30th April

30th April

30th April, Saturday


A day to visit Edinburgh find out about Celtic traditions and also attend the Beltane Fire Festival. Be ready for a truly pagan experience!

If you are planning to visit the Castle, you may be eligible for a free ticket. Please contact Historic Scotland http://www.historic-scotland.gov.uk/  to enquire in advance.  If you are not getting immediate response to your email, you may also ask for a free visit by phone. Camera Obscura is also worth visiting, and they are very likely to offer you a complementary ticket for teachers if you contact them via http://www.camera-obscura.co.uk/

The British Culture workshops will take place at Jean’s address,  is 9 Flat 1 Roseneath Street, EH9 2HS Edinburgh and you can get there either walking across the Meadows, or by the 41 bus from Waverley Bridge. Marchmont is a student part of town, full of lovely Victorian houses with bay windows.

[This programme is still subject to change. Check for the final version 25th April]

Breakfast with host family
10:00Meet in front of the Walter Scott Monument in Princess Streetof the Walter Scott Monument in Princess StreetJean
10:00 – 11:30Edinburgh City WalkJean
11:30 – 15:00The Castle and Camera Obscura
15:00 – 16:30British Culture 1 Tea and Scones in MarchmontJean
18:00 – 19:00Dinner with host family
19:30Meet in front of the Walter Scott Monument in Princess StreetGeorge
20:00 into the nightBeltane at Calton HillGeorge

Jean will give you the Beltane Festival tickets and George will be your guide for the first couple of hours. The text below, published in the Teacher magazine in April 2016, will give you more information about Calton Hill and Beltane.

Calton Hill by Magdalena Fijalkowska
British Culture, NaukaBezGranic, eltonline@naukabezgranic.pl

When you visit Edinburgh for the first time you may feel a bit confused, as one of the first sights you see is what looks like the Athenian Acropolis, or a fraction of it, in other words ancient Greek ruins. And before you Google it, you may feel that while you remember from your history lessons that the Romans got as far as Hadrian’s Wall, you do not remember ever hearing of ancient Romans or Greeks making it to Scotland. If you happen to be around on 30th April, you may also be shocked by the sight of bonfires, naked bodies and people painted blue running about at pagan festival celebrations.

This is Calton Hill and what immediately catches the eye is The Scottish National Monument. It was intended to be another Parthenon, and to commemorate Scottish soldiers killed in the Napoleonic wars. The Greek style can be explained by the fact that when it was planned, British architects were very much influenced by Roman and Greek architecture and Edinburgh gave itself the title ‘Athens of the North’ to reflect its sense of achievement. However, although construction started in 1826, work was stopped in 1829 due to lack of funding and has never been completed, and the monument became known as ‘Scotland’s Disgrace’ or ‘Scotland’s Pride and Poverty’ or ‘Edinburgh’s Folly.

These days Calton Hill is one of the most important landmarks in Edinburgh. It is the headquarters of the Scottish Government, based at St. Andrew’s House on the slope of the hill. Apart from the Scottish National Monument, the Robert Burns Monument, the Royal Observatory and the Political Martyrs’ Monument can be found there too while the Scottish Parliament building and Holyrood Palace, one of the royal residences, are nearby.

As we can learn from Wikipedia, in 1456, James II granted the community of Edinburgh the valley and the low ground between Calton Hill and Greenside for performing tournaments, sports and other warlike deeds. In 1518 the Carmelite Friars built a monastery there, which in 1591 was turned into a hospital for lepers. Later Calton Hill became home to The Old Calton Burial Ground, where the philosopher David Hume was buried.

At the beginning of the 19th century William Henry Playfair planned the elegant terraces round Calton Hill: Carlton Terracem, Regent Terrace and Royal Terrace, which became known as Whisky Row due to the number of spirit merchants, who bought the new properties. William Henry Playfair and Charles Robert Cockerell were also responsible for many of the monumental structures on the summit of the hill most notably the Scottish National Monument.

Calton Hill was also the location of the notorious Calton Jail, a complex comprising a Debtors’ Prison, the Bridewell (1791–96) by Robert Adam and a Felons’ Prison of 1815-17 by Archibald Elliot. The prisons were replaced by Saughton Prison and demolished in 1930 providing a site for St. Andrew’s House, home to Scotland’s senior civil servants.

More recently, Calton Hill was the location of a permanent vigil for Scottish devolution and was also the venue in October 2004 for the Declaration of Calton Hill which outlined the demands for a future Scottish republic.

We have earlier mentioned paganism and naked people running about as Calton Hill is the venue for a number of events. The largest of these is the Beltane Fire Festival held on 30 April each year, attended by over 12,000 people and several hundred performers. It is a reinterpretation of the Iron Age Celtic ritual and the Gaelic Festival of Beltane, which celebrates the beginning of spring.

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