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

A bit of a Muddle…

Whilst walking around Edinburgh and its northern neighbour Leith you pick up clues to different times.

You would have thought the Councillors of Edinburgh city and their counterparts in the then separate town of Leith would have got along and that laws and facilities would have been the same, with them being such close neighbours. But, no…..

Leith had traditionally been run from Edinburgh Council, but by Acts of the U.K. Parliament in 1827 and 1833 Leith became a separate burgh from Edinburgh. This allowed Leith to make their differences with Edinburgh clearer. Leith ran their own Police and Fire Service, a separate criminal court, Town Hall and Councillors and more importantly, had their own bye-laws.

But two instances really bring home the difference between the two places.

The Bier Hoose bar was formerly known as The Boundary Bar and stands on the old boundary line between Leith and Edinburgh on the main street called Leith Walk opposite the top of Pilrig Street. As you can see from the above picture, there are three double doors (the middle one is open here) which are in line with the building. There are additionally two entrance/exit doors sunken into the shopfront. These two sunken doors were very important for this public house.

The door closer to Leith (below the sign Bier) was subject to Leith Liquor Licensing Laws. However

the door closer to Edinburgh was subject to the City’s Liquor Licensing Laws. So the same bar had two liquor licenses from two Licensing Authorities. Not a recipe for success? Well things went well until the end of the drinking day. Because Leith revellers were allowed to drink half an hour later than their Edinburgh friends, so ‘time’ would be called on the Edinburgh side of the Boundary Bar and everyone who wanted to keep on drinking – i.e. everyone – would move round to the Leith side of the bar. This all changed after the highly controversial plebiscite of 1920 to bring Leith under the jurisdiction of Edinburgh. Although Leithers voted by a 6:1 majority to stay separate, amalgamation took place with Leith and Edinburgh bye-laws became coterminous.

Another discrepancy between city and town was the public transport system.

Up until 1899 the entire stretch of Leith Walk between both Edinburgh and Leith could be travelled using the horse-drawn tram service, even though cable drawn trams were introduced into Edinburgh from 1888. It was in October 1899 the Edinburgh’s transport authorities decided to lay cables to the boundary with Leith. It took Leith another six years to withdraw their horse drawn trams, with the decision being made to introduce electric trams. So from 1899 what became known as the ‘Pilrig Muddle’ was introduced.

Edinburgh had introduced cabling throughout the city to pull its trams and Leith did not follow, introducing another form of traction. Travelling from Leith to Edinburgh or vice versa meant getting off your vehicle at the boundary – by the Boundary Bar – and getting on the next service to complete your journey. Of course, people travelling the opposite direction had to do the same and it caused a lot of stress and heated argument. This could not continue. The Pilrig Muddle ended in 1922 when Edinburgh relented and became electrified too so the service could run on one system.

Edinburgh and its trams still have a love hate relationship. The new tram system from the Airport only started a few years ago but the initial plans to take it into Leith were not followed through and it terminates presently near the top of Leith Walk. Maybe in the near future we will see that system run into Leith as promised and stop a similar muddle for those wanting to get from the Airport into Leith without the requirement to change in the City Centre.



For walks in Edinburgh and Leith, please contact Edinburgh Walks on contact@edinburghwalks.com




The forgotten scientist

Another former Edinburgh resident worthy of remembrance is James Clerk Maxwell. I regularly pass his home and his (relatively) newly erected statue on George Street, but his name was out of public consciousness for quite a time.

James Clerk Maxwell

Born in 1831 in an upstairs bedroom (now called the Motorola Room!) of a fine Georgian terraced house at 14 India Street, Edinburgh, Maxwell was the son of a solicitor who had also inherited the estate of Glengair in Galloway, Scotland. At the age of 10 he attended Edinburgh Academy and then went on to study at Edinburgh University from 1847-1850. He later studied at Cambridge


University and, at the very young age of 25, became the Professor of Physics at Marischal College – now part of Aberdeen University.

Whilst at Aberdeen, Clerk Maxwell studied the composition of Saturn’s rings. Scientists had been trying for many years to understand why they did not simply break up as they appeared to be solid, or crash into or move away from the planet. In 1859 he wrote an essay “On the stability of Saturn’s Rings” which won him the Adam’s prize and £130 from St. Johns College, Cambridge. He contended that the rings were made of many small parts orbiting Saturn as opposed to one solid ring. This could not be proved at the time, but was later confirmed by the Voyager space probe in the 1980’s.

After this his knowledge and expertise was sought from universities around the UK. Clerk Maxwell continued his research in a number of fields, including astronomy and mathematical physics.

His work played a key role in Albert Einstein’s special theory of relativity and Einstein said “The work of James Clerk Maxwell changed the world forever.” From the understanding of electromagnetic waves – which helped the development of radio, television and modern telephony – and discoveries in telescopes and photography Clerk Maxwell was a truly great man.

But it took until 2008 for him to be recognised by his home city with a statue in the splendid New Town of Edinburgh, not too far from where he was born.


The plinth has his four equations of electromagnetic theory thereon. The statue itself shows Clerk Maxwell sitting, holding a rotating disc of colours which he used for the understanding of our vision and light. His dog Toby sits beneath him. I’m not sure which dog this is as he reportedly had several dogs in his lifetime, all called Toby.

If you join one of our walks – see www.edinburghwalks.com – you can find out more about this fascinating man that was forgotten by his home city for so long.

And the madness begins…..

Edinburgh in August is a busy place…….A very busy place.

It is when the Edinburgh Festivals take a grip on the city. Where locals, performers and visitors alike are squeezed into our theatres, halls, pubs, restaurants and streets and it seems like half the world is here. The Festivals are the third largest ticketed event in the world, after the Olympic Games and World Cup Football (Soccer) competitions. Last year alone, the Fringe Festival had over 50,000 performances. Add to this the Official Edinburgh Festival, Arts Festival, Book Festival, Television Festival and others and the ticket sales grow and grow. This in a city with a population of under 500,000.

And it is also great fun…….

I walked down the Royal Mile in the Old Town and into the Mound Plaza in the New Town at the weekend and this is what I encountered

Security Barriers very much in evidence this year. And then the madness….

Promoting a show

Street portrait artists

More portrait artists

Street performers


More street performers……

It really can get too much. It’s as well then that Edinburgh Walks guides are aware of places to go for a bit of peace and quiet, for sober reflection even, away from the very busy streets. Just 1-3 minutes from the artists, musicians and performers are places of tranquility, like (South East) Princes Street Gardens where you can take a picnic and chill, re-charge your batteries and head out again to take in some more cultural highlights.

Not much going on down here.

Within sight of some of the performance areas.

Let Edinburgh Walks guides take you round this beautiful city and dip in and out as the madness ensues. Go to www.edinburghwalks.com

Views from The Pentland Hills

The Pentland Hills rise to the South of Edinburgh and became a regional park in 1986. Approximately 35 sq miles in size the park is used as farmland and open pasture, but also by walkers, skiers, mountain bikers and anglers for recreational purposes. There is evidence the land has been tended for several thousand years and there is archaeological proof of temporary Roman occupation after their arrival in AD79.

I was out over The Pentlands this week and took some photographs from the top of Harbour Hill.

The above pictures show the Forth Bridge (b.1890, in red), taking the main rail line north over the Forth Estuary from Edinburgh and the South to Fife, Dundee and Aberdeen and the North. Also the Forth Road Bridge (b.1964) which is a much used road bridge that substituted the ferry from South Queensferry to North Queensferry in Fife. And lastly, there is the Queensferry Crossing (b.2017) which is to open imminently. The last bridge has been built to take traffic pressure from the Forth Road Bridge.

Then I turned to get a view of Edinburgh and it was looking great against a misty slate grey sky.

As well as the tree plantation and reservoir in the foreground, you can clearly see Edinburgh Castle to the left of mid-ground and the rest of the Old Town to its right. To the far right of mid-ground, the volcanic Salisbury Crags of The Queens Park is clearly visible. Then in the distance the Forth Estuary and over to the Kingdom of Fife.

From a wider viewpoint, the City of Edinburgh.

It is easy to get out to The Pentland Hills from Edinburgh by public transport and if you get this opportunity to see Edinburgh from another angle, then give it a go.



I thought I would share with you some of the images from the Stockbridge Duck Race that was held this week in Edinburgh. Stockbridge is a lovely part of the city, an old village enveloped by the encroaching New Town in the late 19th Century. It still has a village feel about the place and has some great shops, bars and restaurants that are well worth a visit.

The Stockbridge Duck Race was started 28 years ago and is a major fundraiser for local charities. Leading up to the race, you can buy a duck – in reality a number that corresponds to one written on a yellow plastic duck. On a chosen Sunday in the Summer, thousands of yellow plastic ducks are thrown from The Stock Bridge into The Water of Leith and they float for 150 metres or so until they are collected in a net stretched out over the river, by local volunteers.

The winning ducks are upended and the number noted. The first 100 or so ducks that came down win the prizes donated by local businesses and services.

Of course, some times a duck makes a ‘big bid for freedom’ and has to be chased downstream and returned to the fold………

If you’d like to visit Stockbridge come along on one of our guided walks. See www.edinburghwalks.com for more details.

Name a Scot who won the Wimbledon Men’s Singles Title….?

Sir Andy Murray?


Yes, but who else?

How about Harold Segerson Mahony, born 13th February 1867.


Mahony came from an Irish land owning family who had a house in Scotland and he went on to win a silver and a bronze medal at the Paris Olympics in 1900 for Great Britain and Ireland, before the independent Irish State came into being. Whilst it is likely that Mahony would have played for the Irish Republic we Scots like to clutch at any kind of sporting success, so I am still keen to call him a Scot as he was born here, at 21 Charlotte Square, Edinburgh.

IMG_0393  IMG_0394

Charlotte Square is fine Georgian housing a minutes walk from the West End of Princes Street. Full of the monied elite, other famous residents from the past have been Lord Henry Cockburn, Sir William Fettes, Field Marshall Douglas Haig and (just around the corner) Alexander Graham Bell. The properties in which these people lived – along with others – have been gives plaques, signs or acknowledgements . Until now 21 Charlotte Square has not, and Mahony has been all but forgotten.

Mahoney won the Wimbledon Men’s Singles title in 1896, having previously won the Queens Club championship too. He failed to hold on to these titles at subsequent tournaments, but was obviously a great player with a superb backhand.

Sadly, the ever adventurous Mahony was killed in a bicycling accident in 1905.

Mahoney should be celebrated more and there should be some kind of acknowledgement for this great sportsman.

You can see this house in Charlotte Square as part of a walk with Edinburgh Walks (www.edinburghwalks.com).

What a balloon…!

There are a number of people who have a strong connection with Edinburgh but there is little general public knowledge of their lives and feats.

I thought I would bring your attention to James Tytler.  A great man who worked as a pharmacist/doctor, preacher, artist and editor/contributor to The Encyclopaedia Britannica. But for me the most fascinating thing about Tytler is that he was the first man in the British Isles to fly. He was therefore also known as James ‘Balloon’ Tytler.

James Tytler


Tytler was born a son of the Manse in 1745  in Forfarshire, Scotland. His early life lead him to studying medicine at Edinburgh University. After employment at sea as a doctor and as a pharmacist in Edinburgh’s port of Leith he had run up many debts and moved with his wife to England. He returned to Edinburgh around 1773 with wife and children in tow and took to writing to make ends meet. His personal and working life did not work out well for James and following his marriage failing, things did not look good for him.

However, in 1777 he became the editor of Encyclopaedia Britannica and it appears it was here that he later learned of hot air ballooning and the initial ascent of the Montgolfier Brothers in 1783. His mind seemed to be made up to emulate them in Great Britain and work to raise money and build his Edinburgh Fire Balloon began in earnest. After some difficulty, Tytler succeeded in his plan. The

Grand Edinburgh Fire Balloon

early attempts by Tytler to get his plan off the ground (sorry!) were woeful, but he persisted. On 27th August 1784

Queens Park

at Comely Gardens – which is just to the east of Holyrood House, the Royal Residence in Scotland’s capital – the balloon was inflated with hot air and Tytler got on board the wicker basket. The ropes were let loose and up he rose, the first person to fly on and over these islands. He crossed the area now known as The Queens Park or Holyrood Park (above) and into Restalrig Village around one kilometre away. Those that saw this feat were mightily impressed and his next attempt was made from the same area, this time with the public paying a small fee to watch. This second flight was not as successful and the next was a disaster. The local press were scathing, claiming it to be a farce and the public turned against Tytler.

But Tytler was the first to fly. Italian Vincenzo Lunardi – who was much more of a dashing showman – flew his hydrogen balloon over London 23 days later on the 19th September 1784, but was much celebrated for this flight infront of an estimated 150,000 people. Lunardi also came to Edinburgh and on the 20th December 1785 took off from the Heriot Hospital (now George Heriots School) and landed out on the Forth Estuary.

Tyler’s troubles continued, with bankruptcy and divorce visiting him. Following the French Revolution Tytler  reportedly called for a Republican state to replace the Monarchy and had to flee Edinburgh, ending up in Salem, Massachusetts. On 9th January 1804 his body was found on the shore there. He had been missing for two days having left home in an inebriated state. I was in Salem in 2015, but could not find any public notice or indication of his residence there at the turn of the 19th century.

But Edinburgh has not exactly been overly effusive in it’s memory of Tytler. On the site of Comely Gardens, then an open area

Tytler Gardens

I found that one street of relatively new properties had been named after our forgotten hero of flight. We should be doing more……….


The guided walk “Three Volcanoes” by Edinburgh Walks passes this area where the first flight took place. Please have a look on www.edinburghwalks.com for more information.