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Published: January 31st 2021
31st January - Edinburgh
The Good, The Bad & The Ugly.
Today’s tour was quite inspiring because the tour guide Paul was once homeless! Now he is member of Invisible Cities, a social enterprise that trains people which have experienced homelessness to become walking tour guides of their own city - These are in Edinburgh, Glasgow, Manchester & York with Cardiff being added shortly.
On the Virtualtrips platform any tips are donated to the Invisible Cities projects.
The tour did not disappoint as we learnt about The Good, The Bad & The Ugly of Edinburgh. We could include Excellent, that would be for Paul.
We started high on the hill in front of Edinburgh Castle, geographically Edinburgh is located in the ring of 7 volcanic hills.
The castle is perched on top of a rocky crag (the remnant of an extinct volcano).
Edinburgh Castle was home to kings and queens for many centuries. Queen Margaret (who was later made a saint) died there in 1093. The chapel built in her honour by her son, King David I, is Edinburgh’s oldest building. St Margaret’s Chapel still hosts
weddings and christenings today.
The castle is the most besieged place in Britain.
In 1639 the castle was captured in just 30 minutes, taken by forces led by the distinguished General Alexander Leslie.
A Jacobite force failed to capture the castle during the Rising of 1715 thanks to poor planning. The ladder they brought to scale the ramparts turned out to be too short.
The Stone of Destiny is an ancient symbol of Scotland’s monarchy, used for centuries in the inauguration of its kings.
In 1296, King Edward I of England seized the stone from the Scots, and had it built into a new throne at Westminster. From then on, it was used in the coronation ceremonies of the monarchs of England and then Great Britain.
On Christmas Day 1950, four Scottish students removed the stone from Westminster Abbey in London. Three months later it turned up 500 miles away – at the high altar of Arbroath Abbey.
In 1996, the stone was officially returned to Scotland. Today, it is one of the priceless treasures on display in the Crown Room. The stone will only leave Scotland again for a coronation
in Westminster Abbey.
Edinburgh Castle is allegedly haunted by a child bagpiper who was buried alive in tunnels beneath it - A set of mysterious tunnels were discovered under the castle centuries ago, and in a bid to see how far they ranged, the young boy was duly employed to explore them before vanishing without a trace.
The tunnels were sealed and bricked over when he wasn't found.
Now, several centuries later, people have claimed that they can occasionally still hear the forlorn piper as his ghost makes it way through the tunnels trying to get out, waiting to be rescued.
We made our way down the Royal Mile to the Old Town that became home to some of the earliest "high rise" residential buildings. Multi-storey dwellings were the norm from the 16th century onwards with ten and eleven storeys being typical and one even reaching fourteen storeys.
Vaults below street level were inhabited to accommodate the influx of incomers, particularly Irish immigrants during the Industrial Revolution.
We also walked to the Grassemarket area, where back in 1477 the Grassmarket was one of the most predominant marketplaces in
Edinburgh. A large portion was the buying and selling of cattle and horses. Apparently, the name ‘Grassmarket’ derives from the animals’ grass and pens.
The Grassmarket is an area that has witnessed some dark and dastardly deeds. Once more, it was the traditional place where members of the public were executed. From 1661 to 1688, over 100 people died publicly on the Grassmarket scaffold.
In 1937, kind members of the public made it their mission to create a memorial in honor of those who died at the gallows.
This tour is entitled The Good, The Bad & The Ugly and Paul had many stories to tell.
One, is the story of Half-Hangit Maggie. In 1724, Margaret Dickson was hanged in the Grassmarket for the murder of her ‘illegitimate’ infant child. Once the hanging was over, her body was removed from the gallows and carted back to her hometown.
It is said that Margaret awoke from her deathly slumber on the cart. According to Scots Law, a person could not be hanged a second time for the same crime, and so, Margaret was able to carry out the
rest of her life. Legend states that she was coined ‘Half-Hangit Maggie.’ Her presence still lingers to this day through a pub called Maggie Dicksons.
The Mercat Cross of Edinburgh stands in Parliament Square next to St Giles' Cathedral on the Royal Mile. The Mercat Cross has been around since the 14th century. The Cross is not really a cross. It is a octagonal drum substructure topped with a carved unicorn, Scotland’s national animal.
Greyfriars Bobby (1855 - 1872) a Skye Terrier who became known for spending 14 years guarding the grave of his owner until he died himself on 14 January 1872.
The monument is Edinburgh's smallest listed building. Originally built as a drinking fountain, it had an upper fountain for humans and a lower fountain for dogs.
Greyfriars Churchyard - supposedly one of the most haunted graveyards!
Most of the hauntings are linked to the ghost of George Mackenzie — a merciless judge who presided over the trials of the Presbyterian Covenanters in the 1670s. The Covenanters had petitioned the King to allow freedom to practice their religion without interference. To crush this rebellion against the Crown,
“Bloody Mackenzie” was brutal in his punishments, and imprisoned 1,200 Covenanters in a field next to Greyfriars Churchyard.
The prisoners spent over four months outside in the graveyard, awaiting trial. They had no shelter, and were given a daily food allowance of just 4oz of bread. Conditions were so inhumane that the Covenanters’ Prison is often described as the world’s first concentration camp. In the end, many prisoners were executed and hundreds died of maltreatment.
In a twist of fate, George Mackenzie was buried in the Black Mausoleum
in Greyfriars, just around the corner from Covenanters’ Prison. Today, Bloody Mackenzie may be dead and gone, but his spirit is said to live on — and physically attack people.
The attacks started in 1999, after a homeless man broke into the Mackenzie’s vault and allegedly unleashed an evil force. When the man tried to break into the casket too, he stepped backwards and fell into an old pit containing the rotting remains of Plague victims from centuries earlier. He ran screaming from the Black Mausoleum.
Since then, Greyfriars Churchyard has been the centre of strange events linked to the Mackenzie
Our guide Paul knocked on the door to try and wake the ghost but thankfully no one answered.
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