In this blog I will be visiting Edinburgh and along the River Forth.
Edinburgh, the capital city, has been described as one of Europe's most beautiful cities. It lies amid craggy hills dominated by the mass of Arthur's Seat and the medieval old town is separated from the Georgian new town by the former Nor' Loch, now drained and occupied by lovely gardens.
Scotland’s controversial new Parliament building seems out of place being situated at the foot of Edinburgh’s historic Royal Mile and opposite Holyrood Palace. It is constructed of a mixture of steel, oak and granite, being hailed as one of the most innovative designs in Britain. One of the world’s premier architects, Enric Miralles, developed a design that he said was a building ‘growing out of the land’, drawing his inspiration from the surrounding landscape, up turned boats on the sea shore and from the works of Charles Rennie Mackintosh. Work started in 1999 and the building was opened in 2004. The estimated cost was originally put at between £10m and £40m! The final cost of the building was a staggering £414.4 million!!
Another fairly modern building at the bottom end of the Royal Mile
has some very interesting stories.
A pub situated on the ground floor of the 1960’s building in Canongate, replaced a pub called Jenny Ha’s named after the 18th century landlady Jannet Hall. The old law of 1699 forbidding the employment of women in tavern’s, cellars and drinking shops as being ‘a great snare to youth and occasion for leudness and debauchery‘ had been challenged and severed. A woman who kept a tavern of the character of Jenny Ha’s was termed a ‘Lucky’ e.g ‘Lucky Ha’ the title signifying a ‘Guidwife.’
A fine stags head on the wall inside the pub came from a stag which was killed in nearby
by a man called Eck as he walked to work one morning at Jenny Ha’s. The stag
was running amok amongst tourists in the park and at great personal risk Eck
‘nutted’ the stag twice knocking it insensible and then wrested it to the
ground finally finishing it off with his knife. This also reminds us that Holyrood’s emblem
is a stag’s head deriving from a story that King David 1 was hunting in the
park in 1128 when a stag charged and knocked him off his horse and wounded him.
To fend it off the King reached out and clutched a cross he saw in its antlers.
The cross came away in his hand and the stag turned away and left him alone.
Thankful to be alive, the King asked the Augustinian Canons to build the Abbey
of Holyrood on the spot – the ‘Church of the Holy Cross’. Holyrood Park
Also on the site of the old pub was a tenement known as Golfer’s Land, demolished in 1960, which had been built in the 17th century by shoemaker John Paterson from the winning stakes of a golf match. His partner in the match was no less that the Duke of York, later King James V11 who insisted that
take all the winnings. Paterson
There are a great number of historic buildings along the Royal Mile which extends from The Castle downhill to Holyrood House
the Queen's Official Residence in Scotland. It is variously known as Castle Hill, Lawnmarket, High Street and Cannongate along its length.
One of the lost fascinating is the Cannongate Tollbooth which dates to 1591.It is an interesting survivor of contemporary municipal architecture.
The ground floor became a pub in 1820 called Tolbooth Tavern.
A plaque tells us that the building was used to collect tolls from travellers entering the Burgh and served as Council Chambers, Police Court and Prison. A suspected warlock is thought to have been exorcised here by one of the abbots and the terrified soul died soon after the experience. Many of Cromwell’s prisoners were detained here, as well as Covenanters. Many prisoners were sent to the Caribbean plantations for 7 years hard labour after which they could return. However, women had their faces branded with an iron whilst the men had an ear chopped off!
The junction of High Street, Jeffrey's Street and St Mary's Street is known as World's End.
A plaque on the wall of The World's End pub at this point tells us :
'This historic pub stands on a site dating back to the 7th century. Its name derives from the Battle of Flodden in 1513 when the Scots were beaten back by the Auld Enemy at Flodden Field, whereupon the Burghers of the City decided to erect a wall separating Edinburgh from the rest of the world. The remains of the wall pass through the cellars below the pub and the road outside marks where the city ended - thus The World's End.'
The old tollbooth and prison in the High Street, built in 1466 and demolished in 1817, was the infamous place where public executions took place and is the site of the Porteus Riots of 1736. John Porteus was the captain of the city guard who ordered his troops to open fire on an unruly mob protesting at the execution of a popular smuggler. Six people were killed and Porteus was subsequently condemned to death for their murders. When a stay of execution was granted, the mob broke into the prison and lynched Porteus.
Sir Walter Scott acquired the old door to the toolbooth and had it built into his home at Abbotsford. His novel The Heart of Midlothian, relates to these events.
Granite blocks now form a curious heart shape in the roadway in Parliament Square marking the site of the old tollbooth – The Heart of Midlothian.
Brodie’s Close in Lawnmarket contains the house of one of
’s infamous sons of the 18th
century. Deacon William Brodie was
a much respected town councillor by day, but by night he led a completely
different existence - that of a burglar!
He was eventually arrested for the burglary of the Excise Office in
Chessel’s Court, for which he was tried and hanged in 1788, ironically on a
gibbet which he himself had designed.
His story is said to given R.L
Stevenson the idea to write the novel, Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. Edinburgh
On the opposite side of the road, Deacon Brodie's Tavern tells the story
"William Brodie, Deacon of Wrights & Masons of Edinburgh, was the son of a cabinet maker in the lawnmarket. He was born in Brodies Close and hanged near St Giles - both places being just a few steps away from the tavern which now bears his name. In manhood Brodies business inspired Robert Louis Stevenson to write that famous classic - Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. By day William Brodie was pious, wealthy and a much respected citizen and in 1781 was elected Deacon of the city. But at night he was a gambler, a thief, dissipated and licentious. The annals record 'His cunning and audacity were unsurpassed' Brodie was hanged from the city's new gallows on Oct 1st 1788. Ironically he had designed the gallows that were to eventually seal his fate."
Many Scottish witches were taken to
where they were burned at the stake close to Edinburgh .
A small memorial fountain can be seen at the top of Castle Hill and a plaque
tells us: Edinburgh Castle
"This fountain designed by John Duncan RSA, is near the site on which many
witches were burned at the stake. The wicked head and serene head
signify that some used their exceptional knowledge for evil purposes
while others were misunderstood and wished their kind nothing but good.
The serpent has the dual significance of evil and of wisdom.
The foxglove spray further emphasises the dual purpose of
many common objects."
When John Gray, an old Edinburgh character know as ‘ Auld Jock ‘, died in 1858, he was buried in the churchyard of Greyfriars’ Church in Edinburgh. His faithful dog ‘Bobby’, was clearly devastated by his master’s death and stayed by his graveside for no less than 14 years until his own death in 1872. Bobby has been immortalised in stone by a very fine life-size statue which can be seen in Candlemaker Row near to the churchyard entrance.
A plaque reads :
“ A tribute to the affectionate fidelity of Greyfriars’ Bobby.
In 1858 this fathful dog followed the remains of his master to Greyfriars’churchyard
And lingered near the spot until his death in 1872.
With permission erected by the Baroness Burdett-Couts."
Bobby’s story has also been immortalised in a book and a film. and a colourful pub nearby is named after him.