Friday, 23 October 2009

Edinburgh (I): city of grandeur

A city of grand architecture set in grand country, yet on a human, walking scale. It is always a delight to visit Edinburgh, and as our morning event in Glasgow was cancelled, I had a few hours to stroll around the Scottish capital, camera in hand. The weather was mild and autumnal, dry and calm - ideal conditions for seeking out the city's essential klimat.

Edinburgh surprises with its vistas which can reveal the city's setting to the south of the Firth of Forth or to the west of Arthur's Seat - stunning landscapes.

It's a hilly city; like San Francisco, streets rise up to a ridge, then plunge away on the other side. Maybe not quite as extreme as San Francisco, but the effect is similar (below).

Who's that greenish geezer atop the pedestal?

Let's take a closer look. Why, it's George Augustus Frederick, son of George of Hanover and Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, a.k.a King George IV. Given the chap's obesity, the statue seems remarkably flattering. (Click to enlarge.)

And that architecture - largely unspoiled by Luftwaffe bombs, insensitive developers or venal town planners, the city is crammed with beautiful buildings. Over 4,500 are listed as being of special architectural, historical or cultural significance. Below: the Balmoral Hotel, looking across from the North Bridge.

Edinburgh's splendid castle (below), dominating the city, is currently cut off from the north side by the roadworks on Princes Street, where a new tramway is being built (53 years after the old one was ripped out).

Below: Fragment of the Scott Monument, and tenements beyond. Edinburgh was recently polled the UK city that most people would chose to live and work in.

Recommended place to stay? The Elder York guest house, close to the very heart of Edinburgh, reasonably priced, friendly owners, beautiful, atmospheric old building, outstanding full Scottish breakfast. Only slight downside is that it's at the top of five flights of stairs, no lift.

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