Churches, Gravestones, and a Police Escort

We slept in a little bit today, which was quite nice, then we headed over to the Edinburgh Larder for breakfast again and again, it was very good! The weather was overcast and cool, but not raining….yet. 

Our first stop today was at Greyfriars Tolbooth and Kirkyard (graveyard). It’s a wonderful, still active church with a lively history and one charming story about a dog. 

Dave and I wandered around the Kirk for a little bit. Some of the tombstones are extremely old and some of the stories and eloquent words engraved on them are heartbreaking. We then went into the church which has been damaged and rebuilt over the centuries. 

Greyfriars was the first church built in Edinburgh after the Reformation. In 1562 Mary Queen of Scots had granted the land to the Town Council for use as a burial ground but it did not open until Christmas Day 1620. 

However, the most famous story from the nineteenth century, is that of Greyfriars Bobby. Bobby was a Skye Terrier, looked after by John Gray for the last two years of the old man’s life. After the death of Gray, Bobby reportedly guarded his grave for fourteen years, capturing the heart of the Lord Provost, William Chambers (whose own statue stands nearby on Chambers Street). Chambers organised for the Town Council to pay for Bobby’s dog licence, and so saved him from being rounded up and destroyed. Bobby was buried just outside the graveyard, near where his stone stands today. One of the most famous images of Edinburgh is the statue of Bobby on George IV Bridge, near the entrance to the Graveyard. It was erected in the year after Bobby himself died, 1872. The story spread across the world, helped by Disney releasing the first moving picture based on the little dog in 1961. In 2006, a new version, directed by Bafta award winning Director John Henderson, was released. The statue of the little dog is really special and they created a small trough around the base to be kept filled with water for other canine friends. 

We then visited Gladstone’s Land which provides a unique glimpse of life in the Old Town in an old 17th-century tenement building of the overcrowded Old Town. Completed in 1620, this was the home of a prosperous merchant and contains remarkable original painted ceilings which just blew Dave and I away. Very unexpected when you walked in. The building is the most important example of 17th-century high-tenement housing to survive in Edinburgh. Its site and the extent of its accommodation mark its prestige in terms of mercantile dignity. 

The rains came, but we continued to explore the Closes on the Royal Mile. The Old Town of Edinburgh, Scotland, consisted originally of the Royal Mile and the small streets and courtyards that led off it to the north and south called closes, a Scots term for alleyways. These are usually named after a memorable occupant of one of the apartments reached by the common entrance, or the occupations of those that traded there. Most slope steeply down from the Royal Mile and many have steps and long flights of stairs. Some still have amazing courtyards, and we tried to find those. We never got to all of them. 

We bought tickets for Mary King’s Close tour then stopped at Forsyth’s Tearoom, a charming little hideaway with a charming little woman and her helpful friends. As other online reviews have mentioned, this little eclectic tearoom is like visiting your grandmother’s kitchen for tea. Christine, the owner/baker/tea maker, is just as unique. Dave and I had a lovely bite to eat and posed for a photo. We also picked up a few home made goodies for breakfast on Thursday at the apartment. 

The Mary King’s Close tour was next. Mary King’s Close is an old Edinburgh close (alley) under buildings. It took its name from Mary King, daughter of advocate Alexander King, who in the 17th century had owned several properties within the close. The close was partially demolished and buried under the Royal Exchange, and with it being closed to the public for many years, the complex became shrouded in myths and urban legends; tales of ghosts and murders, and myths of plague victims being walled up and left to die abounded. 

However, new research and archaeological evidence has revealed that the close actually consists of a number of closes which were originally narrow streets with tenement houses on either side, stretching up to seven stories high. Our tour revealed some of those tales and our costumed guide Paul, was a terrifically droll narrator. It was amazing that people continued to live underground. 

Then, we visited St. Giles Cathedral. The church has been one of Edinburgh’s religious focal points for approximately 900 years. The present church dates from the late 14th century, though it was extensively restored in the 19th century. In 1638 the National Covenant was presented and signed in front of the pulpit. This was a document of great importance in the history of Scotland and an original copy is displayed in the Visitor Centre in a non-descript case. The small museum is very nicely done and worth a visit. 

There is remarkable beauty and spirit throughout and it’s history is long and varied. For more information, READ HERE – dinburgh/stgiles/ 

One of the most beautiful, striking areas is the Thistle Chapel built in 1911. It is small, but exquisite, with carved and painted fittings of extraordinary detail. One figure depicts an angel playing bagpipes. The Order, which was founded by King James VII in 1687, consists of the Scottish monarch and 16 knights. The knights are the personal appointment of the monarch, and are normally Scots who have made a significant contribution to national or international affairs. Prince William was installed as a knight last year and his marker was just placed in the chapel. 

After our busy day, we Were quite hungry and decided to go down to the Whiski’s pub for dinner. When we walked down to our corner, we say flashing lights, the roads were blocked off and police whe everywhere. Apparently, a man and woman had taken some people hostage at the pharmacy just a few door up for our apartment. 

Well…we hadn’t expected this! We ended up having winner at a pizza place, the walk a block around our apartment, the met up with Beth & Fiona. Dave spoke to an officer and we were finally able to get back into our apartment, but with a police escort! He told us to stay in the building…no problem! 

Everyone we spoke to said this kind of incident was high unusual. I hope so! We joined everyone else in gazing out the window watching the police and fireman. Things were finally resolved peacefully and no one was hurt, thank God, but it sure put a cramp in packing!

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