Edinburgh Castle rises above craggy heights in the middle of the city, part castle and part palace, the home of Scottish royalty. An ancient hill fort dating to before the seventh century, Edinburgh’s steep cliffs and rocky slopes preclude entry or attack from all but one side.
Today the Royal Mile is filled with buildings and shops befitting royal residents. Around and below is the central city, bustling with commerce and thick with old buildings of all sorts, many clinging to the cliff face below the castle walls. Cobble and paving stone streets of various degrees of steepness feed foot and vehicle traffic to the castle and adjacent areas sporting newer construction. Some parks adorn the lower areas, and among the old buildings and natural features, nature has surreptitiously taken hold.
Old Town Edinburgh is a city of green amidst centuries-old buildings. Nearby parks have a feeling of being almost wild and are thick with trees. While there are plenty of perfectly orderly gardens at every turn, it’s easy to find those only marginally-tended natural spaces anywhere near Old Town. Scotland is temperate with much rainfall that encourages vegetation in any unused or inaccessible spot. Edinburgh’s sheer rock faces, both natural and man-made, and rugged terrain are host to a variety of lichens, vines, flowers and other plants. Saplings reach for the sky from the cracks in the stone walls and tiered surfaces. Among the tumble of the old buildings, poorly accessible nooks and crannies provide safe havens for anything that needs a space to grow.
It is not hard to imagine the old days when wagons or carts vied with horses and pedestrians for dominance on the roadways. Among the stone walls and houses, hovels of uncertain construction were scattered, and life for most residents was basic at best. The castle and walls were not entirely for decoration, but a defense from real threats, and offered sanctuary in troubled times.
Interestingly, this place, developed and heavily used for human purposes for a millennia, still has its wild side. And yet, it is a thriving and bustling modern city, with an ancient core where man and nature coexist.
Nonetheless, nature finds a way in, even after centuries of rejection. Lichen on a rock wall, flowers blooming through paving stone walkways, saplings fighting to exist among a jumble of crumbling concrete. Each plant has a drive to exist, to become what it is programmed to be.