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………

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 www.edinburghwalks.com – 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…..in 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 www.edinburghwalks.com/contact 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 (www.edinburghwalks.com).

 

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 www.edinburghwalks.com and if you want to take part, let us know on contact@edinburghwalks.com

 

 

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 www.edinburghwalks.com).

 

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 contact@edinburghwalks.com for more information or look at our Walks page.

 

 

 

Christmas has arrived early

Now that the days are shorter and colder, we approach Christmas and New Year in Edinburgh.

The build up to the celebrations have started already with the Edinburgh Christmas Markets, Bars and Eateries, Ice Rink and Music Venues all up and running. Here are some pictures taken this week….

Princes Street Gardens East from Market Street

From the Mound Plaza. The Market is on three levels, full of places to eat drink and buy……

Next to the Walter Scott Monument, the largest such monument to a writer in the world

Statue of Thomas Chalmers,mathematician, moral philosopher, political economist & theologian. A penny for his thoughts….

Chalmers’ statue is in the fine splendour of George Street and he is inside here….

Which is inside here. It’s like he has been ensnared by a giant jellyfish.

Edinburgh used to be a very conservative place running up to the festivities when a tree, gifted by the people of Norway for our close friendship in World War II, would sit on the Mound and a very few Christmas lights were displayed elsewhere running up to the Hogmanay (New Years Eve) celebration. It seems we now have a 6 week run up to Hogmanay and the party goes on for another week after that. And we are all the better for it……

Do try to come to Edinburgh city centre for these festivities as it really does keep the city vibrant during our Winter months.

For more information about the Edinburgh Christmas and New Year celebrations and for details of guided walks around the city and Leith at this time, please contact us on contact@edinburghwalks.com