Winner: Walking Tour Company of the Year in Scotland

Edinburgh Walks are delighted to announce we have been awarded Walking Tour Company of the Year in Scotland. Thank you to those that voted for us in the Travel & Hospitality Awards.

Edinburgh’s interesting connection to Michael Palin’s new book Erebus

Very recently the great traveller, writer and ‘Python’ Michael Palin has published a book called Erebus, about the great ship of that name HMS Erebus of the British Royal Navy. It is a very interesting read

The new Michael Palin book Erebus

but it is the last adventurous journey of this ship that interests me the most as she was joined on this trip to seek out the North West Passage in the frozen hinterlands of 19th century Canada by HMS Terror. And as I have written previously, one of the Officers onboard HMS Terror has a strong Edinburgh connection so I thought I would update this story.

I have written before about The Dean Cemetery, to the rear of The Dean Gallery in Edinburgh. It is an interesting place and many of those that lie peacefully here have a fascinating past, most from Georgian and Victorian society.

As you pass through – on one of the walks available from – you come across the dark Celtic Cross which tells the fascinating story of Lieutenant John Irving of the British Royal Navy.

Irving was born and brought up in Edinburgh. Educated at The Edinburgh Academy, he lived at 106 Princes Street, Edinburgh now a shoe shop occupied by Russell & Bromley.

Family home of Lt. John Irving R.N.

Irving was part of Sir John Franklin’s expedition to find the North West Passage that left Kent, England in 1845 on board HMS Terror. The other Royal Navy ship in the party was HMS Erebus.

Having wintered at Beechey Island, they thereafter set out to find the Passage, but became locked in the ice for two years. By June 1847 Franklin, twenty Officers and Seamen died, but Irving and 104 other survivors landed on King William Island and tried to march further South into Canada, some 250 miles away. They perished in this venture.

Many expeditions were sent out to trace the crews, and it was in June 1879 that Lieutenant Frederick Schwatka’s American Searching Expedition found Irving’s grave near a place called Camp Crozier, the remains identifiable by the presence of a silver medal engraved ‘Second Mathematical Prize, Royal Naval College. Awarded to John Irving Mid-summer. 1830’, lying nearby. His remains were returned to Edinburgh and on the 7th January 1881 he was buried in the Dean Cemetery.

The tableau on the Cross appears to show the survivors leaving Erebus and Terror to commence their march South.

A synopsis of the terrible affair is also on the cross. However, it brought to mind more recent information that adds colour to this story.

Dr. John Rae was a qualified surgeon from Orkney in Scotland who was employed by the Hudson’s Bay Company after his arrival there in 1833. He stayed in the Moose Factory area for around 10 years and in this time assimilated with the local native Canadians. He learned their vital survival skills, though his insistence of dressing like a native was frowned upon. Dr. Rae assisted in two searches for Erebus and Terror and their men, but abandoned the search for Franklin in 1854 after learning that the expedition had ended in disaster and that the last survivors having been forced to resort to cannibalism.

In April 1854, Rae had heard from an Inuit that a group of 40 white men had been seen four years previously pulling a boat and sledges South along the West coast of King William Island. From what he was told, Rae decided the men had died in the winter of 1850, after ice had crushed their ships. Some years later, Rae learned that the Inuit had discovered 30 bodies and a number of graves and it appeared the men had died of starvation. But the report of cannibalism caused a scandal which was not accepted by Victorian Britain and, in particular, Franklin’s widow. Even Charles Dickens wrote of his disbelief. But in May 1859 following another expedition, skeletons were found of some of the last survivors and they appeared to confirm that the men had resorted to cannibalism.

Dr. Rae eventually returned to the UK, but his courageous deeds in the snowy wastelands of Northern Canada were never truly recognised….until 2014. On 30th September 2014 a simple plaque was unveiled to Rae in Westminster Abbey in London, England. This plaque is adjacent to a memorial to Franlin.

But there is more……. Also in September 2014 the Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced the discovery of a ship to the West of King William Island, South of the Victoria Strait. This ship has been confirmed as HMS Terror’s sister ship, HMS Erebus. Work continued to find Irving’s ship and on 12th September 2016 HMS Terror was found… a place called Terror Bay on King William Island. It appears yet again that authorities had taken a long time to listen to the words of the local Inuit as to where these ships may lie.

So, although Irving was interred in the Dean Cemetery 137 years ago his story and that of the Franklin Expedition continues to evolve to this day.

Why don’t you arrange a walk to The Dean Cemetery and many other places of interest in Edinburgh with Edinburgh Walks. Go to or call the number on the website.

The Leith Boys

Today is the anniversary of the Quintinshill Rail Disaster which occurred on 22nd May 1915, the worst train accident in UK history. Quintinshill is in a sparsely populated part of southern Scotland, not far from the English border and the accident occurred between three trains.

One of the trains contained Territorial Army Troops from the 1/7th (Leith) Battalion of the Royal Scots, who were en route to embark at Liverpool for Gallipoli during the 1st World War.

The Dalmeny Street Drill Hall where the troops had left Leith

The troops had left Leith earlier from their drill hall in Dalmeny Street, Leith. The Drill Hall is now an arts and community craft centre called Out of the Blue.

Dolmens Street Drill Hall

It still retains much of the feel and space of a drill hall and one could imagine how busy and business-like it was on the run up to the 1/7th Leith Boys heading off to war.

Within the Drill Hall

Around half the soldiers on the troop train perished, though the precise number was never exactly known because of the poor condition of the corpses and the fact that the roll of Officers and Men was also destroyed in the accident. However it seems agreed that the number of around 210 of Leith’s finest did not survive.

The funeral cortege in Pilrig Street, heading for Rosebank Cemetery

The bodies were returned to Leith on 24th May 1915 and a funeral for the Officers & Men was held. The cortège took four hours to pass from Dalmeny Street, up Leith Walk and down Pilrig Street to Rosebank Cemetery.

Pilrig Street, how it looks now.

The bodies were interred at a special site within Rosebank Cemetery and a service is held in commemoration annually.

Memorial to the 1/7th (Leith) Battalion, Rosebank Cemetery

Commemorative Cross

Memorial Plaque

Leith’s Coat of Arms from the Memorial

It would be easy to forget the sacrifice of the men of the 1/7th (Leith) Battalion, Royal Scots and this terrible accident. The former Drill Hall (Out of the Blue) is open to the public and can be visited most days. There is a great café within. Rosebank Cemetery is also open on a daily basis and the Memorial to the Men is on the far North West corner.

You can also visit these places as part of a walk into and around Leith with Edinburgh Walks (


Walks for Concierge & Reception Staff

Well the ‘beast from the east’ has struck Edinburgh in late February and early March, with most public transport at a standstill because of the Siberian conditions and premises shut because of staff shortages or lack of trade, but that will not curtail our offer to Concierge & Reception staff from a select group of Edinburgh’s top hotels.

This was so successful at the end 2017 that we are repeating the offer of a free (up to) 4 hour walk around Edinburgh – and/or Leith – for staff to acquaint or re-acquiant themselves of our beautiful city during the month of March 2018. It is particularly good for staff new to the city or for new hotel openings. It can also help as part of a team bonding exercise.

Edinburgh Walks conduct private and some small group guided walks to Edinburgh & Leith that are proving popular. History (royalty, war, crime & punishment), literature (from Scott, Burns, Stevenson to Harry Potter), the arts (festivals, museums, galleries & architecture) and film & television (Outlander & Avengers) seem to be the themes most visitors look for. But some also like to get off the well worn tourist trail with walks through the New Town, over Arthur Seat, along the Water of Leith to Stockbridge or down to the Port of Leith and we provide these too.

Have a look at our website on and if you want to take part, let us know on



Outlander film locations in Edinburgh

We have been asked to add some pictures of a couple of locations from the TV serial Outlander. We’ve chosen to show photographs from two sites in the Royal Mile area of Edinburgh as they are within reach of most visitors and can be visited as part of a guided walk with Edinburgh Walks (see


Tweeddale Court is a location from Season 3, Episode 6 ‘A. Malcolm’ showing scenes from 18th Century Edinburgh.

Entrance to Tweeddale Court, Royal Mile, Edinburgh

View of the upper apartments in Tweeddale Court, Royal Mile, Edinburgh.


Bakehouse Close is also a location from Season 3 and is known as Carfax Close in the programme. This is where we find “Alexander Malcolm’s print shop” where the characters Jamie and Claire get back together again after some time apart.


Bakehouse Close looking towards The Royal Mile (Canongate), Edinburgh

Bakehouse Close with the white Acheson House adjacent.

And a still photo from the Outlander programme;

And how Bakehouse Close looks in the episode.


For visits to these and other Outlander locations within Edinburgh, please use for more information or look at our Walks page.