Tuesday, 30 September 2008

Royal Mile 18 - Canongate

We are now on the Canongate part of the Royal Mile, which is named after the monks or 'canons' of Holyrood Abbey (now a ruin behind the Palace at the foot of the Royal Mile). In the 12th century they were given royal permission to build and rule their own town, which soon stretched from the Abbey all the way up to the Netherbow Port (see Royal Mile 16). In other words, Canongate used to be completely detached from Edinburgh, separated by the city wall. Canongate itself was never walled and relied on the power of the church for protection - in vain, as the entire town was sacked and burnt down several times over the centuries.

Monday, 29 September 2008

Royal Mile 17 - World's End

Many citizens in medieval Edinburgh never left the city - they either could not afford to pay to get back in, or they simply had no business outside the city walls. And so for many people the current St Mary's Street marked the end of their world, which is why the pub on the corner is called the World's End.

Incidentally, the pub's name is now mainly known in the context of the gruesome but as yet unsolved World's End murders of 1977, so-called because the victims were last seen alive in this pub. Two worlds ended indeed.

Sunday, 28 September 2008

Royal Mile 16 - Netherbow Port

If you look closely at the wall of the Storytelling Centre, you will see that a recessed space was created specifically to house this carving from 1606. It was once part of the Netherbow Port, a large gatehouse that stood not far from this spot on the Royal Mile. Part of the old city wall, residents and visitors had to pay to enter the city through this gate.
Gory detail: severed heads of executed criminals were often displayed on the spikes of the gate to discourage others from commiting crimes. The gate was demolished in 1764 but brass cobbles in the road mark the spot where it once stood.
(Image: edinburgh-royalmile.com)

Saturday, 27 September 2008

Royal Mile 15 - Scottish Storytelling Centre

Resuming our walk down the Royal Mile, we soon reach the Scottish Storytelling Centre on the left-hand side of the street. This buidling incorporates John Knox's House (far left), home to the famous church reformer during the mid-1500s. The Storytelling centre itself was only opened in 2006. It was designed by Malcolm Fraser Architects and has won lots of architecture awards, including the RIBA Award 2007 and EAA Building of the Year. Personally I think it looks great, and a much better modern intervention than the Radisson (see yesterday's photo).

Friday, 26 September 2008

Royal Mile 14 - Radisson

As promised, here is the second part of the Royal Mile tour that we started back in July. Let's pick up the tour where we left off, on the crossing between the Royal Mile and the Bridges. The building right in front is the Radisson Hotel, completed in 1990 as the Scandic Crown. The site was originally occupied by 18th-century tenements, but they had long since disappeared and the site was 'a large hole' according to contemporary commentators. Although the initial designs for a new group of buildings were quite sympathetic to the history and look of the area, the final design became one 250-bed hotel without any ground-floor units or indeed any of the closes that would have gone through the building. Though the building may be inoffensive to some, to others it's an eyesore.

Thursday, 25 September 2008

Pink ivy

Gorgeous pink ivy on a wall in Old Town. Autumn is coming!

Wednesday, 24 September 2008

Christmas in September

In recent years I've been horrified to find the shops stocking Christmas goods even before the official end of summer and this year has been no exception. Who on earth needs Christmas wrapping paper in September?!?! And how come then that I really like this place? The Nutcracker is one of at least three shops in the Old Town - two of which are on the Royal Mile - where you can buy Christmas decorations year-round! Surely that's just wrong - or not?

Tuesday, 23 September 2008


This one's for Mr Dido. Happy second anniversary my love!

Monday, 22 September 2008

Chessel's Court

This is one of the doors in Chessel's Court, a lovely 18th century courtyard in the middle of the city that you reach through a set of modern arches on the Canongate part of the Royal Mile. Well worth a visit if you're looking for some idyllic photographs. More to follow; as promised I will take you on the second part of the Royal Mile tour before too long!

Sunday, 21 September 2008

Chaos and romance

This photo proves the point that even in the midst of considerable chaos, there are still romantic corners to be found. I'm talking about our ongoing renovation, of course.

Saturday, 20 September 2008

Mystery man unmasked

Well - this is yesterday's mystery man, photographed through one of narrowest closes off the Royal Mile. Pretty harmless really!

Friday, 19 September 2008

Mystery man

Who is this kilted man lurking in the shadows? What is he plotting? (Suggestions in the comments, come back tomorrow to see if you were right...)

Thursday, 18 September 2008

Bridge of Sighs

This is the ‘Bridge of Sighs’ between the university’s Old College on the left and the Royal Museum on the right. In 1865, the university’s natural history collections – including large numbers of stuffed animals – were moved from the College into the museum, via this very bridge. However, the link was closed off in the 1870s as a result of a big row and has never been reopened. The falling out is said to have occurred when university students found out that the bridge was being used to store booze for a reception in the museum, and stole it to have their own party on the other side of the bridge!

Wednesday, 17 September 2008

Money money money

Ever seen a note of £1,000,000? Well, apparently that and everything else you have always wanted to know about money is on show at the Museum on the Mound, which is part of the impressive HBOS Headquarters just off the Royal Mile. I confess I haven't actually visited it yet, apart from when the exhibition was still being put together (Mr Dido worked on the building's renovation and showed me every room, radiator and cleaner's cupboard just before completion!). One of these days we really ought to have a look. Oh, and it's free.

Tuesday, 16 September 2008

A bit of cheer

It's been raining solidly for the last 24 hours, and with the doom and gloom of banks collapsing and markets falling, how's this to cheer us all up!? (Well perhaps just the female part of my readership ;-) )

Friday, 12 September 2008

Cowgate, Old Town

One of the most fascinating things about Edinburgh's urban make-up is its verticality, or the way in which the city is built on different levels, over and on top of each other. A good example of this is the Cowgate above. I took this picture from George IV Bridge looking along the Cowgate in the direction of South Bridge. Many of the buildings on both of these 'bridges' will have an entrance or even a completely different function on Cowgate level, which is essentially a dip with steep slopes to the Royal Mile on the north and Chambers Street on the south side.

Now notorious for its riotous nightlife at weekends, the Cowgate once was one of the main thoroughfares for cattle from outside the city into the Grassmarket.

Thursday, 11 September 2008

Ode to Carrie B

I'm sure I've mentioned before that Newhaven has a very long history as a fishing village. According to tradition, many of the original fisherfolk came from the Netherlands and the north of France. The fishermen of Newhaven were known for their strength and skill, and the fisherwomen for their good looks and their "strong and healthy figures". (I'm not making this up!)

In 1868, no fewer than 113 fishing boats were registered in Newhaven Harbour. Nowadays, the Carrie B is one of the only commercial fishing boats still regularly operating from here. You can read more about the lives of the fisherfolk in the Newhaven chapter in The Story of Leith (1922) by John Russell. The Old Newhaven portal holds lots more information and links to other websites.

Wednesday, 10 September 2008

Where people live!

This is the corner of a street I once lived in, a bit further down the road. Gorgeous eh? Because so many people share flats, even professionals/couples etc, many get the chance to live in these grand Victorian flats (they're not houses but were designed as separate apartments) they would never otherwise be able to afford! One of the many nice features of these old flats can be seen quite clearly in this picture - the windows on the ground and first floor seem to have the original shutters still in place. I can tell you from experience that they can't be beaten on keeping out light and sound, and they help keep your room nice and warm in winter!

Tuesday, 9 September 2008

Floral Clock maintenance

Edinburgh's Floral Clock, on the corner of Princes Street and the Mound, is the oldest surviving floral clock in the world. It was commissioned in 1903 and is replanted every year with around 35,000 frost-resistant plants. As part of the Sister City theme day, Nice Daily Photo featured a picture of the clock in all its glory. This one hopefully gives an indication of the painstaking work that's involved maintaining it!

Monday, 8 September 2008

Edinburgh Mela

Each year the Edinburgh Mela takes place during the final weekend of the festival season. Mela means gathering in Sanskrit, and the events, stands, food and music at the Mela have a distinctly Asian character. As we were watching a performance of Scottish, Japanese and Asian music all blended together I spotted this explosion of colour just to the side of the stage. Must have been a great picture from the other side too!

Sunday, 7 September 2008

Beauty in an unexpected place

As I post today's picture I am treated to a background chorus of hammering, drilling and scraping. We're in the middle of a long and often romanticised process called 'doing up a property'. That's to say, Mr Dido does most of the 'doing up' whereas I mainly get to rip stuff to pieces. So - following the swift detachment of the bathroom tiles earlier in the week, some of the wallpaper on the opposite wall had to come off. And look what beauty appeared on the 1930s painted plaster! Such a shame it'll have to be covered again by boring white tiles - I might suggest to Mr Dido we tile around it...!

Saturday, 6 September 2008

Walking to Work - Old Town

And finally, the view of all views - Old Town from the top of North Bridge. From left to right you can see: tenements along Market Street (bottom left); the spire of The Hub - a former church turned Edinburgh International Festival HQ; the Bank of Scotland headquarters on the Mound; the University of Edinburgh's New College - home to the School of Divinity; Ramsay Garden apartments and finally Edinburgh Castle.

That's me nearly at work - horribly late of course!! Hope you enjoyed walking with me.

Friday, 5 September 2008

Walking to Work - North Bridge

After passing the Omni Centre I walk up along Leith Street - the steepest bit of the journey! - and cross the road at the east end of Princes Street onto North Bridge. Nearly there - though the road is still going up into Old Town so by this point I'm pretty knackered!

OK, so I couldn't help tinkering with the contrast a bit - but I only did it to create a slightly more painterly effect in keeping with the topic!

Thursday, 4 September 2008

Walking to Work - Omni Centre

Having turned right from Pilrig Street onto Leith Walk, I am now approaching the Omni Centre at the Top of the Walk (also mentioned in a post a few days ago). This "home of entertainment in Edinburgh" was designed by Allan Murray Architects and was opened in 2002, having cost £73m to build. It houses a large cinema, a health club and several bars and restaurants. It also incorporates the facade of a 19th century church (to the left) which, surprisingly, gives entry to the very modern Glasshouse Hotel!

Wednesday, 3 September 2008

Walking to Work - Pilrig Street

My walk to work takes me along Newhaven Road which turns into Pilrig Street at the crossing with Bonnington Road. I took this picture from the crossing, looking eastward with the Crags and Arthur's Seat looming in the distance.

As you can see, this photograph also demonstrates the well-known fact that buses either don't turn up or turn up two at a time. These ones are returning from town and one of them must have been delayed by rush hour traffic.

Tuesday, 2 September 2008

Walking to Work - Water of Leith

I live in the north of Edinburgh and when the weather is good I sometimes walk to my office in town - it takes me about 45 minutes at a steady pace, and as it's uphill most of the way it's pretty good exercise!

This week I've decided to show you some of the views I encounter on my walk to work. This is the view from Newhaven Road looking east along the Water of Leith. I love how the morning sun just catches the spider web on the stone bridge. The Water of Leith is a little river that crosses Edinburgh from the south west to the north east and joins the Forth at the shore in Leith. There is now a path along most of it so it's a wonderful enclave of nature in the city.

Monday, 1 September 2008

Theme day: Sister Cities Edinburgh and Nice

Today's picture is a swap with Nice Daily Photo, because Nice (south of France) is one of Edinburgh's sister cities. Thank you Angela for sending me this photograph of a huge sculpture which is situated in the Jardins Albert 1er, just off the Promenade des Anglais. It's made of black steel and was created by Bernar Venet who donated it to the city of Nice on 14th July 1988. It is 19 metres high and weighs 24 tons, and symbolises the curve of the Baie des Anges.