Scottish Parliament

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Situated at the East End of The Royal Mile, opposite Holyrood Palace is The Scottish Parliament building which has won many awards for its unique architecture.

Walking towards it I could see why it had won so many awards. The large, ultra modern building stands alongside the many small, ancient buildings of The Royal Mile. Its concrete structure beside the green land of Salisbury Crag and yet it blends in perfectly with its surroundings!

The landscaping around the building helps blend it in to its environment. The concrete branches of this leaf shaped building are covered in grass and lead to parkland, linking the building with the open space. There are wild flower meadows, ponds and roof gardens.

Visiting the parliament provides the opportunity to observe a parliamentary debate or committee meeting. You can experience history taking place through these debates, or you can learn about the history of the Scottish Parliament through the many information sites, exhibitions and galleries. There is a wealth of unique architecture to see.. For art lovers there is a good art collection. There are architectural models of the parliament and local area, treasures to see, a variety of rooms , each one different. A well stocked shop brimming with Scottish gifts and food, including the famous Scottish shortbread. There is a café serving a variety of meals, and snack and , Gardens.. To keep children or grandchildren entertained there is an interactive games area. A Creche is available for under six year olds

Admission to the Scottish Parliament is free, which I think is exceptional considering everything there is to see and the excellent .facilities

To get into the building visitors have to go through a security check including passing through an X ray Scanning machine – similar to airport check in but much quicker!

As soon as we got through the entrance I was impressed. First by the spacious light and airy main hall, then by the amount of information leaflets and guides available and the fact a member of staff greeted us and explained the range of leaflets and guides – most of these were free. Additionally I could see large clearly displayed signposting to various areas of the parliament.

There are guided tours available, these are free. Visitors can arrange these in advance (The Scottish Parliament emphasises that such arrangements are arrangements and not confirmation of bookings) or you can turn up on the day and see if there are places. However, as there was such a wealth of information provided in the guides and the fact that I prefer to take my time rather than be in an organised group we decided to do our own tour from the tour guide leaflet provided to us.

For those wanting to sit in on a debate, this too needs to be arranged in advance. There was not a debate taking place when we visited but we still were able to visit the Debating Chamber.

The Main Hall is where everyone arrives. It consists of a long wall of large glass windows providing lots of light. A 36ft long Visitor information Desk made of Scottish sycamore and Oak.. A permanent exhibition and the most amazing vaulted ceiling.

The vaulted ceiling is made up of three tapered concrete vaults, each with its own distinctive light well allowing natural light to flow into the hall. The vaults feature abstract designs of the Saltire Cross by the building's architect Enric Miralles.

There are lots of seats in the Main Hall for visitors (as there are throughout the building). As I need a walking stick I found these useful to sit and rest. Stairs lead from the main hall. There are stairs throughout the building. There are also plenty of lifts all of which are wheelchair accessible.

There are a wide range of buildings to see include The Debating Chambers, Committee Rooms, Tower Buildings, Media Tower, Queensberry House, Canongate Buildings to name a few. One of my favourite areas was the Garden Lobby. Next to this lobby is the Parliament Garden. The Garden Lobby is the main route MSP's take to the debating area – a grand staircase leads from the Garden Lobby to the Debating area. The Garden Lobby is also an informal meeting place and an area where a range of events are held.

The unique roof lights are the main feature of the Garden Lobby. The twelve leaf shaped roof lights made from stainless steel and glass allows lots of natural light into the lobby. Many of the stainless steel panels around the lights have cut outs of the west coast of Scotland. The panels also have a functional use, as behind them are vents which open automatically to provide ventilation.

The floor of this area is made from Granite from Aberdeenshire, Caithness Flag and Oak Strips.

The Parliament gardens are based on a traditional Scottish Knot garden. They contain traditional hedges, fruit trees a small herb garden and a selection of plants and shrubs selected to reflect the main Party colours of yellow red and blue.

The Scottish Parliament is an interesting attraction to visit. It is unique and caters for a range of interests, ages and abilities. Those with poor mobility are well catered for with the many seats available and lifts. Folding chairs are also available to hire. There is good wheelchair access throughout the building, as well as wheelchairs for hire. Fully equipped disabled W.C. and changing rooms are there too. All the main areas of the Scottish Parliament have hearing loops.

The Scottish Parliament is a mile from Waverley Station, Edinburgh. There is a taxi rank at the station and one at The Scottish Parliament. Bus's from Waverley Bridge just outside the station which are marked Holyrood are another option to reach the Parliament. There are a few blue badge car parking places outside the parliament. For others there is a public car park half a mile from the Parliament at St John's Hill Car Park, off Holyrood Road.

For the visitor The Scottish Parliament is in a superb location as it is close to so many other attractions. Just steps away is Holyrood Palace. Our Dynamic Earth, Arthurs Seat, shops restaurants, specialist shops, museums and galleries of the Royal Mile.

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