Intrepids' Adventures

The World as seen by The Intrepids

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Intrepids – Old Town to New Town and Back

Sunday 21st January along with my partner Susan we had arranged to meet two fellow photographers for a stroll around the old town.  A meet and greet so to speak.  However, due to inclement weather they had cancelled.  They did try to get in contact with us, but we had left Livingston by then to make it into town by 10:30. As it was very windy and cold with a slight drizzle of rain we headed to the Castle Arms Bistro and Bar for a hot drink and cooked Scottish breakfast – great stuff.  We had a nice chat with the bar staff and then decided what we were going to do?  Go home or carry on? was the 1st decision, next dependant on the answer to the first question Where to go?.  Whilst we were deciding I mentioned to Susan I was thinking of getting a new kilt, this time a ready-made one.  I had spotted one last year but opted to go for my hand-made Ancient Ferguson tartan (my late mother’s clan) by Geoffrey (Tailor).  I was well impressed with their work and can recommend them to anyone.  However, I was after a generic kilt and the one that caught my eye was a tartan of black squares with red and grey stripes and at the rear of the kilt (the pleats) was the “Lion Rampant” .  It was not a fun or party kilt but a decent dress kilt suitable to wear at events or as a second dress kilt.  Though not a traditional highland kilt which some purists would never be seen dead in it, I like it and that is all that matters as I was the person who would wear it 🙂 .  No pictures of me in it 🙂  After purchase of the kilt  we decided to  stroll around Edinburgh.  No particular destination except that we would restrict ourselves to the Lawnmarket and turn back at Worlds End Pub/Worlds End Close as if we were old-time poor Edinburghers that could not afford the entrance fee to get back into Edinburgh via the Netherbow Port. Some, who could not afford said fee, lived all their lives in Edinburgh to them that was the limit of their world. Along the way we stopped at Lady Stair’s Close.  Lady Stair’s House is now the Writers Museum dedicated to Burns, Scott, Stevenson and many others, this free museum is well worth the time to look around. Going into the courtyard of the close is well worth the extra effort and turning to the left up the hill you come to James Court.  Whilst Edinburgh World Heritage gives the history of the court it does not mention the small memorial work of art in the centre of the court.  It was put in place by Susannah Alice Stephen’s friends after her unfortunate death in a diving accident, her body was never found. Back onto the Lawnmarket and heading down the hill and again pass Lady Stair’s Close when I spotted a plaque to Robert Burns. It commemorates Burn’s first visit to Edinburgh in 1786.  How often have I passed there or stopped there to take a photo of inside the close and never looked up! In the space of 30 minutes I discovered two things I had never known.  Yes I knew Burns had visited Edinburgh twice but where he stayed.  They say a day when you learn something is good, this must have been a great learning day 🙂  At the crossroad formed by North Bank Street opposite from Brodie’s Close is the Deacon Brodie’s Tavern, the pub bearing the surname of William Brodie  Locksmith by day, thief by night. As we discovered later on in the day he was executed on a device he design and funded the year previous. (This is the second historic figure I knew about whom had been executed on a device they designed – the other being James Douglas, 4th Earl of Morton on The Maiden in 1581). Crossing the road we carried on down the Royal Mile to the City Chambers.  Just before City Chambers stood enactors in period costume with pamphlets.  These are guides for The Real Mary King’s Close, the remnants of which the City Chambers were built upon.  The site offers tours underground, around part of the underground city of Mary King’s Close and others.  They will tell you of the life of the Rich and Poor (who lived together) and their lifestyle.  It takes an hour and the guides are very knowledgable and relate their tales with enthusiasm.  We stopped and chatted to Amber who was dressed as a maid and a few others all were enjoying themselves and all tours had been sold out.  Having done the tour myself, Susan is still to go, I can recommended it. Just one warning, it is underground, dark and as ancient building the floors are uneven.  It does get very warm as you walk through the rooms and closes be wary of warning cry of Gardy loo! (from  the French, “Prenez garde a l’eau!”) the cry before a pot full of human/animal waste was flung out or down.   We were walking down the Royal Mile on the City Chambers side of the High Street when I spotted the design above the Old Fish Market Close which leads down to The Cowgate.  Once the site of Edinburgh’s Fish and Poultry market it was also the home of the City Hangman.  As we continued down the High Street I had become aware of many plaques around  me.  I must have seen these before surely – anyway one I had noticed was the plaque to James Gillespie of Spylaw a snuff manufacturer he, along with his brother, made a fortune from selling the snuff.  He had made enough to build Spylaw House.  When he died in 1797 When he died in 1797 he left a fortune to build a ‘Hospital’ (school) in Edinburgh.  James Gillespie’s School is still around today in the Marchmont area of the city. He is buried in the kirkyard of Colinton Parish Church.   Walking along the today’s spacious and airy High Street it is hard to imagine the dark and dingy High Street of the 19th Century along with the decayed and aging tenements that lined the mile.  Above Paisley Close is a reminder of the 1861 disastrous collapse of the 250-year-old Bailie Fyfe’s Close.   On 24th November 1861 the adjacent 250-year-old tenement in Bailie Fyfe’s Close collapsed, killing thirty-five people.  Searchers going through the rubble heard a cry of “Heal awa men I’m no died yet”. The cry was from John McIver a young survivor of the tragedy.  This tragedy along with similar events lead to the appointment of Dr Henry LittleJohn as Edinburgh’s  first Medical Officer of Health and his reports helped change Edinburgh’s Old Town.  Dr Littlejohn’s other link to fame is via Arthur Conan Doyle and Sherlock Holmes as he (Dr Littlejohn) was the inspiration for said detective.  Our walk down took us past John Knox House, Scottish Story Telling Centre and finally Worlds End, here we called a halt as poor peasants we could not afford the fee required to re-enter Edinburgh via the Netherbow Port.  Making our way back up the High Street to the corner of Cockburn Street. We turned into the long gentle sloping street making our way down to Market Street and Waverly Bridge into Waverly Station.  I was really impressed with the recently completed refurbishment of the station.  The roof had been re-glassed and what a change, more natural light getting in.  The old Waverly Steps had been refurbished in 2012 and new lifts installed.  We took a lift up to the roof of Prince’s Mall and captured an iconic images of the North Bridge. A walk along the busy Prince’s Street just taking in the sights past to The Mound and along to Castle Street where I managed to get a good shot of the Castle Re-tracing our steps we made our way back to The Mound and up the hill to The New Collage on The Mound then climb up the long stairs to Mylne’s Court (Milne’s Court) Built by Robert Mylne in 1690 and then into Lawnmarket and the end of our stroll through Old and New Town Edinburgh.

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