Saturday, 31 May 2008

Chambers Street

Chambers Street runs parallel and just to the south of the Royal Mile. Its neo-classical, almost French-chateau architecture dates from the second half of the 19th century, when a slum-clearing programme destroyed a densely built residential area. Only the University's 'Old College' at the east end of Chambers Street predates the street itself. The street is named after William Chambers of Glenormiston (guy on the pedestal), the Lord Provost of Edinburgh who backed the 1867 Edinburgh Improvement Act that led to the slum clearances, which led to the street... get it?

The building in the background is called Minto House; it originally consisted of a church (to the right) and a large residence (to the left). It is owned by the University and houses the subjects of Architecture and History of Art. Directly opposite Minto House is the Royal Museum, now closed (see 17 May).

Friday, 30 May 2008

Sea Pink and Silverweed

Idyllic eh? Yet this is not some countryside meadow with a church in the distance, but instead it was taken in the middle of Edinburgh's Old Town and in one of my very favourite places - the roof-top garden of the National Museum of Scotland. Once you've taken the lift up to the 7th floor (remember, it's free!) you get the most amazing view of Edinburgh Castle and the city centre. You can even see the water of the Firth of Forth way in the distance. Plus, it's a wonderful suntrap on a beautiful day like today, and a great place to go and eat a sandwich in your lunchbreak!

You can also get to the roof-terrace by stairs from the 5th floor of the Museum - this is what that looks like:

Thursday, 29 May 2008

Rocky indeed!

To demonstrate the point I made about the castle on 26 May, here's a picture from the Grassmarket to show that it really does sit on a pretty impressive bit of rock! The Grassmarket itself - known for its quaint shops, pubs and 'vibrant' wildlife on a Friday and Saturday night - is being partly pedestrianised in a bid to make more of its picturesque character (hence the digger and roadworks).

After I took this photo I walked on past the second-hand bookshops in the west end of the Grassmarket, when I noticed this print in the window of an antiquarian printseller (apologies for the reflections but the picture was taken rather surrepticiously to avoid conflict with the owner):

Wednesday, 28 May 2008

The first stones

I love the colours, textures and shapes of stone walls of buildings - and I love how the type of stone used in a city can give it a distinct character. For example, Edinburgh (creamy-grey sandstone), Glasgow (red sandstone) and Aberdeen (granite) have very similar architecture but completely distinct characters because of the traditional building stone used.

As part of this blog I will try and photograph stone walls all over the city, to build up a collection of snapshots that map the surfaces of Edinburgh's urban fabric! Here's the first one, taken on Willowbank Row.

Tuesday, 27 May 2008

Low tide

Yesterday was a gorgeous day in Scotland and a bank holiday for some. With the benefit of the sunshine I returned to Newhaven Harbour for a few pictures of some of the boats moored there. Apparently it's quite cheap to have a boat at Newhaven because there is only a small window of opportunity at high tide to manoeuvre out of the narrow opening next to the lighthouse (see photo of 13 May). And as you can see, low tide means really low water here!

Monday, 26 May 2008

Edinburgh city centre (view part 2)

As promised yesterday, here's the view part 2! With of course Edinburgh castle to the right and the rather less photogenic St Andrew's House (large bulky office block to the left).
What I find facinating about this picture is the deceptive evenness of height of all the buildings. Edinburgh slopes up quite steeply towards the city centre, and the castle is on a huge big rock that towers over everything else again - yet you would never guess that from this angle. Secondly, the towers/turrets/domes on the skyline itself are not at all in a straight line, but instead they are on two parallel streets half a kilometer away from each other. From left to right, you see: the top of St Giles cathedral (Royal Mile), the tower on the Balmoral Hotel (Princes Street), the Hub (church on Royal Mile), the Scott Monument (gothic spire on Princes Street).

Sunday, 25 May 2008

Edinburgh hills (view part 1)

They say that, like Athens, Edinburgh was built on seven hills. To be honest, some of these hills were not so much built on as built around, and that goes for the two in this photo: Arthur's Seat & Salisbury crags to the left and Calton Hill to the right and closer to the camera. The former sit in a large area of wild parkland called Holyrood Park and at its heighest point Arthur's seat (far left) reaches 251m - not bad for a hill in the middle of a capital city! Calton Hill is not nearly as high and boasts a collection of rather odd but nevertheless iconic monuments. Needless to say, the view from both these hills onto the city is fabulous.

This picture was taken from our friends' fourth floor flat in the north of Edinburgh, looking south-east. If you were to continue turning to the right (so facing south) you'd see the city centre and the castle - so come back for tomorrow's view part two!

Saturday, 24 May 2008

Eurovision madness

The Eurovision Party is a time-honoured tradition at our friends' house - if 'your' country gets 12 points you hit the Skittle vodka (yes, that's really vodka with red or green sweeties dissolved in it...). See above for the poor sod who drew Russia - though the combination Armenia - Azerbaijan also earned a respectable amount of shots!

Friday, 23 May 2008

Old and New

This is a great view of old and new from the top of Whale Brae, over the roofs of the old buildings to the new Platinum Point developments at the Western Harbour! Especially when the light from the sun setting over the Firth of Forth catches the shiny facades of the highrise. It always reminds me of those backdrops you get on filmsets, as if it's not quite real.

Thursday, 22 May 2008

Shared gardens

Lots of people in Edinburgh live in tenements - separate flats off a common stair, or 'close'. This is partly a historic thing: in the 16th and 17th centuries there was very little space to build in the Old Town, because of its geographical location on a narrow ridge of rock. Instead, people built upwards, which resulted in high, densely populated buildings. Incidentally, the Scottish Enlightenment was very much a product of this type of housing as different classes, professions and intellectual ideas all coexisted at very close proximity.

Nowadays tenement living is still very much part of Edinburgh culture, and with these tenements often come shared gardens at the back of the buildings, all bordering on each other like in the photo above.

Wednesday, 21 May 2008

Banking on it

The former Bank of Scotland building on the Mound (see below) forms a distinctive part of the skyline of Edinburgh's Old Town. Now the headquarters of HBOS, it was completely refurbished not too long ago - with stunning effect. One of the most immediately visible changes was the removal of a mezzanine floor in the main Hall, which resulted in the exposure of the ceiling above.

Monday, 19 May 2008

Royal reflections

And finally - a bride arrives at the Royal Museum's main entrance on Chambers Street; can you spot the reflection of the steps and pillars on the facade in the black cab's window?

Sunday, 18 May 2008

How a spider builds its web

This has to be one of my very favourite displays in the Royal Museum (see below) so I thought I'd record it before the museum's closure! Though you can kind of see why they opted for a grand overhaul... :-)

Saturday, 17 May 2008

Bye for now to the Royal Museum...

One of the last shots of the wonderful main hall of the Royal Museum (part of the National Museum of Scotland on Chambers Street) before it shut for a major overhaul - the building is now closed and will reopen in 2011... The museum organised a weekend of events prior to the closing date and, not surpisingly, it was pretty busy even at 10.30am. Unfortunately, the fish ponds - loved by many Edinburgh people - are set to go.

Friday, 16 May 2008

Newhaven again

Sticking with the area for the moment, this shot was taken on Newhaven Main Street, close to yesterday's photo. Can you tell that this used to be a fishervillage? Sadly not much fishing goes on here these days, though have a look at some of the Hill and Adamson photographs on the website of the National Galleries of Scotland for an impression the village's proud inhabitants back in the 1840s:

Mrs Elizabeth (Johnstone) Hall, Newhaven fishwife

Thursday, 15 May 2008

Harbour and bridges

I love this view of Newhaven Harbour, looking out west towards the Forth Road Bridge and Forth Railway Bridge (see if you can spot them both!). This picture was taken pretty much in front of the two recently opened restaurants in the old Fishmarket building in the harbour; the Italian restaurant Prezzo being the latest one with Loch Fyne having been there (and having done exceptionally well) since last autumn. How lovely will it be this summer to sit outside with a glass of wine, looking at views like this?