On our second day in Edinburgh, Cris and I got up early and went for a hike in Holyrood Park. This is a popular public area which once served as a royal hunting estate dating back to the 12th Century. It sits adjacent to Holyrood Palace (the city’s official royal residence) and its features include hiking trails, three lochs, the ruins of St. Anthony’s Chapel (pictured above) the Salisbury Crags and Arthurs Seat, the highest point in Edinburgh.
We first made the long, gradual trek to the top of Arthurs Seat. It was a decent climb, but not at all strenuous. Along the trail, even at this early morning hour, we met many tourists and locals out walking their dogs. Everyone was smiling and in good spirits while immersed in the beautiful surroundings.
Atop Arthurs Seat we were rewarded with panoramic views of Edinburgh and the surrounding landscape. Not that there was any doubt, but at this moment I became absolutely determined that we’d be making a return trip to Scotland when we have more time to explore. Edinburgh is an amazing city, but I’m very anxious to get out into the countryside and see what the Highlands have to offer. (A long distance hike in this region has moved very high up my bucket list!)
Looking back I’d say that this morning was one of the highlights of the entire trip. Cris and I first met while hiking and it’s a big part of our lives, but with her now pursuing a PhD and me working full time and trying to run my photo business on the side, our schedules rarely align. It was really nice to just get off by ourselves for a couple of hours, walking and talking just like old times. Plus, as I mentioned in an earlier post Cris lived in Edinburgh for a spell and used to come hiking here pretty frequently. I can still remember her telling me about this when we first met on the PCT. As our relationship progressed from “hiking partners to maybe something more…” she started to talk about bringing me here someday. It was pretty special to have that finally come true.
On the hike down from Arthurs Seat we stopped to check out the ruins of St. Anthony’s Chapel. The origins and age of this chapel are unknown, but it is certain that it was built prior to 1426, as there is record of the Pope making a donation that year for its repair.
I was really stricken by the beauty of this ancient structure and the photo ops it provided, both standing in harmony with its natural surroundings and juxtaposed over modern day Edinburgh, shining in the morning light below.
Leaving the chapel it was almost time for us to meet back up with Cris’ parents and sister in town. When I spotted a gurgling little spring, however, I just couldn’t resist the chance to indulge in a final few minutes of nature photography before returning to the streets of the city.
It wasn’t until a few months later when I was thinking back and casually started researching the Holyrood area that I realized that this spring may have some significance. I mean, I assumed it was important and may have influenced the chapel placement given its close proximity, but it may have some literary relevance as well.
Apparently it’s a May Day tradition for the girls of Edinburgh to bathe their faces in the dew from these slopes, for promise of lifelong beauty. This inspired the following excerpt from the 1773 Robert Fergusson poem “Auld Reekie”-
On May-day, in a fairy ring,
We’ve seen them round St Anthon’s spring,
Frae grass the cauler dew draps wring
To weet their een,
And water clear as crystal spring
To synd them clean
I can’t confirm yet that this is THE “St. Anthon’s Spring,” but it certainly seems fitting…