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Elegant Edinburgh

Four Days in the Capital of Scotland.

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Although I am from the west of Scotland, this time I decided to stay in the east. We used Edinburgh as a base, mainly to travel to other places from, but we did also devote one day to wandering around the city itself.

To get to Edinburgh we travelled first class on Virgin trains from Crewe. We would not normally pay for first class train travel, but had received these tickets free after complaining to Virgin about a rail journey we made last summer. The train trip there was very enjoyable with plenty of food and free alcoholic drinks.

Snow covered hills on our journey to Edinburgh.

Snow covered hills on our journey to Edinburgh.

When we arrived in Edinburgh, we checked into the Adagio Apart Hotel on the Royal Mile. Adagios are part of the Accor group. There is one in Edinburgh, one in Birmingham and one in Liverpool. Two are being built in London. Our room included cooking facilities, two rings and an oven, a fridge a dish-washer and almost all the kitchenware you could think of. Coin operated washing machines and dryers are available at these hotels, too. On a short stay no-one cleans your room, so you have perfect privacy. I love Adagios. We have stayed in the Birmingham one, too.

Our room in the Adagio.

Our room in the Adagio.

After arriving in Edinburgh, we had to travel across to Glasgow to meet up with my sister, her husband and one of their daughters as it was the only time we could see them. We had dinner together, then went to a karaoke. We were really tired from all the travelling by the time we got back home.

Next day the weather was pouring. We got up late, went in search of provisions and in the evening met up with friends for an excellent meal in Holyrood 9A, a lovely restaurant on Holyrood Road, not far from the Royal Mile.

The following day involved being away from Edinburgh all day as we travelled across to Clydebank to spend the day with my dad.

The day after that we devoted to looking at Linlithgow and Edinburgh. Edinburgh's centre consists of an old town and a new town separated by the picturesque Princes Street Gardens. We have been to Edinburgh many times . This time we just concentrated on looking around the old town as we were based there.

Our hotel was close to the lower end of the royal Mile, not too far from the Palace of Holyrood House, but we began by going the other way up towards the castle.

On route we passed The World's End Pub. This famous pub takes its name from the fact it was once the last building before the city walls of Edinburgh, so it was the world's end for those within the city's walls. The city walls were only built around 1513 after Scotland's defeat and the death of King James IV at the Battle of Flodden. The purpose of the walls was to protect the people of Edinburgh from further attacks by the English. In 1977 two teenage girls disappeared after drinking in this pub. This pub was the last place they were seen alive - this tragic event is referred to as the world's end murders. It is often referred to in the books of Ian Rankin.

The World's End Pub.

The World's End Pub.

After that we walked passed John Knox's House which is now home to the Scottish Storytelling Centre. John Knox House dates back to 1470. It is called John Knox's House although it seems likely he only stayed in this house for a short time just before his death in 1572 and he, in fact, lived in a different house nearby. This house was definitely home to James Mosman. Mosman was a Catholic jeweller and goldsmith, completely loyal to Mary, Queen of Scots. He was part of the ‘Queen’s Men’ who seized Edinburgh Castle in an attempt to restore Mary to the throne after she had been forced to abdicate. Mosman was hung, drawn and quartered in 1573. Although it seems sad that the house is called after someone who had little to do with it and that its real owner was totally opposed to Knox's reforms, it is the house's association with John Knox that saved it from demolition.

John Knox House.

John Knox House.

Moving on we came to the Tron Kirk. King Charles I ordered this church to be built in 1636. The church was designed by John Mylne, and was completed in 1647. It is called the Tron Kirk because it was located near a tron or merchant's weighing beam. On November 16th 1824, the steeple of the Tron Kirk caught fire and the fire spread around Edinburgh's old town, killing ten people and destroying many homes. Before this fire there were no municipal fire departments, but in 1824 the people of Edinburgh organised the first municipal fire brigade in the world. It was led by James Braidwood. His statue is mounted in Parliament Square, just behind Mercat Cross. Following the fire, the Tron Kirk's steeple was rebuilt in stone. The church is now a Scottish market specializing in Scottish arts and crafts.

The Tron Kirk.

The Tron Kirk.

James Braidwood.

James Braidwood.

Next we had a look at Mercat Cross topped by a unicorn - the national animal of Scotland. This area was once home to a market, was an area where proclamations were made, for example on the 18th of September 1745, the "Young Pretender" Charles Edward Stuart had his father proclaimed King James VIII of Scotland here. When he was later defeated at the Battle of Culloden, the Jacobite colours were burnt here. Punishments and executions were also carried out at the cross. For example, James Mosman was hung here in 1573.

Mercat Cross.

Mercat Cross.

Not far from the Mercat Cross stands St Giles Cathedral. St Giles' Cathedral is the most important Church of Scotland church in Edinburgh. It has a distinctive stone crown steeple like St Michael's Church in Linlithgow. The present church dates from the late fourteenth century, though it underwent major restorations in the nineteenth century. St Giles' Cathedral is dedicated to Saint Giles, who is the patron saint of Edinburgh, cripples and lepers.

The fiery Protestant reformer John Knox became minister at St Giles in 1559. There is a statue of him inside the cathedral and he is also depicted on one of the church's stain glass windows. John Knox was buried in the kirkyard of St Giles, which is sadly now a car park, on the 24th of November 1572. The Regent Morton spoke these words at his graveside "There lies one who neither feared nor flattered any flesh".

St Giles' is famous as the site where a riot broke out on Sunday the 23rd of July 1637. King Charles I wanted to impose Anglican services on the Church of Scotland, as a result the Dean of Edinburgh, James Hannay, delivered a sermon using the Book of Common Prayer in St Giles Cathedral on this day. A market-seller Jenny Geddes reacted by throwing her stool at the Dean's head. Rioting followed and the riots eventually led to the secret signing of the National Covenant and the beginning of the Covenanters.

St Giles' Cathedral.

St Giles' Cathedral.

St Giles' Cathedral.

St Giles' Cathedral.

Near the cathedral there is a heart mosaic on the street known as the Heart of Midlothian. This marks the site of the old Tollbooth and Prison. As the prison was greatly hated, it is customary to spit on this site.

The Heart of Midlothian.

The Heart of Midlothian.

Next we passed Deacon Brodie's Tavern. This is called after William Brodie, also known as Deacon Brodie. He is famous for having led a double life. He was born in September 1741 and worked as a very respectable cabinet-maker, deacon of a trades guild, and Edinburgh city councillor. However, by night he was a burglar who robbed the wealthiest Edinburgh homes. He was also a compulsive gambler and had two secret families by his mistresses. Robert Louis Stevenson is said to have based his story 'The Strange Case of Dr Jeckyll and Mr Hyde' on him. Deacon Brodie's secret life was eventually discovered and he was hanged as a thief in 1788 on the very gallows he had himself made.

Deacon Brodie's Tavern.

Deacon Brodie's Tavern.

Deacon Brodie's Tavern.

Deacon Brodie's Tavern.

We wandered on past The Hub which was built as a Church of Scotland Assembly Hall and Church and is now a festival venue and cafe.

The Hub.

The Hub.

Leaving the Tron, we walked on towards the castle. In front of the castle stands the castle esplanade which hosts the Edinburgh Tattoo each year. From the esplanade there are great views over Edinburgh. On one side these views are over Princes Street Gardens. Also on the esplanade is located the grave of Ensign Ewart, famous for capturing a regimental eagle at the Battle of Waterloo. There is also a statue to commemorate the Duke of York, who, although he never visited Edinburgh, is one of the princes after whom Princes Street is named, and the Witches Wall where poor, unpopular women were burnt at the stake in the sixteenth century. There are many other statues and memorials here.

View from the esplanade.

View from the esplanade.

View over Princes Street Gardens.

View over Princes Street Gardens.

The Duke of York and Ensign Ewart.

The Duke of York and Ensign Ewart.

I have been to Edinburgh Castle many times when I was a child, but have not been there recently. Edinburgh Castle dominates the skyline of Edinburgh. It is located on a volcanic plug known as Castle Rock. There has been a royal castle here since the reign of King David I in the twelfth century, maybe even earlier. The castle was used as a royal residence until 1633. Then in the latter part of the seventeenth century it was used as a military barracks. During its history the castle has endured a horrendous twenty-six sieges making it "the most besieged place in Great Britain." The oldest building in the castle is St Margaret's Chapel, called after Malcolm Canmore's wife, Margaret, Scotland's only saint. This chapel dates from the early twelfth century. The Scottish crown jewels are displayed in Edinburgh Castle and it is home to the national war museum.

Edinburgh Castle.

Edinburgh Castle.

Leaving the castle, we walked down some steep steps to the Grassmarket. This wide open square used to be the market place. Historically it was used for the sale of grass and for the sale of horses. It was lined with inns and hostelries where market traders could stay overnight or eat and drink. It is still lined with restaurants and bars today. The Grassmarket was also a place where public executions were commonly carried out. More than one hundred Covenanters died on the gallows here between 1661 and 1688. Some pubs' names here recall these times for example The Last Drop Inn and Maggie Dickson's. This pub commemorates Margaret Dickson, also known as half-hangit Maggie, a fishwife from Musselburgh who was hanged in the Grassmarket in 1724 for allegedly murdering her illegitimate baby. After being cut down, she revived on the cart on her way to be buried and was set free. From the Grassmarket we walked up steep and pretty Victoria Street.

Grassmarket.

Grassmarket.

Near Victoria Street.

Near Victoria Street.

Victoria Street.

Victoria Street.

We then headed to Greyfriars Kirk. Outside the kirk stands a statue of Greyfriars Bobby. Bobby was a Skye terrier owned by nightwatchman John Gray, also known as Auld Jock. When Auld Jock died, Bobby would not leave his grave and visited it every day for the next fourteen years until he also died. Bobby is buried in the kirkyard, not far from his master. There's a pub called Greyfriar's Bobby near the entrance to the kirkyard.

Grefriar's Bobby.

Grefriar's Bobby.

Grefriar's Kirkyard is supposedly one of the most haunted places in the U.K. It has certainly had a bloody history. In 1638 a group of people signed a covenant in favour of Presbyterianism and against the meddling of King Charles I in their religion. The covenant was signed in Greyfriar's Kirkyard. These people became known as the covenanters. Later when the Covenanters were defeated by the forces of Oliver Cromwell, many were imprisoned next to Greyfriar's Kirkyard. The conditions in their prison were so bad hundreds died here. One of the people who persecuted the Covenanters was Sir George MacKenzie, later nicknamed 'Bluidy MacKenzie' for his ruthlessness. Sir George is buried in Greyfriar's Kirkyard and in 2014 two local teenagers desecrated his grave and used his skull to play a game of football. Since then Sir George's violent poltergeist has haunted the cemetery at night. Some graves in Greyfriar's are covered with metal cages. This was to stop notorious bodysnatchers such as Burke and Hare from stealing bodies for scientific research. On a lighter note J.K. Rowling began her Harry Potter books in The Elephant House Cafe near Greyfriar's Kirkyard. She often strolled through the kirkyard and admits she may have got her idea for Tom Riddell, also known as Voldermort ,from one of the gravestones here.

Greyfriar's Kirk.

Greyfriar's Kirk.

In the kirkyard, graves protected from bodysnatchers..

In the kirkyard, graves protected from bodysnatchers..

BluidyMacKenzie's dome topped grave.

BluidyMacKenzie's dome topped grave.

Greyfriars was scary enough to drive us to drink so we went to one of our favourite Edinburgh pubs, the tiny Halfway House before retiring for the night.

The Halfway House.

The Halfway House.

Next morning was our last morning in Edinburgh and it was raining, but despite that I took a quick stroll down to the Palace of Holyrood just to complete the whole Royal Mile. The first sight on route was the Canongate Tolbooth. Canongate used to be a separate burgh before it became part of Edinburgh in 1856. CVanongate Tolbooth was built in 1591 by Sir Lewis Bellenden, Baron of Broughton. It was originally used as a courthouse, jail and meeting place for the town council. It is now used as The People's Story Museum.

Canongate Tolbooth.

Canongate Tolbooth.

Canongate also had its own kirk - the rather pretty Canongate Kirk and its own kirkyard. The kirk was completed in 1691 by master mason, James Smith. The kirkyard is the final resting place of famous Scottish economist Adam Smith; Agnes Maclehose - the inspiration for Robert Burns' poem 'Ae Fond Kiss' and David Rizzio, the private secretary of Mary, Queen of Scots, who was stabbed to death by her jealous husband. The poet Robert Fergusson, is also buried here and a bronze statue of him created by David Annand stands outside the kirk gate.

Canongate Kirk.

Canongate Kirk.

Further down the Royal Mile, on the other side of the road, stands the Scottish Parliament. It opened in 2004. It is quite a controversial building as it is extremely modern and not in keeping with the style of the buildings all around it. Although it is not a very popular building, I quite like it. In particular, I like the quotations which decorate its outer walls.

Scottish Parliament.

Scottish Parliament.

Scottish Parliament.

Scottish Parliament.

At the very bottom of The Royal Mile stands the Palace of Holyrood House. This is the official residence of the Monarchy in Scotland. The palace was founded as a monastery in 1128. In the sixteenth century Mary Queen of Scots lived here. Her jealous husband murdered her private secretary Rizzio in the building next to her bed chamber.

Palace of Holyrood House.

Palace of Holyrood House.

Palace of Holyrood House.

Palace of Holyrood House.

Behind Holyrood Palace stands Arthur's Seat. The hilly remains of a dormant volcano - a nice place for a stroll.

Arthur's Seat.

Arthur's Seat.

As we headed off to the station to catch our train out of Edinburgh, we had a good view towards Calton Hill - another of Edinburgh's monumental cemeteries.

Calton Hill.

Calton Hill.

Posted by irenevt 21:53 Archived in Scotland Tagged castles cathedrals scotland edinburgh history palaces

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Comments

So it took Greyfriars to drive you to drink, eh? Doesn't take that much to drive us to drink. Walking past a pub will do it.

Loved the story of Greyfriar's Bobby. We heard it first when we were in Edinburgh. Great town!

by Beausoleil

Guess it does not take much to drive us to drink either. Thanks for visiting. All the best, Irene

by irenevt

Hi Irene I loved this blog! I'm from Glasgow and it's nice to read about your own city and country! Hope life is good in Hong Kong! I am an ESOL tutor and worked in Taiwan and Vietnam. These were great spots to travel from and I went over to Hong Kong for a week. I will definately check out some of your other blogs. Katie

by katieshevlin62

Hi Katie thanks for visiting. I'm a primary school teacher here in Hong Kong but I'm originally from sunny Clydebank. Glad you liked the blog. All the best, irene

by irenevt

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