September 5th, 2016
After lunch all four of us walked along a smaller side street and up, what felt like, a thousand stairs directly to the entrance of Edinburgh Castle. I didn’t expect much from Edinburgh Castle to be honest. I thought it would probably look like a movie set, be over crowded, the most interesting areas would most likely be closed to the public and there would certainly be a gift shop selling over priced souvenirs no one really needs. I wasn’t exactly wrong, all of that was true but what was also true is that a visit to this castle is more than worth the touristy nature of it all. The views from the castle overlooking the city and Arthur’s Seat alone were worth the admission. And then there was the tiny 12th century chapel with beautiful stained glass, the literal crown jewels and the stone of destiny (that stone did feel like a bit of a gimmick though). But the part of the castle that left the biggest impression on me was the Scottish National War Memorial.
Being the American that I am I have visited countless war memorials and museums, dozens of old forts and battle grounds in America – some rather remarkable and others completely forgettable but not one of those, pieces of my own national history, had quite the same effect on me as the Scottish National War Memorial within the castle walls in Edinburgh. It could have been just the amazing amount of time the memorial covered, there are banners and words inscribed in walls dedicated to wars in Scotland that happened long before my own country’s government was even a thought in man’s head. Or it could have been the strict no photos rule once you entered the massive doorway and the fact that the guards in the memorial hall will actually walk over to you and not only tell you to stop snapping pictures but also ask you to delete the ones you managed to take before he got to you.Or possibly it was that there were so many wars and so many fallen that rather than etch those men’s names in stone they had multiple large binders at each conflict dedication listing the known names of the fallen in alphabetical order. It could have been, also, that the wars memorialized in this hall did not always show the ruling country in a favorable light. Despite the fact that Scotland is part of the UK there were still binders upon binders of names dedicated to the Scotts brutally slaughtered by the British during desperate attempts to kill their way to an independent Scotland. And those binders and standards were placed neatly in alcoves right next to binders of Scottish UK soldiers who were sent to a desert in support of the same conflict that made my husband an American Army Veteran.
I think, what was most impressive was not just the lengthy history but the obvious fact that the Scottish are willing to accept and acknowledge both the good and the bad of their own history. From independence, to occupation, to a continued willing union the Scottish do not try to paint an us versus them picture in their memorials. They simply wish to honor their dead regardless of wins or losses, no matter the cause or outcome those men and women were Scottish and they have a place to be remembered, respectfully, in Edinburgh Castle.