Old Town - General, Edinburgh
Edinburgh is a beautiful city with an enticing, yet often very dark history. Just as most old European cities, every street corner tells a story of murder, intrigue, execution, plague & poverty, etc... (and I love that kind of stuff!)
A small enclosed section in the Grassmarket marks site where the gallows used to stand. Those of higher rank (among them the Marquis of Montrose) were executed at the Mercat Cross, but "regular" people were hanged here.
This simple memorial right outside the Last Drop & Maggie Dickson's Pub marks the spot where over a 100 Covenanters were hanged for their religious beliefs between 1661 and 1668 during the reigns of Charles II and James VII, the latter becoming known as "The Killing Time". It was also the site of many other executions.
The memorial, displaying a Martyrs Cross, was created in 1937. The inscription reads, "Many Martyrs and Covenanters died for the Protestant Faith on this spot."
Covenanters were Scots who had signed the National Covenant (1638) to confirm their opposition to Stuart Kings interfering in the affairs of the Presbyterian Church of Scotland. Viewed by their royalist enemies as dangerous fundamentalists they could be killed on the spot if they refused to take an oath of loyalty to the Crown.
The history of the Grassmarket and the gallows are inextricably linked, it is difficult to think of them without imagining images of body snatchers Burke and Hare, the unlucky Captain Porteous of the town guard, and "half-hingit" (half-hanged) Maggie who actually survived the experience(!)
--> For more details, read my separate tip on The Grassmarket.
Usually, when visiting historic cities, we're all told "don't forget to look up!" at the gorgeous buildings, spires and architecture.
But in some places - like Edinburgh - you should also remember to look down at the ground...
This cross in the Canongate marks the site of the original standing cross of St. John, which was on the boundary ("border") between Edinburgh and the Burgh of Canongate. This estate was owned in the Middle Ages by the Knights of the Order of St John and also Holyrood Abbey.
Until 1856 the Canongate was not merely a street, but the name of the surrounding burgh, separate from Edinburgh and not enclosed by the Flodden Wall.
Charles I, on his first visit to Edinburgh in 1633, was ceremonially welcomed at this boundary by the Lord Provost, whom he promptly knighted. It is now marked by a Maltese Cross formed by cobbles set into the street outside No. 196.
The cross was set in place in 1987.
The Canongate is actually the same street as the Royal Mile, but changes its name at the intersection of St. Mary's Street.
Located in the High Street, the Netherbow Wellhead is a funny-looking square box. Before Edinburgh was fitted with a modern sewerage and water supply system, these wellheads were the only means of supplying water to the public. They were also places were locals would meet and gossip. It was designed by Sir William Bruce (1630-1710) and built circa 1685 by master-mason Robert Mylne.
There were a few such wellheads, situated down the Royal Mile at the Lawnmarket, High Street, Netherbow and Canongate. The source of this supply, Castlehill Resevoir (1681) was replaced by a new system in 1851.
Naturally, queues (and scuffles!) would form at these wellheads and especially during the summer months when the council would ration water, the wells were only open from midnight to 03:00am. The poor had to queue and wait. The rich citizens of Edinburgh paid so-called "caddies", who waited in line on their behalf and offered a delivery service.
It's incredible to think this piece of masonry is over 300 years old.
--> Located in the High Street/Royal Mile of Edinburgh outside John Knox's House.
This is a rather fun piece of information. Something not known by many! Not even among the habbitants of Edinburgh...
Walking down George IV Bridge (coming from Royal Mile) theres a grand building on the left hand side. Many times have I walked passed, not knowing that one of the statues by the rooftop has lost his face.
After living in Edinburgh for 3 years a collegue at work told me the story about how a worker that was cleaning the statues accidently cleaned one of them to the extent that nothing remained of the face on one of them. Apparently he panicked and got out a thick filter pen from his pocket and drew eyes, nose and a mouth on it.
If the story is true I can not say. But when you take a close look at the old Mid-Lothian County Building one fact remains. One of the statues is a man without a face!
Go see for yourself!!! =)
Stockbridge is a bohemian part of Edinburgh with boutiques and second hand shops.It was the place where people brought agricultural products into Edinburgh , crossing the water of Leith by a bridge, hence the name.
David Roberts, the artist whose watercolours of Egypt are well know came from here.
The colonies were streets designed to house the artisans working on the estate covering the area of Stockbridge and Inverleith. The end of the colonies is an area known as Canonmills, where grain was brought to be ground into flour.
Today some of the houses facing the main street have a carved design representing the trade of the artisans living in the street. Some of those I saw were of carpenters, smiths, masons, wheelwrights.
We accidentally got lost because of the guys wouldn't look at his map! Typical man. We started walking into several neighborhoods, starting talking to the locals, one elderly lady gave me a hand-knit scarf because she said I had lovely green eyes, we met Sean Connery, who was buying a townhouse, and we finally got to the main street with the help of the locals. Met many charming and helpful people, some of whom came by our hotel that night to toast our "un-lost anymore" victory. (We finally found the main road, that is when we discovered he actually had a map all along.) We missed the museum tour that day, but would not trade that experience for a museum trip, EVER!
Take time to admire the wonderful stonework on the buildings, the French influence is very much in evidence, there was so much that reminded us of Paris
this beautiful doorway in the picture is decorated with a carving of Scotlands most famous poet Robert Burns, and is next to a cafe bearing his name along the Royal Mile
its easy to miss little gems like this when the streets are busy and you are heading towards your destination, but looking up above street level can often be very rewarding
another bonus is that it doesnt cost anything !
Explore some of the back streets and little closes of the old town. This is Ramsey Gardens, just off Ramsey Lane which leads from the top of the Royal Mile down to the Mound. One way to see some of the closes etc is to take one of the nightime walking tours such as the Witchery walk. I went on that a few years ago with all my college mates and it was good fun. Beware of people jumping out at you and throwing water at you though!!
Up near the castle, we stumbled into an old library where the woman who worked there looked up my geneaology. Turns out I'm not immediately Scottish. I'm Nordic...cool. Not Scottish, but it was free.
There are antique stores all over the city. I thought they were incredibly cheap. In America, if anything is past 40 years old, it becomes this incredibly expensive item and they hike up prices. Some of my old clothing from the 80's is already cool again. Ed. has an amazing amount of vintage clothing and furniture, but alas, it didn't fit into my suitcase. Go there for doorknobs and trinkets. There's a great place right next to the Art College.
This is a picture inside Mary King's Close, an old street from centuries ago that was blocked off to avoid the spread of the Black Death or Plague...lovely. I went on one of the many tours (Mercat Tours) and had a really great guide who told us all the gross history and fascinating facts about life in those times. This particular room is said to be haunted by a little girl. People are allowed to bring her things and leave them in the room. I think the things are scary enough!
Grassmarket and Victoria Street.Victoria Street, the West Bow, Candlemaker Row, Grassmarket and the West Port is essential shopping. This delightful area sometimes goes unnoticed by those who stick close to the Mile yet it is rich in the unexpected: luxurious leather luggage, Scottish silver and goldsmiths, an old-fashioned brush shop. You might not want a brush to take home but a wooden spirtle with carved thistle would fit nicely into the suitcase. There are also antique prints, stylish raincoats, polished Scottish stones, old books, objects from almost every corner of the world and even fossils off the shelf. You can discover Byzantium, too - a collective of stalls with antiques, clothes, books, rugs, prints, on the first floor and coffee in the gallery.
The Grassmarket itself and the adjoining streets have a great choice of eating places from expensive restaurants to French eateries, American diners and historic pubs. If you still crave for that elusive gift or a self-indulgence this area is bound to satisfy your need. Beside the exclusive antique shops with the beautifully polished furniture you will find Scotland's kite, juggling, yoyo and circus shop. And if that's not enough, Aztec tiles, furniture from south America, jewellery from Nepal lie cheek by jowl with postcards, pottery and traditional Scottish gifts: and even more clothes and exotic sweaters. Don't forget the West Port either for a wealth of books.
The Grassmarket was also the scene of public hangings and the site of the gallows is now marked by a plaque.
In the old town there are lots of little streets and walk throughs. They are called Wynd or Close. Walk into one or two and discover the beauty that is hidden there!