Hidden from sight in Leith Police Station

Leith Police Station is within the old Leith Town Hall which was built in 1827/28 as the Leith Sheriff and Police Court at a cost of £3260. Converted to Police and Burgh Offices in 1868 (as Leith was a separate town to Edinburgh) with the addition of the Police cells in 1878 and further refurbishment in 1891/2.

Three storied terrace addition to the Burgh Office in 1868

Entrance to the grand ceremonial stairs leading to the Leith Council Chambers

Leith Coat of Arms

The interior of the building has been much altered, mainly in connection with its present use as a Police Station. But it is the first floor that has been somewhat hidden from the public since 1920. This is a very important date as a plebiscite was held in that year in which the people of Leith voted 26,810 to 4,340 against the proposed merger of Leith into Edinburgh. This result of rejection was ignored and Edinburgh and Leith did indeed amalgamate, making the Burgh Council surplus to requirements and the Leith Council Chambers and Sheriff Court were closed.

But the Council Chambers still exist as if they were still in use. A bit of a time capsule which is open to the public on one or two days a year, normally Doors Open Day and possibly Leith Festival.

The Landing of His Majesty George IVth at Leith, 15th August 1822 by Alexander Carse

As the Town Hall was completed in 1828 a painting of the arrival in Leith of King George IVth painted by Alexander Carse was gifted to the town and placed on the wall of the Council Chambers, where it remains to this day. (Prof. Alice Roberts of Channel 4’s Historic Towns filmed here in September 2020 and it may be included in the programme on 12/12/2020 on Georgian Edinburgh).

The King arrived at Leith in 1822, the first monarch to come to Scotland since Charles II’s coronation in 1651 so this was very special. Greeted by the great and good of the day, including Sir Walter Scott on the quayside at the Shore, Leith the King entered his carriage and heading into Edinburgh. (Not all great and good though, can you see the pickpocket – dressed in red – in the bottom right of the painting?)

Paintings of former Provosts of Leith

The walls also have on display paintings of former Leith Provosts and the ceiling is intricately painted.

Beautifully painted ceiling of Leith Council Chambers (apologies re glare)

My favourite item in the room however is the whistling voice pipe. Maybe for ordering more tea? Lift off the top – a whistle within – and blow down the pipe to the whistle at the other end to pass on your message. Replace the top so that your request can be replied to, with a whistle…….

Whistling Blow Pipe. An early telephone…..

Sadly the court room furniture and fittings were removed and this is now just an office space. But through an adjacent door where miscreants would be led away on conviction, there still exist the Victorian Police and Court cells.

Doorway leading from Leith Sheriff Court to the Victorian Cells complex

The cells have not been in use for about 20 years but the scratches and scrapings on the walls and doors are part of a great, though somewhat unfortunate social history.

As an aside,  let’s not forget that this is still a working Police Station. The name is famous worldwide due to the the tongue twister – The Leith Police Dismisseth Us.

The tongue twister on a piece of street furniture outside Leith Police Station

Reputedly used by Police the world over before the invention of breathalysers to judge the sobriety of drivers, the whole of the tongue twister goes like this;


The Leith Police dismisseth us, they thought we sought to stay

The Leith Police dismisseth us, they thought we’d stay all day

The Leith Police dismisseth us, we both sighed sighs apiece

And the sighs that we sighed as we said goodbye, were the size of the Leith Police.


Try it.



The exterior of Leith Police Station and the Leith Council Chambers are part of a walk conducted by Edinburgh Walks. Get in touch at [email protected] if you wish to know more.


Edinburgh Walks return on 15th July 2020


Where we go when the storms are coming……

We have just experienced Storm Ciara and Storm Dennis here in Edinburgh over the last week or so. Added to that we have strong winter squalls on a regular basis so – on occasion – it is nice to get away from our winter weather.

A short time ago we at Edinburgh Walks headed away to the north of the Greek island of Crete, to the quieter western side and the town of Chania.

Old Town Chania, Crete.

Amongst others, Romans, Venetians and the Ottomans were in charge here and the back streets of the Old Town by the Harbour are lovely.

A view across the rooftops, Chania, Crete.

A few days is probably enough to visit the museums and catch up on the sights. Thereafter, we headed for the bus station to take the 2+ hour journey south to the small town of Paleochora on the coast of the Libyan Sea. Skirting the western edge of the Lefka Ori mountain range, Paleochora is an excellent base for exploring the South West of Crete on foot. Having walked part of the E4 Trans-European walking route in Eastern Crete before – around the Pefki Gorge area – it was nice to see the E4 route also comes through Paleochora.

After some advice from locals, one of the suggestions was a walk to the village of Anidri and a walk/scramble/slide down the Anidri Gorge, then join the E4 trail for the last 4kms back into town.. The walk from Paleochora leaves the town to the south east along the near empty beaches there. The temperature was very pleasant 24 degrees celsius (75+ degrees Fahrenheit) when we set out so with a bottle of water in the rucksack it was a lovely 6km walk on a winding road

Anidri village, Crete.

being careful to keep in to the side when traffic approached…. there were no pavements here.

Anidri is a very small village and it seems to centre around a café Kafeneio Sto Scholeio and the local Church of Saint George Agios Georgios. As the name suggests the café is a former school and the walls still show the class photographs of many years ago and pictures of the school itself.

Kafeneio Sto Scholeio, Anidri, Crete

This café has a great reputation for very fresh food, most of the fruit and vegetables coming from their own garden.  We were told to try the freshly baked cakes with our coffee on our stop. This advice was not wrong. Café Frappé and freshly out of the oven chocolate cake……

View of Anidri Gorge & Libyan Sea from Kafeneio Sto Scholeio, Anidri, Crete.

from the terrace, overlooking the Libyan Sea was great.

After our coffee break, we went to the adjacent Church of St. George which is dedicated to both St.George and St. Nicholas, therefore the two small aisles and two doors.

Church of Agios Georgios, Anidri, Crete.

It is quite acceptable to enter churches as long as there are no services on and you are respectfully dressed. As there was a key in the door in we went.

Inside Church of Agios Georgios, Anidri, Crete.

It was very atmospheric, with beautifully painted icons to the saints on display.

Frescoes within Church of Agios Georgios, Anidri, Crete.

There were frescoes which appeared to be of Saint George on the walls which were painted by Ioannis Pagomenos around 1323 and have darkened with age and smoke from the candles.

Leaving the church, we headed down the path towards the top of the Anidri Gorge.

View down Anidri Gorge to the Libyan Sea, Anidri, Crete.

The Gorge itself is around 5 km long and the top is generally easy to navigate. It would appear a different story in the spring, when the snow of the Lefki Ori melts and the water comes tumbling down all the gorges. There are some very large rocks to clamber over and then there is this problem…..

Rope ladder , Anidri Gorge, Crete.

A rope ladder had been placed against the face of a waterfall to ‘assist’ your descent. It was a 12ft drop and the lowest two rungs of the ladders were… well see for yourself.

Broken ropeladder, Anidri Gorge, Crete.

The rock around the rope ladder were very slippery due to being part of a waterfall for much of the year so this little part wasn’t much fun, but made you concentrate. From here on down it was a beautiful walk. At the bottom of the Gorge we were advised to seek out the Cantina on Gialiskari Beach where we would get a cold beer as reward for the descent.

Beer at the Cantina, Gialiskari Beach, Crete.

This is where we joined the E4 Trans-European Trail for the few kilometres back along beside the beach and into Paleochora.

And then for a sun downer.

Sun going down over Libyan Sea, Paleochora, Crete.

There are many walks around this part of Crete which are easy to organise by yourself using the very good bus service and a good map, though the first bus does leave at an early hour. However there are a few walking companies based in Paleochora who can organise personal trips for one day or longer and have their own vehicles to transport you to the beginning and bring you back from the end of your walk.

Paleochora has many restaurants, kafenion and bars to keep you occupied and with the exception of the height of summer, there always appears to be good accommodation choices available.

If you wish any more information about this trip by Edinburgh Walks, then please don’t hesitate us on [email protected]


Now, back in Edinburgh. Where’s my rain jacket………

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 [email protected]


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 [email protected] 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


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 [email protected].


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.




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.