• Heart of Midlothian

The Royal Mile, Edinburgh – 5

May 29, 2011


THE HEART OF MIDLOTHIAN is a heart shaped mosaic in the pavement close to the west door of St Giles High Church. It represents the site of the old 15th century Tolbooth of Edinburgh.It was one of the sites for public execution. Sometimes it can be seen that people spit on the stone as a msrk of disdain for the former prison which stood here. Today it is said that by spitting on the heart one will return to Edinburgh.

In the second photo you can see the triumph of Nature over man !! I love this wee daisy growing through the roadway. It reminds me of Robert Burns Poem ” TO A DAISY”. Perhaps you can also read “To a Haggis” and be inspired to try eating some of this Scottish delicacy.

If you look closely at the wall close to the Scottish Story Telling Centre, you can see this carving from 1606. It was once part of THE NETHERBOW PORT. It was a gatehouse to the city and people had to pay to enter through the gate. Severed heads were often displayed on this gate – as they say in France “Pour encourager les autres” ( To encourage the others !! ). The gate was demolished in 1764 but there are brass cobbles in the road to mark where it stood.

The fourth photo is of the Stone of Destiny which is housed in Edinburgh Castle. It is the stone on which Scottish kings have traditionally been crowned, Check the amazing history of this on the Internet.

Close to Holyrood Palace is the site of the GIRTH CROSS which is the boundary of the Holyrood Abbey Sanctuary within which debtors were immune from arrest. The Sanctuary was established in the 12th century under a charter from King David 1st and was originally extended to criminals. The first record of a debtor taking sanctuary is in 1531.

In the graveyard of THE CANONGATE  KIRK is a stone which suggests it marks the grave of David Rizzio who was the unfortunate secretary to Mary , Queen of Scots. Jealousy of him provoked her husband to have him stabbed to death in Holyrood Palace. As a kid I used to go with my mother and gaze in fascinationat what was purported to be his bloodstain on the floor – more than likely it had been fortified with some red dye after a few centuries !

Here is a modest stone for ADAM SMITH. He was a key figure of The Scottish Enlightenment. He was educated at Glasgow and Oxford Universities and then was a Professor at Glasgow and finally after a period of collaboration with David Hume he became a lecturer touring much of Europe where he met many influential thinkers of his day. He published The Wealth of Nations in 1776. A publication which to this day holds much influennce.

Once this was the boundary for the two burghs of Edinburgh and Canongate (owned in the middle ages by the Knights of the Order of St john. Originally it was a standing cross but is now a Maltese Cross formed by cobble stones set into the street outside number 196.