Scotland Day Three: The Old Town

The door to 7 St. Mary's

Traveler Two and I moved from Picardy Place to an apartment on St. Mary's Street in the heart of the Old Town. The location is notable because the building we will reside in sits on the area where the old city walls, dating from the 1500's, used to stand. It also marks the spot where the main gate to the High Street was, in a sense making it the place "world" ended and Edinburgh began.

As if lugging our too heavy luggage and several bags of groceries up six flights of narrow, winding stairs wasn't challenging enough, we decided on climbing Salisbury Crags and Arthur's Seat, which at their highest point are over 800 meters above sea level.

We walked east down The Royal Mile, passing the Canongate Tollbooth, Holyrood Palace, and the Scottish Parliament building, which is as peculiarly ugly as Boston City Hall (for those readers from the greater Boston area who know what I mean).

Panorama from the top of the crags overlooking Edinburgh.

Salisbury Crags and Arthur's Seat were resplendent in yellow gorse, also known an Whin and Broom. Whin and Broom two different species of the pea family. Whin is an ever-green shrub and is densely armed with rigid thorns. Scottish Broom, on the other hand, lacks the thorns and the blooms are a slightly different shade of yellow. Broom can also be distinguished from Whin by its hairy, lobed leaves.

Gorse in bloom.

Arthur's Seat and the Crags are remnants of an extinct volcano, last know to be active 350 million years ago. It is also one spectacular place to take a walk, especially this time of year with the yellow gorse contrasting with the bright blue sky and the green grass covering the hills, moving like waves in the ocean, blown by the cold sea wind off the Firth.

Arthur's Seat

Whinny Hill as seen from the edge of Salisbury Crags

We took the Radical Road route up to the crags and then, seeing exactly how steep the climb to Arthur's Seat was from that direction, opted for walking along the top of the crags and down toward Haggis Knowe and up again to St. Anthony's Chapel and down to St. Margaret's Loch. Along the way we saw jackdaws, magpies, ravens, swifts, house martins, mute swans, greylag geese, herring gulls, coots, pigeons, mallards, and tufted ducks.


Magpie. This magpie was involved in a war with a raven over territorial and nest/egg issues. We don't know the outcome of the war.

Herring gulls jockeying for position for best access to crumbs.

Mute Swan

Greylag Goose