentland Hills. Freezing but incomparably beautiful. Merry Christmas from a snowy Scotland!
On the way home this evening after the last book group of the year and a nice drink, passing Princes Street Gardens, the Christmas lights, snow, Edinburgh Castle… This is my view on the way home and one of the reasons I love living here in one of the most beautiful cities on the planet.
As I was walking through the New Town with dad for Doors Open Day we looked up Castle Street and saw two jet contrails describing a huge Saint Andrew’s Cross in the sky above Edinburgh Castle. Legend has it that a vision in the sky before a battle 1100 years ago is the reason that the Saltire came to be the national emblem of Scotland (and one of the oldest national symbols in the world, I believe), so there was something especially magical about seeing this accidental creation above one of the great symbols of Scotland. Few minutes later or from a different vantage point and we’d not have seen this special view.
Some of the grandstand seating and control tower erected on the Castle Esplanade for the annual Royal Military Tattoo which takes place during the Festival in August and these days also gets used for some concerts before and after the Tattoo. Duran Duran and Florence and the Machine were on there on Thursday night – amazing spot for a gig, the Castle gates and battlements to one side, Edinburgh at night to the other sides below your view from the top of the vast volcanic Castle Rock. Alas, also very exposed to the elements and that evening we had thunder, lightning and torrential rain, which is the drawback to that sort of venue… I have been just once to the Tattoo, not really my cup of tea, although it is quite dramatic to see a massed pipe band at night come marching out the Castle gates, which are flanked by statues of the Bruce and Wallace, fire blazing in metal braziers on the battlements above. And at the end all the lights out, even the ones which floodlight the Castle, save for one spotlight and the haunting image and sound of a single, lone piper on the wall of this ancient fortress high above the city.
And thus Edinburgh’s Festival season, the world’s biggest arts festival, comes to an end for another year with mighty explosions echoing across the city like the pounding of the Castle’s cannons as the traditional classical music and fireworks concert took place. I was lucky enough to be invited to my friend’s workplace which has a good view out towards the front of the Castle rather than standing with the 250, 000 others in the streets and hills of the city watching it all. It was a lovely late summer evening as we walked into the city centre, the last glow of the sun washing the stones of the Castle in a copper glow before finally fading into darkness, the stars beginning to appear in the sky above the floodlit fortress. An air of expectation from thousands of people waiting in the dark… The orchestra in the Gardens begins to play and suddenly the dark night explodes in light, colour and sound, incredibly ephemeral sculptures and flowers of light in the air, lasting only seconds.
I love fireworks – there are some things you never grow out of an a huge fireworks show is one of them. But fireworks launching into the sky from an ancient fortress atop a volcanic rock is something else again. I love living here. You can view the full set at larger sizes on my Flickr stream.