Sunday, 3 June 2012

A tale of three cities: Edinburgh

Before I get going with this post I firstly want to remind you all that tomorrow night (Monday) is the finale of Games of Thrones season 2.  If you missed last week’s episode then you missed out; it was edge of seat stuff.  The finale is on Sky Atlantic tomorrow at 9pm.

Right, in the third and final post about my favourite cities, discussing cities that can be developed into characters in their own right for fiction, I will be talking about Edinburgh.  You can also read my other posts about Bristol and York.

I have only been to Edinburgh once so far and I can’t get it out of my head.  The history is rich and dark, the city itself is beautiful and unique and the Scottish patriotism that surrounds and fills it makes it a perfect city to characterise in fiction.

Edinburgh is a city of two sides; the Old Town and the New Town.  The Old Town is medieval with its twisting cobbled streets, wonky buildings and the Royal Mile leading up to the castle which nestles on the hill in the middle of the city.  Around the bottom of the hill is a beautiful park.  The castle is still in use and when we visited we were able to see not only military displays but also a wedding in progress.

The New Town is Georgian and, in my personal opinion, boring compared to the Old Town.  Full of a more modern vibe and high street shops, I veered away from there and stuck with the Old Town, so forgive my lacking knowledge.

Edinburgh wreaks of history.  There are glorious museums and monuments, the castle stands in full glory and along the Royal Mile street performers and bagpipe buskers woo the tourists.  Edinburgh is also home to the Edinburgh Tattoo and Edinburgh Festival where the greatest names in comedy are discovered.

There are lots of things to do outside of the city too, with coach trips to Loch Ness and across the Highlands and Edinburgh Zoo which is now home to two Giant Pandas from China.  Edinburgh Zoo, like the city, has a wonderful feel to it.  It is situated on a hill and the top offers glorious views (and memories – this was where me and my husband got engaged) and make sure you stick around for the penguin walkabout.

I hardly feel it necessary to explain why Edinburgh is inspirational but I will continue.  As a fantasy/horror writer I was thrilled by the thought of going on a ghost walk, thinking it would be as tame as the walks in my beloved York.  Wrong.  We went on a ghost walk into the vaults.  These are the spaces left between buildings and bridges when the Old Town was connected to the New Town and is the underground city of Edinburgh.  Back then it was illegal to be homeless so all of those who had no home would wind up in these dark, chilling vaults.  Numerous people died or were killed in these vaults, women were dragged here to be abused and murdered and the infamous Burke and Hare would store their grave robbed cadavers in these dark cells.

I admit I am easy to scare.  The York ghost walks, while sad and spooky, are nothing compared to this one ghost walk I did in Edinburgh.  My mobile phone died during the tour and at one point all of the lights were turned off so that we could learn just how miserablely scary it would have been to live there.  As the tour guide talked I felt a chill up my left side leaving goosebumps up my arm.  I thought nothing of it.  I couldn’t remember where the rest of the group were stood so decided I must be on the edge and there was a breeze coming through a crack in the walls.  The lights came back on and I was bang smack in the middle of the group, huddled in the warmth of living bodies.  That, I will happily admit, completely freaked me out.

So Edinburgh is swimming in history, mysterious and dark, brimming with ghosts, cobbled streets up steep hills leading to a castle stood tall on a hill overlooking the city and surrounding hills as a lone bagpipe sounds mournfully through the city whilst underneath lies a labyrinth of tunnels and secrets.
I have already put this inspiration to good use and in my latest novel Edinburgh has inspired the city in which the story is set.  I can’t wait to return to this amazing city, visit the pandas at the zoo, maybe explore New Town this time and go on another ghost tour, this time of a graveyard.

No comments:

Post a Comment