Discover Edinburgh and its famous legends
April 1, 2017
by Paulina Lara Franco
I had the chance to be in Scotland once, on a really quick trip to Edinburgh where I could see some of the main tourist sites and enjoyed a stroll. I have to say that I was there over a sunny summer so it was a fantastic experience! As a Mexican, I love warm days and prefer them over cold ones, so I had a little bit of both (because in this country you never know if the sun will last).
Walking around the Royal Mile
When you walk around in a place like this, sometimes you are lucky, find some cool stereotypes and get excited! (I did): here you can see my picture of Scottish men playing bagpipes!
The Royal Mile connects Edinburgh Castle with Holyrood; it not necessarily measures a mile but it has a lot of important streets in between and it is the main attraction of the Old Edinburgh. It is fun to walk this place as you have to go up and down several times: that part of the city is not flat, but it is perfectly safe and if you like walking when visiting another country, you should be more than fine.
I found fascinating the architecture of The Hub, a former church which now holds different cultural events, and gives information on the internationally renowned Edinburgh Festival. As you can see the design is really Victorian and has a lot of details in the windows and the top.
Walking tours are great
You can try to find a free walking tour in the city. I found one and had the chance to see interesting buildings and streets, visit the Parliament and the famous Greyfriars Cemetery.
Magical inspiration for Harry Potter
Our guide said that Harry Potter’s author got inspired by this magical place. JK Rowling got Voldemort’s real name from the grave of Thomas Riddell. If you remember the magician books, the villain was Tom M. Riddell. I don’t recall people leaving notes as they do with other celebrities, but according to Richard Duffy and Will Naameh, creators of The Potter Trail, Harry Potter fans do.
Another famous deathly story was something about a guy people called Bloody, but what really drew my attention more than ghosts, was the tribute played to a dog!
A tribute to Bobby Greyfriars
Our guide told us that Edinburgh’s priest died, that is why his pet Bobby remained taking care of the grave for years. People loved the dog and fed it; some even said he was a police dog, but it was so faithful and loving to the priest that he stayed ages in the cemetery, looking after him, until its own death.
The Famous Dog
Later I found another story, which seems to contain the real facts of this dog, which captivated Edinburgh’s love. It was 1850 when a gardener called John Gray, arrived at the Scottish city with his wife Jess and son John. He could not find any jobs as a gardener so then became a watchman in the Edinburgh Police Force. To make nights less boring and have some help, he brought a companion: a cute Skye Terrier called Bobby. John and Bobby became faithful friends throughout the whole year.
Greyfriars Bobby Bar
Of course while visiting and being a tourist in a city like this, you have to stop for a drink and meal, obviously, the pub with the Terrier’s name is quite popular. Greyfriars Bobby Bar is a typical pub with a mixture of furniture and the classical decoration you like to see in a Scottish place. I had a Cola soda just to get a boost of sugar, but feel free to have a snack or meal.
As expected, the pub also plays tribute to the famous dog and it has become a really important symbol for the touristic industry, so important that maybe people just made it all up! Don’t believe me? Keep reading!
Bobby the First: Ugly dog
According to Dr. Jan Bondeson, there are different paintings or photos of Bobby Greyfriars and he could find the difference between the sources before 1867 and the ones after. Some of them are just documents that keep the legend alive with the same characteristics than the statue; but apparently before, it was another type of dog, not as cute as the Terrier. Another flaw that has been pointed out is that these dogs do not live necessarily for 14 years, Dr. Bondeson believes that the curator of the graveyard, James Brown would tell the story of “the moaning-faithful dog” to visitors of the kirk.
The Cute Skye Terrier: Bobby
As you can imagine, the dog needed to eat, therefore James Brown would bring his audience (tourists) to John Traill’s restaurant; in return, Traill will feed the dog. Dogs don’t live for decades, and to keep the arrangement going, when the first Bobby died, Traill offered his Skye Terrier to become Bobby. This was needed because tourists would not like a story of a dead dog…Look at this picture from Capital Collections image library!
The famous Bobby we all know
The tale was so famous, that shortly after Bobby died, the statue was built. According to Historic UK virtual magazine, Baroness Angelia Georgina Burdett-Coutts was the President of the Ladies Committee of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, and she asked the City Council for permission to build the fountain with Bobby’s statue placed on top. The artist was William Brody and the piece was unveiled in 1873, next to Greyfriars Kirkyard.
Stories are enchanting! Don’t you think?
When I heard Bobby Greyfriars story I found it fascinating, especially made me think of friends and family who love their pets so much and I wondered if something like that would happen, considering how dogs bond with their owners. Of course, later I kept reading more stories and loved finding out how tales become legends because people keep talking about the same thing but adding more details or reducing facts to make a story much more interesting and engaging.
Enjoy the legends while visiting Edinburgh
I hope you can have a look at the fountain when visiting Edinburgh, have a drink at the pub and walk around the cemetery to create your own version of the facts you read or listen to. Use comfortable shoes, find free walking tours to enjoy the magic, cultural or artistic vibe that a city like this can offer!