Scottie's Monthly Photo Diary

- Edinburgh Christmas Decorations 2011

I never go anywhere in Scotland without my camera and I take photographs wherever I go. Sometimes I go somewhere specifically to take photographs with a view to adding another page to the Rampant Scotland site. On other occasions I just see something that makes an attractive picture or else it's another graphic to add to the library to perhaps use on a future occasion.

This is a selection of the photographs I took of Christmas decorations in Edinburgh at the end of November, 2011 with a commentary on each one. There's also a link (at the end) to a slide show of similar pictures on YouTube.

See also Edinburgh's Capital Christmas for more on the activities that take place in Edinburgh at this time of year.

Edinburgh Christmas By Day

In previous years when taking the photographs of Edinburgh's Christmas decorations I've tended to concentrate on the scenes after the sun has set, highlighting the coloured lights and the buildings picked out by floodlights. This year, I happened to have some time before and after lunch and took a series of pictures in daylight - there were even a few unexpected blinks of sunshine! The resulting graphics allow you to see some of the attractions more clearly, though perhaps without some of the magic that darkness and coloured lights can give.
The "photo opportunity" here is more for the family who entered the plastic balloon than for passing photographers such as me. The "snow" was being sent into the air by a fan in the base of the unit and the snowman and the reindeer tended to get knocked over. But the kids enjoyed it all!

Edinburgh launched its first Capital Christmas in 1999 and the 108 feet high Ferris wheel has been a feature since then of the entertainment in Edinburgh's Princes Street Gardens over the Festive Season. Located beside the fairy-tale monument to Sir Walter Scott and overhanging the Princes Street pavement, it dominates the market stalls and funfair below.

When this amusing sign was erected, they wouldn't know that by early December the snow would indeed be falling. Admittedly only a few centimetres at low level in central Scotland, but enough to discourage at least some of the people they were hoping to attract!

There was of course a high speed merry-go-round but this is more sedate traditional one is aimed at the younger visitors.

The Ferris Wheel with the Scott Monument behind it makes a striking combination of old and new. Colour is added to this picture by the hydrangea bushes where at least some of the flowers were still in bloom - November was particularly mild this year.

This picture shows just how far the Ferris Wheel overhangs Princes Street. Of course, there are no trams (also known as a streetcar or trolley car) running yet on the tracks that have been laid in Princes Street and motor cars have been banned from Edinburgh's main shopping street for a number of years - which makes life easier for wandering into the middle of the road to take photographs!

This traditional Nativity scene is displayed appropriately enough in St Andrew Square.

Work to lay the tracks for Edinburgh's new tramway system began in 2008, disrupting traffic and causing shops to lose business, in some cases causing bankruptcy. Work on the track from Princes Street to Edinburgh airport is still ongoing (the project was nearly cancelled at one point earlier this year due to the delays and soaring costs). The current plan is for the system to be operational in the summer of 2014.

I had been waiting impatiently in the café inside Edinburgh Castle for sunset (about 4pm at this time of year) and the lights being switched on so that I could start taking photos of the Christmas lights and floodlit buildings. I was perhaps a shade too early to obtain a more dramatic picture of the castle. A heavy shower of rain began soon after too and during the course of my photographic "expedition" my golf umbrella blew inside out on three occasions due to the strong winds!

Edinburgh Christmas By Night

This is the "photo opportunity" shown at the start of the "daylight" section at the top of the page. Due to the time of day, there were more adults around than children so the unit was largely empty - at least that meant that the "snowman" and "reindeer" remained standing!

This Christmas tree is set high above Princes Street, the main shopping thoroughfare in Edinburgh on a part of the city known as "The Mound".

Just along from the Christmas tree is the Assembly Hall, the meeting place of the annual General Assembly of the Church of Scotland. The building was pressed into service as temporary accommodation for the Scottish Parliament when it got going again in 1999 and until the new parliament building was completed in 2004

Another prominent building on "The Mound" is the Bank of Scotland head office (though the bank is now part of the UK-wide Lloyds Banking Group). Although the floodlighting fits in with all the other Christmas lighting, it also remains lit up at night throughout the year.

The East Princes Street Gardens are given over to a fun fair, skating rink and market stalls over the Festive period. The helter-skelter slide is particularly popular with the youngsters (and the young in heart).

This is an overview of the funfair area in East Princes Street Gardens - the Balmoral Hotel, beside Waverley railway station is beyond and to the left are the Ferris Wheel and Jenners department store on Princes Street.

Another overview of the main fun fair area, this time from higher up on The Mound. The tall monument to Sir Walter Scott is silhouetted against the night sky. The Scott monument used to have lighting to add to the magic of the building, but no longer.

The merry-go-round is always popular, especially with the younger kids. It looks deserted at this point as it has just stopped to let everyone dismount and the next participants have yet to climb aboard.

The stalls in the Christmas Market sell a variety of trinkets including clothing (gloves and hats are popular for those who forgot to wrap up warm) and food and drink and ornaments - these are "dreamlights" to hold small candles.

This "gypsy caravan" has been beside the Christmas market for many years - customers can get their future foretold by the wizardry of the "gypsy" reading palms and Tarot cards. No, I didn't go inside!

As you would expect, the skaters had varying levels of skill, with some whizzing around at high speed and others moving tentatively near the edge, using the barrier to hold them up - not always successfully!

The Grecian columns of the Royal Scottish Academy art gallery on Princes Street and the imposing National Gallery of Scotland behind were designed by the architect William Playfair and built between 1822 and 1858.

In previous years, the Ferris wheel has always been covered in bright lights. But now, either to be more "environmentally friendly" or for cost-cutting reasons, these days the wheel only reflects the lights shining in Princes Street Gardens themselves. The Jenners Department store, on the other hand, proudly shows off its ornate stonework in its floodlights.

The garden area in St Andrew Square, in the heart of Edinburgh's financial district, used to be private and could only by accessed by those who worked in the offices overlooking the square. In recent years the area has been opened up and is a well used thoroughfare. The up-market George Street stretches off to the right in this picture. George Street has been preserved to a much better degree than Princes Street, where many of the retail properties have been subjected to "modernisation".

Even though this former bank building in George Street is now the "Dome" restaurant and bar and is bedecked with snazzy Christmas decorations, the exterior of the building has been retained.

Allan Ramsay (1686 1758) was a Scottish poet (or makar), playwright, publisher, librarian - and began his working life as a wig-maker. His statue overlooks Princes Street and in this shot Edinburgh Castle is visible behind him.

The Christmas decorations stretching down High Street (part of the "Royal Mile" which runs between the castle and the Palace of Holyroodhouse) contrast with the silhouette of St Giles Cathedral.

St Giles is named after the patron saint of lepers and there has been a church on this site since 854, although the oldest parts of the present building date back "only" to 1120. After being burnt down by the English in 1385, it was rebuilt, enlarged and adapted over the centuries. The distinctive crown spire was raised in 1495.

YouTube Slide Shows
There is a slide show of the pictures in this diary page plus additional graphics on the Rampant Scotland Channel on YouTube (photos taken at night) and also a Daytime Graphics slide show.

If you want to read the other Diary entries going back to 2009, there is an Index page.

Where else would you like to go in Scotland?

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