Four Seasons in One Day

An insider's guide on how to play—and beat—the Scottish weather
Edinburgh Castle as seen from Princes Street Gardens (Corel)
City of Fire
First settled as early as B.C. 850, Edinburgh rests on a series of volcanic crags that ruptured the landscape some 200 million years ago. For over 1,500 years, the centrally located Castle Rock, one of these calloused protrusions, has been the site of a fortress in one form or another. And over the ensuing centuries many an invading king and scheming clan chieftain have sought to control this citadel. Virtually impregnable from three sides, the holder of Edinburgh Castle is the holder of the city. Although not the most militarily important castle in Scotland (this honor fell to Stirling, at the strategic crossroads between the Lowlands and the Highlands), this garrison is the country's symbolic power base. And today it casts an imperious gaze over Edinburgh, the ubiquitous and photogenic landmark that is visible from most any angle.

"Remind you of home, this rain?" If I had a quarter every time someone here in the U.S. asked me that…

There's no escaping Scotland's terminal lament: the weather. It certainly holds true in Edinburgh, where the weather borrows from the city's affectionate nickname, Auld Reekie—literally, "Old Stinky." But don't hedge your bets and visit this capital city only when the weather might be good. That's a mighty short window of opportunity, folks, and there'll be a whole scrum trying to cram through that same aperture.

Go to Edinburgh, by all means, go. Go because this mosaic of geological, historical, and architectural delights is one of Europe's must-see capitals—but go with a plan, rain or shine. Assume that the day's weather will throw four seasons at you in the space of a short few hours and play Mammy Nature at her own game. But not simply with Gore-Tex weather armor and a bloody-minded determination. (Rest assured that the Edinburgh Castle Esplanade is not a place you want to be with a 40-mile-an-hour wind whipping off the icy Firth of Forth.) No, you have to be wily—play the elements and the keys to the city will be yours.

Published: 12 May 2005 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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