Some views around The City Observatory on Calton Hill

We have now reached the end of October in Edinburgh and the temperatures are starting to fall fast. I wrapped up and took a walk along to Calton Hill – one of Edinburgh’s volcanoes – which is only five minutes from Princes Street, the main thoroughfare. Here are some of the pictures I took from below and on top of the Hill. Along with other sights, you can see The Nelson Monument, The City Observatory, The Memorial Monuments to Dugald Stewart and John Playfair plus the view from the Observatory Library across to Leith.

View of Calton Hill from below.

 

The City Observatory and City Dome from the rooftop viewing terrace.

 

The view of North Edinburgh and Leith from the City Observatory Library.

 

The City Observatory, Playfair Monument and Nelson Monument from the viewing terrace of The City Observatory.

The City Observatory initially opened in 1822 as the Royal Observatory and presently has two telescopes within. The building is now run by the Collective and, as well as being of historical significance is also an arts space for developing artists. The views from here are magnificent and really worth a visit. Within the grounds of the Observatory is the very good The Lookout restaurant which opened in 2018.

To visit Calton Hill please get in touch with Edinburgh Walks at contact@edinburghwalks.com

 

It’s a Shore thing – some things you maybe didn’t know about Leith’s Shore.

With a wealth of history, Shore – as it is officially called Shore and not The Shore – in Leith is now a place to wander and take in a restaurant or bar (or two). It certainly has changed in the last 30 years, with award winning restaurants including one having a long held Michelin Star, though I can remember a couple of these gentrified places having a much grittier past. I’m looking at you King’s Wark amongst others !

Mary Queen of Scots returned to Scotland in August 1561 and landed here. She may have visited Andrew Lamb’s house in Burgess Street – which as you can see is a superb building to this day – around the corner but most probably went to her mother Mary of Guise’s house on Rotten Row, now known as Water Street.

The Water of Leith enters this area and slowly makes its way into Leith Docks beyond, but the tidal nature of the river has been slowed dramatically due to the modern dock gates. Previously this whole area was determined by tides and the movements of ships and their supply and repair was done during the natural ebb and flow.

The need for dry dock repair facilities was ended when the Leith Dry Dock at the rear of Sandport Street and adjacent to Ronaldson’s Wharf was built around 1771. This dry dock, the first in Leith, was built by John Sime and his son in their yard next to Glasshouse Quay.  It was made a Scheduled Monument in 1994 by Historic Environment Scotland but you can’t see it unless you give the area a very close look.

Leith Shore from Sandport Dry Dock

The ‘lugs’ or mooring rings can still be seen from the old dry dock but the dock itself has been filled in.

The dock runs in a South East to North Westerly direction and is approximately 70m x 20m x 20m in size. But the most interesting thing for any visitor to see is the wall at the back of the Sandport Street tenement building that lie adjacent to the dock.

Rear of Sandport Street tenements from Sandport Dry Dock, Leith

There is an intentional architectural indentation in the wall where the bowsprit from any large vessel in dry dock could sit. This would allow for very large vessels to be repaired.

Also of interest adjacent to the dry dock is the last remaining boundary wall from the Innes and Grieve bonded warehouse. This is an interesting chapter in the history of Leith in the First World War. On the night of 2nd April 1916 two German Zeppelin airships L14 and L22 dropped a number of bombs on Leith and Edinburgh.

Remaining wall of Innes & Grieve

As the airships moved along the Water of Leith, bomb number 11 hit the bonded warehouse and it was engulfed in flames. At 11:30pm there were no workers within so lives were not lost in this building as unfortunately occurred in other buildings struck nearby.

The wall of Innes & Grieve from the site of Sandport Dry Dock, Leith.

But Innes & Grieve did lose the whole warehouse at the cost of £44,000. A substantial sum in 1916. Due to the fact that their insurance did not cover aerial attack, their insurance failed to pay out too. A lot of their best selling whisky Uam-Var  (from the Gaelic Uamh Mhór meaning large cave) went up that night.

The Grand Old Scotch Uam-Var

Sadly though, lives were lost in the Zeppelin raid on Leith in both Commercial Street and Bonnington Road. The annual report on Accidental Deaths and Fatal Casualties for the Leith Police year ending 31st December 1916 was presented by Chief Constable John MacLeod and showed these two fatalities on the night of 02/04/1916. It was the first time ever that bombardment from the air had been listed.

From Annual Report of Chief Constable John MacLeod of Leith Police in 1916

So the next time you walk down Shore in Leith, have a look over to the west side of the river and try to pick out these little bits of history from not too long ago.

Edinburgh Walks (www.edinburghwalks.com/walks) have a unique guided walk from the centre of Edinburgh into Leith. Contact Edinburgh Walks on contact@edinburghwalks.com for more information.

It’s not all about Edinburgh & Leith

Although I write about my walking experiences in Edinburgh & Leith (see www.edinburghwalks.com) I do stretch my legs a bit further at times and go elsewhere. Very recently I took the short train journey to Fife, land just to the north of Edinburgh across the estuary of the River Forth know as the Firth of Forth. The train crosses the estuary on the world famous Forth Bridge and I decided to get off in Dalgety Bay and walk part of the Fife Costal Path (www.fifecostalpath.co.uk) which stretches the 117 miles from Kincardine to Wormit all along this famous and beautiful Kingdom.

A few miles east out of Dalgety Bay, I came across the stunning and very well maintained St.Bridget’s Kirk on the coastline.

St. Bridget’s Church

Built around 1170 and for 500 years the ancient church of the Canons of Inchcolm, this building with its open graveyard sit right on the shoreline.

Looking out over the Firth of Forth.

After the Protestant Reformation in Scotland, the building was redeveloped to provide a central pulpit with aisles added along the sides. The former Chancellor to Scotland and 1st Earl of Dunfermline Alexander Seton was buried here in 1622. The Kirk fell into ruin after 1830.

Momento Mori on gravestone

Gravestone

But what is also of interest in this graveyard is the stone hut which sits along the West wall on the outside of the premises.

Stone hut outside West Wall

This was built to accommodate the families of the deceased who were interred here in the late 18th and early 19th Century. Due to the danger of the body of their loved one being dug up by the resurrection men – or body snatchers – who would dig up fresh cadavers for the dissection table of the medical school in Edinburgh or elsewhere, the family were encouraged to stay and guard the grave until the body had likely decomposed enough that it was worthless to sell. Being on the shore, the grave robbers could easily have come in by boat.

The stone hut outside St. Bridget’s Kirk

It really is worthwhile taking time to visit Fife and even to try a section or two of the Fife Coastal Path.

If you require any more information, just e-mail EdinburghWalks on contact@edinburghwalks.com.

 

Edinburgh Walks contribute to TV travel show- In Search Of Mary Of Guelders

Edinburgh Walks were delighted to be invited as the only city guides and consultants for the television film crew from GLD (Netherlands) series Ridders van Gelre around our beautiful city.

They came to Edinburgh in search of Queen Mary of Guelders, wife of Scotland’s 15th Century King James II. To the people of Guelderland in the east of the Netherlands, Mary of Guelders is know as “Mary, Queen of Scots”, not to be confused with Mary Stuart, Mary Queen of Scots from the 16th Century. We visited many sites in the city’s medieval Old Town some of which have changed little since Queen Mary was on the throne in the 1440’s, 1450’s and 1460’s.

Take a look at the first part of our film together (click below). I understand the television programme was watched by half a million viewers.

 

 

Skybar

I was fortunate to be invited by the marketing manager Silvia Mogas to experience the Skybar above the Doubletree by Hilton, Edinburgh City Centre recently.

It has been open for a few years now, but I haven’t had a chance to visit as it only opens on the first Thursday of the month. They regularly have themed evenings, the last one was a silent disco and the next on one February 7th is a celebration of Chinese New Year. Being a Skybar you have to take the elevator to the roof space. You come out into a cocktail bar with plenty of tables/chairs and a sizeable barbecue area attached with outdoor seating for those long summer nights we sometimes have in Edinburgh. However, for me the most interesting part of the Skybar is the view.

Looking from the West you can see Edinburgh Castle, the Royal apartments and Great Hall to the right of your view to the barracks and military HQ to the left, it is a great building to take in sitting as it does on top of a 340 million year old volcano.

If you are in central Edinburgh on the first Thursday of the month you should give it a try. For the views if nothing else………