City and nature collide on the porous border between Old Town and Holyrood Park. Arthur’s Seat looms out of the meadows and heathlands filling the park, a leonine crag of black basalt worn into sharp cliffs. Ruined chapels and walking trails dot the 650-acre park beloved of Edinburghers. The quirky Dynamic Earth museum and Palace of Holyroodhouse dare to challenge the volcanic mount in majesty, a jumbled assortment of engineering and architectural styles swiftly diminished against dark mirror lochs and brilliant emerald lawns. Edinburgh’s craggy skyline dips and flows in the distance from Edinburgh Castle to the Nelson Monument on Calton Hill, filled by steeples and clocktowers. The Scottish Parliament aims to unite the people with the landscape as a series of low, leaf-shaped buildings emerging from the hillside in an amphitheatre. Its thatched grass roof and organic design still stir controversy without, while elected politicians gathered within debate the course of the nation.
Government buildings and modern offices cluster around the foot of Holyrood Road to be near the font of power, now just as five hundred years ago when courtiers ventured to the palace. Barclay House, a new glass structure, holds the Scotsman newspaper, and a host of other media companies occupy old and new tenements. Black gates seal off the lush grounds of Holyroodhouse where the Royal Family occasionally reside. Glimpses of the Renaissance building appear through gardens and heavy trees, the best vantage gained by the public access gates. Security presences here are heavy, often cloying during major events, and the most zealous parking maids in Scotland perform their duties on unsuspecting cars, lorries, and vans.