Recent MSc graduate in ‘Film, Exhibition and Curation’ at the University of Edinburgh and seasoned freelance writer for online journals. Specialise in writing arts and culture related content including film reviews. Based in Edinburgh, Scotland.
Published April 9th 2017
An enlightening account of a free city tour around Edinburgh
Edinburgh in the sunshine - is there a better sight known to man? It's a balmy Saturday afternoon and I've decided to escape my poky little flat in search of adventure. Despite having lived in Scotland's proud capital for almost two years, I had never in that time gotten around to taking a guided city tour. Until now, that is.
Offering free walking tours of key sights in and around Edinburgh's seductive Medieval Old Town, fledgling company City Explorers really do seem receptive to the general public's own needs and wants. With the tour commencing from The Royal Mile at one o'clock sharp, our guide Euan was both entertaining and informative in equal doses.
Fittingly I am writing this on Scotland's National Unicorn day, which as Euan rightly points out is the national animal of Scotland having featured on the royal coat of arms for over nine hundred years. In this land of myths and legends, it is perhaps no surprise that this mythical, folkloric creature was chosen as Scotland's proud mascot.
Another work of fiction mentioned was Robert Louis Stevenson's Jekyll and Hyde, which we were reliably informed is based on the real-life figure of Archdeacon William Brodie. A well-respected carpenter, by day he built cabinets for the city's wealthy citizens. By night, however, Brodie used his supplementary skills as a locksmith to rob the rich of their worldly possessions. Brodie's nefarious actions were however eventually met with fatal consequences, since in the ultimate irony he was hung on gallows that he himself had designed – really does bring a whole new meaning to the phrase 'hoisted by one's own petard'.
On now to Edinburgh Castle, and to the story of the 'Stone of Destiny'. Used in the coronation of Scottish monarchs and housed in Westminster Abbey, this sacred stone was stolen by a pair of Scottish students and returned to its spiritual home of Arbroath Abbey only to later be reclaimed by the English. From the castle, we descended into Grassmarket, where we paid a visit to The Last Drop pub. It is here that we were told of another hanging, that of the fisher wife Maggie Dixon.
After Grassmarket, we hiked up Victoria Street and along George IV Bridge to our final stop on the tour, Greyfrier's Kirk. Here we were told the familiar tale of Greyfrier's Bobby, the Jack Terrier who stayed loyally by his late master's side in the cemetery for fourteen years before eventually being buried beside him.
All things considered I would whole-heartedly recommend to anyone, whether you are new to the city or have lived in Edinburgh your whole life to sample a free walking tour – after all, what have you got to lose? So why not give it a try, you might just learn something…