Ghost Stories from Edinburgh

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Off to Edinburgh, Scotland for the third installment in the October Ghost Story Series. I decided to hold off for another week on my own hometown spooky tale.

Ah Edinburgh, my favorite city in the world. The capital of Scotland, this magical city offers much to enchant the visitor. With its charming cobblestone streets, medieval castle and historical stone buildings, Old Town delights while it hides a few secrets.

Check out these ghost stories from Edinburgh.

Ghost Stories from Edinburgh title meme

Edinburgh’s Long History

This city, nicknamed Auld Reekie, possesses a long, colorful history full of acts of bravery and the macabre. A center for education, philosophy, arts, literature, science and engineering, Edinburgh typically attracts millions of visitors a year. In fact, it is the second most visited city in the UK, right behind London.

Ghost hunters considered it a hot spot for paranormal activity. That’s not surprising considering its history that spans thousands of years and the labyrinth of passageways and rooms hidden beneath the streets and bridges of Old Town. I find the energy of Edinburgh electrifying and interesting, rather than frightening or dark.

“Scotland incorporates magic so thoroughly into its everyday life that the official national animal is the unicorn and its capital city, Edinburgh, counts “being haunted” among its local industries.” Unknown

Check out these five tales. And as a three time visitor to Edinburgh, I’ll share a couple of my own ghostly encounters.

Ghost Stories from Edinburgh unicorn
Magical Scotland claims the unicorn as its national animal so you know anything can happen here!

Greyfriars Kirkyard

This kirkyard, Scottish for churchyard or cemetery, is known to house a number of ghosts. Among the most famous, and on opposite ends of the scary spectrum, are Greyfriars Bobby and Bloody MacKenzie.

Greyfriars Bobby

Greyfriars Bobby is the small Skye Terrier dog that loyally remained at his owner’s grave, long after the man passed away. For 14 years the pup stayed nearby, surviving due to the kindness of the fine people of Edinburgh, until he too died and was buried in the kirkyard. Today visitors wandering in the kirkyard tell of hearing a small dog barking, near Bobby’s grave, when no dog is present. It seems that Bobby guards his owner’s resting place still.

Bloody MacKenzie

And then there is the more frightening ghost of the man called Bloody MacKenzie. A wealthy lord and lawyer, George MacKenzie punished thousands of Scots in the late 1600s, who refused to change their religion to the national one. It’s believed he’s personally responsible for more than 18,000 gruesome deaths, earning him the name Bloody MacKenzie.

MacKenzie rests in his mausoleum in Greyfriars Kirkyard. Or at least, he did until his tomb was disturbed by a homeless man who broke in late one night. The frightened man fell through the floor of the mausoleum, into a mass grave filled with plague victims from centuries before.

Since that night, MacKenzie prowls the graveyard. And although his mausoleum is closed to the public, ghost tours routinely take people inside. More than 450 people claim vicious attacks occurred, from an invisible assailant, while they were inside the building. Injuries include bruises, burns, scratches, lacerations and even broken bones. One woman passed out when unseen hands strangled her.

Others report hearing strange noises near the mausoleum or feeling nauseated as they walk by it. An exorcism was attempted at the mausoleum, in 2000, by minister Colin Grant. He claimed he felt the torment of hundreds of souls and the presence of evil. He left Greyfriars Kirkyard, distressed, and died a few weeks later of a heart attack.

Ghost Stories from Edinburgh MacKenzie Mausoleum
Ghost stories from Edinburgh – Bloody MacKenzie’s mausoleum

Grassmarket

Every medieval town used a square for public executions. This is true for Edinburgh as well. Nestled in the heart of Old Town, with fine views of nearby Edinburgh Castle, Grassmarket’s history includes a dark side.

Hundreds of criminals and people accused of witchcraft died there, up until 1886.

As you might imagine, especially for those labeled as witches, many people were innocent of their supposed crimes. Women thought to practice witchcraft suffered sleep deprivation until they finally confessed to crimes they did not do. As a result, the punishment was hanging or worse, burning alive.

Those innocents now haunt the Grassmarket area, sighing and sobbing over their unjust deaths.

Additionally, the White Hart Inn, located in Grassmarket, is one of Edinburgh’s oldest, and most haunted pubs. Parts of the pub date back to 1516. Paranormal activity there includes accounts of hair pulling, bottle throwing and apparitions captured in photos. Staff often hear footsteps upstairs, after the bar closes, and ghost hunters recorded a voice in that space saying “help me”.

Pub visitors also report seeing a pair of detached legs walking about and a ghost that hovers in the center of the cellar.

Historically, the murdering duo Burke and Hare lured victims away from the pub and killed them nearby. And a prostitute died in the pub in the 1800s.

Ghost Stories from Edinburgh Grassmarket
Ghost stories from Edinburgh – Grassmarket

Haunted Tolbooth Tavern

On the Royal Mile, Edinburgh’s Canongate area is home to one of the city’s iconic buildings, the Tolbooth. Dating back to 1591, tolls were collected here, from people traveling into the city.

The building housed an administrative center, courthouse and a prison before transforming into a pub in 1820.

Several ghosts, possibly the spirits of former prisoners, create havoc in the Tolbooth Tavern. Their antics include knocking pictures off the walls, flinging drinks from the tables and making banging and knocking noises.

Pub visitors report seeing ghosts dressed in old fashioned military uniforms. Historians speculate they are the departed spirits of jailer James Park and his assistant, who found themselves incarcerated in their own prison after helping prisoners escape.

Ghost Stories from Edinburgh Canongate Tolbooth
Ghost stories from Edinburgh – Tolbooth Tavern

Mary King’s Close

In Edinburgh, closes are narrow covered alleyways that branch off the Royal Mile. Mary King’s Close is named after a merchant burgess who resided on the close in the 17th century. Many people shared the close with Mary, packed into tall buildings. With no proper sewer system in the city, residents dumped waste into the streets, which attracted rats.

Those rats carried diseases such as the bubonic plague to the inhabitants, bringing death to Mary King’s Close. Legend says that the close was walled up, leaving the tenants to die horribly. In reality, the people were cared for as well as they could be, for those times. Many people died in the close, regardless of which story is true. The last occupant of Mary King’s Close moved out in 1902 and the area was sealed up.

The close lay abandoned and inaccessible for many years, buried beneath the Royal Exchange. Stories of hauntings began after workers reopened the area when they drilled down into the close accidently. The site is a popular tourist attraction today.

Annie’s Room

One of the most famous ghosts in the close is Annie. In 1992 a Japanese psychic picked up on feelings of hunger, sadness and pain inside a room. The psychic spoke to the ghost of a young girl named Annie, who claimed she was abandoned during the plague and died in the room. She said she couldn’t find her doll.

Feeling sad for Annie, the psychic purchased a new doll for the girl. Since that day, visitors from around the world honor Annie and try to make her happy by bringing her dolls, toys and jewelry. First responders such as police officers and firemen leave their badges as a sign of respect.

People that enter Annie’s Room report feeling inexplicable cold spots and claim a little hand grabs theirs.

Ghost Stories from Edinburgh Mary Kings Close
Ghost stories from Edinburgh – Mary King’s Close and Annie’s Room

Edinburgh Castle

High atop a volcanic rock, Edinburgh Castle perches majestically above the city. Surrounded by tall granite walls that shield 900 years of history, many ghosts supposedly haunt the castle grounds.

There’s the young piper who, two hundred years ago, set off to explore the castle’s hidden passageways that lead to the Royal Mile. He played his bagpipes so that people above ground knew his location. The music suddenly stopped and the boy disappeared without a trace. His body was never found but the haunting sounds of his bagpipe echo beneath the castle.

In the dungeons, a headless drummer boy wanders about. And a group of French soldiers, captured during the  Seven Years War, often make appearances in the dungeons as well.

Other activity includes shadowy figures walking around, sudden temperature drops and unseen hands tugging on shirt sleeves and trousers.

Ghost Stories from Edinburgh castle
Ghost stories from Edinburgh – the castle

My Own Ghost Stories from Edinburgh

I visited Edinburgh in 2014, 2017 and 2019. On two of those three visits, I experienced my own supernatural encounters.

Haunted Vaults

In 2014, two of my cousins and I explored Edinburgh’s underground on the Haunted Vaults Tour. Experienced primarily in the dark, with only the guide’s lantern for illumination, the vaults are extremely creepy. After leaving one of the vaults, the tour guide stopped talking as we all heard a loud crash from the dark room we’d just left. We all crept back into the room where she shone her light around, looking for the source of the sound. Nothing appeared out of order and no explanation for the noise was discovered. As I stood in the deep shadows at the back of the room, I felt a small cold hand take my right one. Surprised I turned to look. No one stood next to me on my right. I continued to feel that hand holding mine until we left the next room.

Shadow Figure in the Apartment

And in 2019, my sister and I shared a cute renovated apartment for the duration of our stay in Edinburgh. The building, hundreds of years old, formerly housed offices.

We experienced several instances of electrical things turning off on their own but we shrugged them off. However, one night, after a long day of walking in the city, I struggled to fall asleep. Restlessness overtook me. I began to hear popping noises in the kitchen and then the dining area and finally the living room. For me, restlessness and popping sounds are signs that spirit is with me.

Peering into the dimly lit living room, through the bedroom door, I saw the dark figure of a man walk by. He headed toward the window on the far side of the room, then suddenly changed directions and walked to the bedroom door. As I watched, the shadowy figure stopped at the door and looked around before turning away and disappearing. We slept with a light on in the living room, after that, so I could see better if the shadow man returned. He didn’t appear again.

However, I woke up a couple of mornings later, with two small burns on my left forearm, that weren’t there when I went to bed. I have no explanation for how I received those burns.

Will I visit Edinburgh again? Absolutely! I love this city with all my heart and I’d happily stay in the same apartment. For me, the veil between this world and the spirit world is thin. That fact no longer stops me from exploring and experiencing the world.

Ghost Stories from Edinburgh - burns
Unexplainable burns while in Edinburgh

More Ghost Stories

Check out these stories from Ireland and Italy:

Ghost Stories from Dublin

Ghost Stories from Venice

Do you have a ghost story to share? Add it to the comments below!

Ghosts Stories from Edinburgh group photo
Group photo in Greyfriars Kirkyard

 


 

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The Infamous Theft of the Stone of Destiny

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I first toured Edinburgh Castle in 2014, with my cousins Mindy and William. On that dreich day in August, we stood huddled around our tour guide Jonathan as he spoke passionately about Scotland’s Stone of Destiny, housed nearby in a room of the castle.

With his long red hair blowing in the wind and fire in his fierce blue eyes, Jonathan epitomized the proud Scots warrior, ready to defend his beloved country. I shivered as he spoke in his heavy Scottish brogue and it had nothing to do with the cold. He shared how the stone left Scotland for a time…a very long time…and eventually returned home where, he declared vehemently, it will remain.

And he intrigued me with a tale of the infamous theft of the Stone of Destiny.

When my cousins opted to leave the castle complex to attend a whiskey tasting, I chose to stay behind and see this Stone of Destiny that stirred such passion in our guide.

The Infamous Theft of the Stone of Destiny title meme

The Stone of Destiny Backstory

The Stone of Destiny, also known as the Stone of Scone and in England, the Coronation Stone, is an oblong block of red sandstone. This rather ordinary looking block of stone served for centuries as the coronation stone for the monarchs of Scotland.

The Scone Abbey near Perth, Scotland originally housed the artifact. Historian Walter Hemingford described the stone as “hollowed out as a chair on which future kings were placed for their coronation, according to custom.”

The stone measures 26 inches by 16.7 inches by 10.5 inches. A roughly etched cross decorates one surface while embedded iron rings aid with transport. It weighs 335 pounds.

In 1296 the English king Edward I took the stone as spoils of war and moved it to Westminster Abbey. A special wooden coronation chair became the stone’s resting place. Edward sought to claim status as the “Lord Paramount” of Scotland with the right to oversee its king.

All subsequent English monarchs sat in the chair, above the stone, when crowned. Queen Elizabeth II last used the coronation chair in 1953.

The Infamous Theft of the Stone of Destiny coronation chair
The Infamous Theft of the Stone of Destiny – illustration of the Coronation Chair with the Stone

A Daring Rescue Plan

In 1950, more than 650 years after the stone left Scotland, a group of Scottish college students concocted a bold plan…steal the Stone of Destiny and bring it home.

A law student at the University of Glasgow, Ian Hamilton joined with Alan Stuart, Kay Matheson and Gavin Vernon to break into Westminster Abbey and recover the stone.

Ian read everything he could find about the Abbey and scouted out the building several times. On one visit, he deliberately stayed past closing time, hiding near the Coronation Chair. A janitor discovered him and thinking the young man drunk, offered him a coin and let him out a side door.

During these surveillance trips, Ian found the side doors made of pine, making them easy to break into after hours.

On Christmas Eve, 1950, Ian and his companions drove to London in two separate cars. Arriving early on Christmas Day, the group parked near the Abbey. Kay remained in a running car, ready for a quick get away, while the boys stealthily entered the Abbey. That’s when the plan began to fall apart.

The Infamous Theft of the Stone of Destiny top view
The Infamous Theft of the Stone of Destiny – top view

Stealing the Stone of Destiny

The heavy stone rested in a chair made specifically for it. The young men found it difficult to remove the stone and ultimately broke part of the chair. Tugging the stone free at last, it fell to the floor, breaking toes on one of the men’s foot. More alarming to them, the stone broke in two.

Ian quickly grabbed the smaller piece and carried it to the car where Kay waited. He stashed the stone segment in the back seat. As he re-entered the Abbey, he heard a police officer approaching. Dashing back to Kay, Ian took her into his arms and kissed her. Questioned by the policeman, the pair claimed to be a couple searching for accommodations for the night.

Once the officer left, Kay drove off with the smaller stone segment hidden beneath a blanket. When Ian returned to the Abbey, he discovered the other men had fled. With great determination and ingenuity, the lad used his coat to laboriously drag the heavier stone segment out of the building.

As he heaved the stone into the trunk of the second car, his comrades returned. They all left together.

The theft discovered, roadblocks sprang up on all streets out of London. Kay did not draw suspicion, as a single girl driving a car. She made it through and crossed the border, taking her part of the stone to her family’s farm in Scotland.

The young men chose to hide the larger segment in England, fearing they could not make it across the closed border. They buried the stone in an empty field in Kent. Eventually they returned for the stone and successfully transported it to Scotland.

The Infamous Theft of the Stone of Destiny side view
The Infamous Theft of the Stone of Destiny – side view

Back to England

With the help of the Scottish National Party leader, the courageous college students had the stone repaired by a stone master. The theft made international headlines and brought a united sense of joy to the Scottish people.

As the investigation into the theft of the Destiny Stone came closer and closer to the perpetrators, the four decided that they had accomplished their purpose. By stealing the Stone of Destiny and bringing it home they raised awareness of Scotland’s subordination to England.

The four contacted two Arbroath town councilors and turned over the stone.

On April 11, 1951, the councilors helped the college students set up the stone on an altar in the abandoned Arbroath Abbey and called the authorities. The English got the stone back and returned it to the Coronation Chair. The students disbanded and never met again. Ian completed his studies and became a criminal lawyer.

The way was paved, however, for the stone to return to its rightful place in Scotland. In 1996 the English handed over the Stone of Destiny, on the condition that they may “borrow” it for any future coronations.

The Infamous Theft of the Stone of Destiny Robert the Bruce
The Infamous Theft of the Stone of Destiny – statue of Robert the Bruce

Viewing the Stone of Destiny

Twice I’ve viewed the Stone of Destiny in Edinburgh Castle. Both times I felt deeply moved.

The stone rests within a plexiglass case along with the Crown Jewels of Scotland. I can’t touch it yet I feel the hum of sacred energy that flows from it. My Scottish DNA responds, causing my eyes to fill with tears and my heart to beat faster. Photographs are not allowed so I spent several long minutes studying the stone, searing its image into my mind and soul.

What an amazing history this stone possesses. I love the courage and resourcefulness of the four young adults who accomplished what no one else dared. They took back what was rightfully theirs. That feat ultimately resulted in a permanent return of the stone and the Scottish are extremely protective of it now.

As an older adult, Ian said:

“When I lifted the stone in Westminster Abbey, I felt Scotland’s soul was in my hands.”

What a marvelous representation of Scotland’s hardy, warrior soul is the Stone of Destiny. Long may it remain in Edinburgh.

The Infamous Theft of the Stone of Destiny group photo
Group photo at Edinburgh Castle, September 2017

Want to watch a fun depiction of this true story? Check out the Stone of Destiny film, available through Amazon Prime. Click on photo to rent.

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Or purchase the book by clicking on the photo below.

 

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Deacon Brodie Edinburgh’s Real Life Jekyll and Hyde

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There’s a fun, popular pub on the Royal Mile in Edinburgh. Called Deacon Brodie’s Tavern, the pub serves up classic Scottish and British fare, an assortment of cask ales and a rich history. The tavern bears the name of one of Edinburgh’s most fascinating residents, William Brodie. A respectable cabinet maker by day, Brodie led a sordid secret life by night.

In fact, he’s commonly referred to as Deacon Brodie Edinburgh’s real life Jekyll and Hyde.

Read his stranger than fiction story!

Deacon Brodie Edinburghs Real Life Jekyll and Hyde title meme

Who is Deacon Brodie?

Born in Edinburgh on September 28, 1741, William Brodie was the son of a successful cabinetmaker and the grandson of two renowned lawyers.

William grew up in the trade, becoming a fine craftsman specializing in domestic furniture such as cabinets and cupboards. Additionally, he was a skilled locksmith.

Because of his talents and his family connections, Brodie served as a representative, or deacon, of the guild and a city councillor. This position of influence brought him respect throughout the city…and a great deal of business.

Brodie socialized with the gentry of Edinburgh. He met poet Robert Burns and painter Henry Raeburn and enjoyed a membership at Edinburgh Cape Club.

When his father died in 1768, young Brodie inherited 10,000 pounds, a fortune in those days, along with four houses and the family cabinetmaking business.

Deacon Brodie Edinburgh's Real Life Jekyll and Hyde tavern sign
Deacon Brodie Edinburgh’s Real Life Jekyll and Hyde – one of two tavern signs

A Dark Secret

While Deacon Brodie garnered respect during the day, at night he shifted into a darker life of crime.

Because of his work he gained access to the homes of Edinburgh’s wealthy citizens. Making wax impressions of the household keys allowed him to fashion duplicates, which meant he could return at night or while the owners were away, and commit robbery.

For more than a decade he led a double life, craftsman by day and thief at night. However after his father’s death, he took his criminal activities up a notch.

In spite of his inheritance, Brodie required more and more money to fund his gambling habits and expensive lifestyle. He also supported two mistresses and five children that he kept hidden from society. As he continued to run up debts at night, his respectable daytime business failed to keep up.

Deacon Brodie teamed up with three other criminals. Together they preyed on businesses and large private homes in Old Town. Growing bolder, they eventually attempted to steal the revenues of Scotland, at the Excise Office in Chessel’s Court.

The botched robbery resulted in only 16 pounds and the gang disbanded. One of the members turned in two of the others for a reward, while Brodie fled the country. Authorities found him hiding in a cupboard in Holland. He returned to Edinburgh to stand trial.

Deacon Brodie Edinburgh's Real Life Jekyll and Hyde second sign
Deacon Brodie Edinburgh’s Real Life Jekyll and Hyde – alter ego

The Trial

Deacon Brodie stood trial for theft, along with one of his accomplices. The trial lasted 21 hours.

Found guilty, he was hung on October 1, 1788, in Lawnmarket, just steps from his birthplace and childhood home. A sizable crowd of 40,000 gathered for the hanging.

Deacon Brodie appeared for his execution in high style, sporting fine, tailored clothes and a powdered wig. One tale suggests Brodie also wore a silver tube around his neck, beneath his finery, in an attempt to survive the hanging. He supposedly bribed the hangman to ignore the tube and arranged for others to quickly remove his body and revive him.

The plan failed. Brodie’s body rests in an unmarked grave at St. Cuthbert’s Chapel. He was 47 years old at the time of his death.

Deacon Brodie Edinburgh's Real Life Jekyll and Hyde painting
Deacon Brodie Edinburgh’s Real Life Jekyll and Hyde – painting

The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

Author Robert Louis Stevenson, whose father owned furniture made by Deacon Brodie, wrote a play called Deacon Brodie, The Double Life. Although the play was unsuccessful, Stevenson remained intrigued by Brodie’s double life. This paradox between the cabinetmaker’s light and dark personalities inspired him to write the novel, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hydein 1886.

This tale became a classic, adapted throughout the years into films, musicals and plays.

In Edinburgh Deacon Brodie is remembered with the pub on the corner of Lawnmarket and Bank Street, and a close (covered alleyway) off of the Royal Mile called Brodie’s Close. The family’s residence and workshops were there.

Visit Deacon Brodie’s Tavern for a hearty, traditional meal and fascinating bits of Edinburgh’s darker history. The girls’ group I traveled with enjoyed a fun, leisurely dinner there and a couple of rounds of ale and cider.

The pub also serves breakfast and a delightful afternoon tea.

Have you heard of Deacon Brodie Edinburgh’s real life Jekyll and Hyde?

Deacon Brodie Edinburgh's Real Life Jekyll and Hyde drinks
Drinks and a meal at Deacon Brodie’s Tavern.

Deacon Brodie finds from Amazon:

 


 

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Greyfriars Bobby World’s Most Loyal Dog

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When I visited Edinburgh, Scotland in 2017, along with my mother, sisters and niece, one site we all wanted to visit was Greyfriars Kirkyard and a nearby monument.

The monument honors a small Skye Terrier, Greyfriars Bobby. This little dog displayed an incredible level of faithfulness to his owner, earning him the title “World’s Most Loyal Dog”.

Learn his story, in this Tales from Scotland post, and discover visit-worthy sites in the area.

Greyfriars Bobby Words Most Loyal Dog title meme

Greyfriars Kirk

Located in Edinburgh’s Old Town, Greyfriars Kirk is a parish kirk (church). It stands on the site of a pre-reformation establishment of the Franciscan Order, the Grey Friars.

Built in 1612, the kirk is located south of Grassmarket and east of George Heriot’s School.

Greyfriars Bobby Worlds Most Loyal Dog kirk
Greyfriars Bobby, world’s most loyal dog – Greyfriars Kirk

Greyfriars Kirkyard

The kirkyard is the cemetery surrounding the church. A number of notable Edinburgh residents rest there.

The kirkyard is moody, in a gothic sort of way, and fascinating to wander through. Elaborate mural monuments along the east and west walls of the oldest burial section feature intriguing symbols of mortality and immortality.

Many graves are protected with stone walls, iron railings or ironwork cages called mortsafes, to protect against grave robbing. In the early 19th century, resurrection men supplied Edinburgh Medical College with corpses for dissection, in exchange for fees. The common practice of plundering graveyards provided those bodies.

And, J.K. Rowling, author of the Harry Potter books, drew inspiration from the kirkyard for character names in her stories. You can find burial sites for people with the names McGonagall, Moodie, Scrymgeour and Potter. Check out the grave of Thomas Riddell, whose name inspired one of the most terrifying villains in literature. In the Harry Potter series, Tom Riddle becomes Lord Voldemort.

Near the entrance to the kirkyard is a gravestone for John Gray, an Edinburgh City nightwatchman. And not far from that grave is another, marked with a similar headstone, for the dog known as Greyfriars Bobby.

Greyfriars Bobby World's Most Loyal Dog John Gray grave
Greyfriars Bobby World’s Most Loyal Dog – John Gray’s grave

Greyfriars Bobby

Although slightly different versions of Greyfriars Bobby exists, the most commonly told tale is the following.

Bobby belonged to John Gray, the nightwatchman. For two years they went everywhere together. When John died of tuberculosis 15 February 1858, burial took place in Greyfriars Kirkyard. The dog earned the nickname Greyfriars Bobby because from that time forward, until his own death in 1872, the faithful companion stayed near John’s grave. In spite of various weather conditions and frequent shooing away by the kirkyard caretaker, Bobby refused to leave.

Residents of Edinburgh felt compassion for the dog. They adopted Bobby, feeding him and caring for him. Each afternoon, at the firing of the 1:00 gun at Edinburgh Castle, Bobby trotted to a nearby cafe for a meal and then returned to the kirkyard. Although not officially allowed, kind people even built a small shelter for him near John’s grave.

Sir William Chambers, Lord Provost of Edinburgh and director of the Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, paid for Bobby’s license and provided a collar for him. That collar is on display in the Museum of Edinburgh.

Bobby remained vigilant near John’s grave for 14 years. After his death, the city buried him in the kirkyard, near his owner. The stone is red marble, like John’s. Inscribed are the words: “Greyfriars Bobby – Died 14 January 1872 – Aged 16 Years. Let his loyalty and devotion be a lesson to us all.”

Visitors leave sticks, for Bobby to fetch, on his grave and John’s. Occasionally dog toys and flowers adorn the graves as well.

Greyfriars Bobby World Most Loyal Dog grave
The grave of Greyfriars Bobby World’s Most Loyal Dog

The Greyfriars Bobby Monument

A year after Bobby’s death, the Baroness Burdett-Coutts, moved by the story, paid for a memorial monument. William Brodie created it as a drinking fountain with an upper basin for humans and a lower one for dogs. A statue of Bobby adorned the top.

The city filled in the basins with concrete in 1957, due to a city-wide health scare. After damage by a car in 1985, the base is newly created, however it copies the original exactly. An attached plaque reads:

“A tribute to the affectionate fidelity of Greyfriars Bobby. In 1858, this faithful dog followed the remains of his master to Greyfriars Churchyard and lingered near the spot until his death in 1872. With permission erected by the Baroness Burdett-Coutts.”

Greyfriars Bobby monument
Greyfriars Bobby Monument

Inscribed on the statue is “Greyfriars Bobby, from the life just before his death.” W.H. Brodie Sc RSA 1872

Greyfriars Bobby is a popular destination spot in Edinburgh. People gather around the monument, taking photos. And as attested by the shiny spot on the statue, they reach up to rub Bobby’s nose for good luck. Such superstitions necessitated two nose restorations for Bobby!

The Greyfriars Bobby monument stands near the entrance to the kirkyard. The pub behind it, affectionately known as Bobby’s Bar, is a popular tourist spot. You can find postcards, toys and works of art commemorating Bobby throughout Edinburgh. Additionally, Walt Disney created a film about him in 1961.

 

Greyfriars Pub
Greyfriars Pub – also known as Bobby’s Bar

Other Sites to Visit Near Greyfriars Bobby

These nearby sites are all within walking distance from the monument:

  • Greyfriars Kirkyard
  • George Heriot’s School, the inspiration for Hogwarts in Harry Potter
  • Grassmarket, pubs and shops, and a rich history. This STORY took place near here.
  • Victoria Street, full of shops and cafes
  • The Elephant House, cafe/pub where J.K. Rowling wrote the first chapters of Harry Potter
  • National Museum of Scotland
  • The Royal Mile, containing many shops, attractions, cafes and museums
  • Edinburgh Castle, at the top of the Royal Mile

I hope you’ve enjoyed Bobby’s story. His loyalty and devotion tugs at the heart. If you see Bobby, the entrance to the kirkyard with his grave and John’s is right there to the left. It’s free to wander about the cemetery and well worth a visit.

Have you seen Greyfriars Bobby World’s Most Loyal Dog or the kirk and kirkyard? Share your experiences in the comments!

Greyfriars Bobby girls trip
Standing in the Greyfriars kirkyard

Greyfriars Bobby Inspired Treasures:

 


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Wrong Way Sister

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Today’s travel story comes from Scotland. I intended to craft a tale from another country, such as Italy, since I posted the Scottish story The Pole Dancer last week. However, this story is the one that surfaced again and again. Perhaps it’s because yesterday was my sister’s birthday, and she features in this account.

This is Wrong Way Sister. And yes, I have my sister’s permission to share these snippets from our trip.

Wrong Way Sister title meme

Sisters’ Trip to Scotland

Last July, my sister Debbie and I experienced a series of firsts together. We grew up in the same household and see each other often as adults. And we enjoyed a girls’ trip to the UK in 2017, traveling with our mother, our other sister and Debbie’s daughter through Ireland, Scotland and England.

We’ve shared many adventures and yet we’ve never traveled together, just the two of us.  For this trip, we flew back to Scotland to take part in a clan gathering. Debbie and I are members of the Maitland Clan. The gathering gave us the perfect excuse to return to a country we both love and to meet with other clan members from around the world. Check out this post for more about that amazing time with our clan chief and family that we met for the first time.

Knowing how full the clan gathering schedule was, we tacked extra days onto our trip, so we could explore Scotland’s capital city of Edinburgh. Debbie and I share many common interests, including a powerful love for this extraordinary city. Before the clan gathering began, we spent our days happily wandering the city, riding the hop on/hop off buses, and popping into quaint shops and cafes.

Wrong Way Sister adventure
Wrong way sister – the adventure begins

Wrong Way, Sister

Sharing a cute little self serviced apartment, cooking our own plant based meals, sleeping in the single bedroom and big comfy bed, my sister and I bonded. People mistake us for twins, because we both choose to embrace our silver hair and wear it long. We often think the same way about situations or say the same words out loud. I woke up one night and discovered we slept in identical positions, a phenomenon we jokingly called synchronized sleeping!

During shared meals and tea times, late night chats and explorations in Edinburgh, we learned new things about each other. One trait I discovered is that my sister does not have a good sense of direction!

Our apartment on Thistle Street became home for ten days. Every morning we exited the building, off on adventures. Charming Thistle Street is populated with pubs, cafes and blocks of apartment buildings. It’s conveniently located a block from Hanover Street, which leads to Princes Street and the bridges that connect New Town with Old Town. Perhaps because of my many years as a realtor, I’ve learned to navigate by directions rather than landmarks or using “right” or “left”. I could mentally call up Edinburgh’s grid of streets in my head as we explored.

Debbie, on the other hand, generally headed in the opposite direction from our intended destination. It became humorous, watching her stride with great purpose…in the wrong direction! On one occasion, I stood at our apartment building door, watching with amusement as she walked down the block to Hanover Street and prepared to cross. Not sensing me behind her, she turned to see where I was.

“It’s this way, right?” she asked. On this day, our destination was Charlotte Square. “No,” I called out, laughing and pointing down Thistle Street. “Exactly the opposite direction.”

Wrong Way Sister Thistle Street Apartment
Wrong way sister – Thistle Street Apartment
Wrong Way Sister Hanover Street
Wrong way sister – Hanover Street

The World’s End

On another day, the hottest ever recorded in Scotland, Debbie and I decided to walk to a section of Edinburgh’s original wall.

In Old Town, on what’s known as The Royal Mile, there’s a pub called The End of the World. It marks the outer edge of Old Edinburgh. The exterior wall of this 16th century building formed part of the Flodden Wall that surrounded Old Edinburgh as a defense against intruders.

For the residents of the city at that time, the wall truly was the edge of their known world. People lived and worked and died within that protective barrier. To go beyond it meant entering a dangerous unknown.

After mentally determining the location of the remaining section of the wall, we set off. Debbie and I walked…and walked…and walked. In the record breaking heat, we quickly became hot, draining our water bottles and rolling up our sleeves.

At last we spied our destination ahead. With a sigh of relief, we remarked that the wall section was much farther from The Royal Mile than we anticipated. I was thinking of the long return trek back to our apartment when Debbie voiced the same concern. Our conversation went like this:

Me: “This was a lot farther out than I realized!”

Debbie: “It was! I’m tired and thirsty. At least we are walking toward our apartment, right?”

Me: ….

Debbie: “Right?!”

Me: Laughing. “No. No, our apartment is in the opposite direction. We’ve been walking away from it all this time!”

We stopped at a pub on the way back, for a much appreciated rest, snack and cup of tea.

Wrong Way Sister Lauderdale Bus
Wrong way sister – it was fun to see coaches with our last name on them
Wrong Way Sister Flodden Wall
Wrong Way Sister – a section of Flodden Wall

Until We Return

I treasure the memories from that trip. I loved spending those 10 days with my sister. As the oldest sibling in my family, I always felt protective of my younger sisters and brother when we were children. I still feel protective, even now all these years later. Wandering about Edinburgh that protectiveness showed itself again. I wanted my sister to enjoy the experiences and arrive at our destinations, without getting lost!

In return I recognized that Debbie trusted me, completely. If I said, “It’s this way”, she turned around without question and headed the other direction. The only time we ended up not lost, but traveling to our destination the “long way around”, it was because we followed the GPS on my phone. Instinctively, I knew how to get to Dean Village in Edinburgh. I learned that day to trust myself the way Debbie trusts me. After exploring beautiful Dean Village, we arrived back at our apartment via the shorter route, the phone’s GPS silenced.

I look forward to more shared trips with my sister. One of my greatest desires is to travel and share experiences with my family members. My big WHY involves seeing that desire become reality.

After 10 glorious days in Scotland, Debbie and I bid Edinburgh “farewell until next time” and headed home. At JFK International Airport in New York, we sat wearily, waiting for our flight to Atlanta and then home.

Debbie excused herself to go to the ladies’ restroom. I watched her enter the restroom and happened to see her exit it as well a few minutes later. She hesitated for a moment, and then with confidence turned left and strolled down the wide hallway, away from me!

I chuckled. Wrong way sister was at it again. I knew she would eventually figure it out and turn around. I’d be waiting for her.

Wrong Way Sister sibling love
Wrong way sister – sibling love

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The Pole Dancer

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I’m excited to expand my writing into more travel related posts, as I have more travel experiences. One of my biggest dreams is to work remotely, from my laptop, anywhere in the world.

However, what is a traveler to do, when the whole world is under a travel ban? She revisits the places she’s been, via photos and memories. And she crafts stories from those previous trips.

Today I introduce the “Tales from…” Series with a funny story, The Pole Dancer, from a trip to Scotland in 2017. I hope you enjoy it. And watch for travel tales here each Friday…until this wanderer can wander again and deliver new content.

The Pole Dancer title meme

Tales from Scotland, The Pole Dancer

Stepping off the tour bus, we disembark into a changed Edinburgh. When our girls’ group began exploring the city that morning, people overflowed the surrounding landscape, covering streets and parks like an international patchwork quilt. Visitors from around the world jostled shoulders as they scrambled for buses or pulled up maps on their phones and set off on foot.

Now, nearby streets empty as weary wanderers move toward cheerful pubs and cafes, intent on refreshment. Even the piper on the corner has vanished, taking the signature sound of Scotland with him.

I glance at my tired traveling companions, my mother, sisters and niece, and shrug.

After spending the day wandering the city, including a tour of Edinburgh Castle, and shopping along the Royal Mile, we thankfully boarded the last hop on/hop off bus for the day. We looked forward to a hot meal and hotter showers and a good night’s sleep. Except…we missed our hop off spot. The bus parked for the night, with us still onboard.

It’s up to us to find a way to our lodging.

The Pole Dancer Hop On Hop Off Bus
The Pole Dancer – Hop On/Hop Off Bus

George to the Rescue

We have options. The bus tours begin and end on Waverley Bridge, near the train station tucked into the heart of Edinburgh. The three span iron bridge we stand on literally connects medieval Old Town with 18th century New Town. Cabs regularly swing through this area, assured of a steady stream of arrivals.

“Are you ladies lost?” 

A guide approaches us, a smile on his round face. An unruly thatch of gray hair caps his head, and in spite of the long day, his good humor remains intact. Laugh lines frame bright blue eyes that disappear when he chuckles. His rumpled white shirt stretches over a rounded belly. GEORGE is etched across his name tag.

George sees damsels in distress. He nobly offers assistance. We like him immediately.

He listens as we share our dilemma. We aren’t lost, we explain, only temporarily displaced. Perhaps George can flag down a cab for us? He concocts a better plan.

“Where are you staying?” he inquires in his soft Scottish brogue.

The Pole Dancer Edinburgh Church
The Pole Dancer – Edinburgh Church

A Private Joke

I supply the name and address of our serviced apartment near Grassmarket, south of Edinburgh Castle.

George’s reaction surprises us. He rocks back on his heels, his smile widening. Laughter bubbles up and George waves other guides over. As he tells our story, they raise eyebrows and chuckle too. The band of guides shares some private joke and we aren’t in on it.

Wiping his eyes, George steers us toward a bus, empty except for the seated driver. “My friend, please take these ladies back to their apartment,” George instructs. “They’ve had a long day in our city.”

The Pole Dancer Girls Trip
The Pole Dancer – enjoying the Royal Mile

An Impromptu Game of Charades

The driver nods. George gives him the address. His mouth quirking into a lopsided smile, the driver looks at us with amusement as we settle gratefully into seats.

“Okay, what’s so funny about where we’re staying?” I ask.

In response, George hops into the bus. With an infectious grin, he prances toward the metal pole nearest us. Placed there to steady standing travelers, George has other intentions.

Humming, the Scotsman grabs the pole and dances, surprisingly agile. He twirls around and throws back his head, amid cheers from guides gathered near the bus door. Hooking one leg around the pole, George looks at us, expectantly.

Our dancer plays a spontaneous game of charades. My family members exchange glances as understanding comes. He’s pole dancing, as a clue!  

We are incredulous. “Are we staying in Edinburgh’s red light district?” 

Applause from the guides confirms the guess. The driver snorts and waves George off his bus. He exits with a wink and an admonition to behave ourselves.

The Pole Dancer View of Castle
The Pole Dancer – Our view of the castle, from our five star lodging

A Street with a View

As the bus pulls away from the curb, we look back at George and wave. Laughing, he performs another little twirl on the sidewalk and bows. 

Walking up to our apartment building, we stop and really look at our surroundings. We arrived late the night before, eyes captivated by our first sight of Edinburgh Castle perched high on its volcanic rock.  And we left eager for adventure that morning. Now, turning slowly in a circle, we realize that our five star lodging is located in the middle of strip clubs, lap dance parlors and adult shows. No wonder George and the other guides laughed. We are amused too.

My sister Debbie recently returned with me to Edinburgh, my favorite city in all the world. We stayed in a different serviced apartment, in New Town. However, every time our hop on/hop off bus passed through Grassmarket, we peered up the hill toward our previous lodging. And we smiled, remembering George, our rescuer, our pole dancer.

The Pole Dancer Edinburgh Castle

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