Friends and family coming over and you don’t know where to take them?
This should be a more seasonal post, but, I met an elderly couple at the North Bridge bus stop yesterday; first time for them in beautiful Edinburgh. They enjoyed the stories which I learned on a ghost tour last year as I gave them a crash course of Edinburgh’s landmarks. So, I did some more research. Edinburgh was (and still is) rather strange.
#1 Princes Street Gardens
Without further ado, here are some (mostly gory) things you can tell your visitors about when you take them sightseeing.
If your parents visit by train, there is very little chance of them missing the beautiful Princes Street Gardens; the green space is a major tourist attraction. From there, you can see the castle, enjoy some shopping, relax and now, since it is that time of year, hear Christmas music all around with the wonderful Christmas market.
What you probably didn’t know is that, until the 19th century, these gardens were a loch (‘Nor Loch’). The loch’s creation was an order of King James III, who aimed to strengthen the castles defences. What’s more, before drowning as a form of punishment was outlawed, many were drowned there for their crimes and sins.
#2 Canon Gate Kirkyard
Now, here’s something slightly more Christmas related! It is the perfect time of year to go and…visit an Edinburgh cemetery! They are open 24/7 and, at least to me, are a hallmark of Edinburgh. On top of that, Canon Gate is beautiful and Mimi’s Bakehouse has the best vegan brownies.
The Christmas thing about Canon Gate is its relation to one of the most famous characters: Ebenezer Scrooge. We all know the mean man from the Christmas Carol, but did you know he was inspired by a grave Dickens saw when visiting Edinburgh? The story goes that, Dickens, misread Ebenezer Lennox Scroggie’s tombstone to say “mean mean” instead of “meal man” (he was a merchant). The gravestone is no longer there, however, the place is still worth a visit.
#3 Arthur’s Seat
The climb onto Arthur’s seat is, in itself, an adventure (one which led me to a lot of heaving and lactic acid, but let’s ignore the details). However, did you ever hear about the 17 tiny coffins which were found by two boys in 1836?
The two school boys found a group of miniature coffins. Originally, there were 17 coffins but only 8 remain today. How they found themselves there, however, is a mystery to this day. One theory goes that this mystery has links to witchcraft, another that they were a surrogate burial for people who died abroad or that this was instead of sailors who died at sea. You can go see the coffins for yourself at the National Museum of Scotland!
#4 Old College & Surgeon’s Hall Museum
First off, the Surgeon’s Hall Museum is an amazing place to visit in general – no matter if you are interested in medicine/science. One thing that links the place to our beautiful Old College at Edinburgh: Burke and Hare.
You might have heard of the famous Burke and Hare murders during the time when grave robbing was particularly popular (for use in dissection). The two realised that grave robbing was, however, not efficient enough and if science demanded bodies, then bodies they would provide. Just fresh ones. Burke’s body was publicly dissected by Professor Monro in the anatomy theatre of the university’s Old College. Students were desperate to see and tickets completely sold out!
#5 Calton Hill & The National Monument
I’m going to end on a lighter note. If you haven’t been up Calton Hill, I strongly advise you do. When you do, take note of the National Monument – also known as “Edinburgh’s Shame.”
This was a favourite of the couple I met at the bus stop; The National Monument was modeled after the Parthenon in Athens, however, funding ran out and it was never completed. This great project was just abandoned. It was meant to be a sight to behold, yet ended up as a few (very nice!) pillars to look at. The couple compared this to a Church they have seen before, with the front ornate and well decorated but with a very underfunded back to keep up appearances. I compared that to how my grandad liked to dress our Christmas trees.
And that’s all! I hope you gained some somewhat fun facts from this. Go explore Edinburgh!