Tuesdays Edinburgh – Victoria Street to The Grassmarket

For this weeks taste we are firmly back in Edinburgh’s Old Town, having a close look at the old highrise buildings around the Grassmarket. Castle Rock broods watchfully over this broad paved area, which was the site of the main cattle and horse market from 1477 till 1911, and one of the city’s public gallows. There are lots of tales of the many infamous hangings which took place here over the years.

It was always one of the poorer areas of town, and was dominated (still is) by rows of public houses. People lived cheek by jowl in cramped apartments, without modern plumbing, and they would throw their waste out of the windows into the streets below, to the cry of ‘gardyloo’.ย  The phrase is the Scottish rendering of the French ‘Garde a l’eau’, ‘watch out for the water’. It’s claimed that this is where the word loo comes from.

This phrase was still heard ringing around the streets of the old town as late as the 1930’s, as many old homes still had no indoor toilet. I can only imagine the smell….you can still see old iron hoops on the walls of some buildings, which were used in earlier times to tie pigs to overnight. The pigs were the earliest form of rubbish disposal in the city.

The Bow Well was the first well head installed in Edinburgh’s old town in 1674, bringing fresh clean water to the people. Its drinking fountain bears Edinburgh’s coat of arms, a beautiful maiden and the unicorn she alone can tame, either side of the castle. The Latin motto of the city, ‘NISI DOMINUS FRUSTRA’, translates as ‘Without God everything fails’.

Thankfully this area of town is now more upmarket, and its pedestrianized heart is home to lots of nice places to eat, and drink. The air smells fresh, and you will be pleased to know that the plumbing has been brought up to date.

About greenmackenzie

Hi, I'm Seonaid, and I share my home on the shores of Loch Ness deep in the Scottish Highlands with my husband, my son and a couple of dogs. I love art which is here now and gone tomorrow...like food and nature...but also have a passion for vintage and the ancient past! Nature is my favourite muse, with her wild ever shifting seasons. I have been using and teaching mindfulness and relaxation for over 12 years, and have yet to become any sort of expert :-) I'm a Psychotherapist and Cancer Support Specialist in Maggies Highlands
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35 Responses to Tuesdays Edinburgh – Victoria Street to The Grassmarket

  1. Su Leslie says:

    Great photos. I used to drink at The Last Drop, and love that part of Edinburgh.

  2. eric0704 says:

    wow wow wow. great stuff!

  3. colonialist says:

    Character oozes out of every brick and stone.

    • It does, along with layers of tales and echoes of life ๐Ÿ™‚

      • colonialist says:

        I want to return to that city with a passion. Preferably not in winter, though.

      • The good thing about Edinburgh in winter is that it’s nice and quite, once New Year is over, until all the visitors start pouring back in the Spring. By August the numbers in this small city have swelled dramatically and getting across town becomes a real challenge once the Festival is in full swing!

  4. ladyfi says:

    So much history and gorgeous architecture!

  5. These buildings are stone?

  6. Another trip down memory lane for me. With such crisp and vibrant images. You caught it on a fair day! Our first flat was on Candlemaker’s Row, just one up from Victoria Street, and just down from the famous Greyfriar’s Bobby. In fact, our flat backed out onto the graveyard. Thankfully our plumbing worked, but the flats are small and the ceilings a bit low, reflecting the cramped nature of living during Medieval times, but with whole families where just the two of us lived. I miss some of the old shops and the arcade with antiques. But it is a much improved street since the late 80s.

    • Hi Kellie, it’s so lovely to hear all the memories evoked by the photos. The flat backing onto Greyfriars Cemetery must have been quite interesting….it’s supposed to be one of the most haunted sites in the city! And the whole area is thankfully much more upmarket than it was back in the 1980’s ๐Ÿ™‚ Despite the supposedly modern plumbing , back then, I bet it was still a bit if the shock when you arrived from the States!

  7. Beautiful photos is amazing to watch these wonderful places and scenic!

  8. Suzanne says:

    Edinburgh is one of those places I’ve always wanted to visit. Your photos really give me a sense of the place.

    • Suzanne, I’m sure you would have a lovely time if you did visit….it’s one of those places with something for pretty much everyone. Another great attraction is that there is lots packed into a fairly compact centre…all walkable….thanks mostly to all new developments being tucked in safely behind the old city walls for hundreds of years.

  9. It is amazing, and beautiful, and oh so much fun; I love the photos. Thank you for sharing and trying to teach me just a little mindfulness, I need that from time to time, or most of the time.

  10. theinnerzone says:

    Your pictures and associated descriptions are so crisp and lively, I can almost smell the town in them. Beautiful, frozen moments!

    • What a delightful comment, I’m so happy that the photos bring you such a vivid picture of Edinburgh. Thankfully the smell of the town is far more pleasant now than it must have been in the past ๐Ÿ™‚

  11. ‘Gardyloo’ … love it, just love it. Thanks! As always, a treat. D

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