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#NationalStorytellingWeek – Day Five – Deacon Brodie

#NationalStorytellingWeek – Day Five – Deacon Brodie

Deacon Brodie



Edinburgh History

Today, Edinburgh is known as the beautiful, cultural and historic capital city of Scotland. However, this hasn’t always been the case. Edinburgh has been home to people for over 10,000 years (obviously not the same people) but it wasn’t until the end of the 7th century when they started to even slightly resemble a anything that would be considered a community. In 638 a Celtic fortress was built and that is where the city, as we know it today, began.

It wasn’t until King David I of Scotland came and established an official royal settlement there in the 12th century that things really started to pick up steam.

Within two centuries, writers from across Europe began to refer to Edinburgh as the ‘Capital of Scotland’ and sure enough, it stuck. But that expansion came with growing pains. Up until the end of the 16th century the city was still confined by the snug defensive walls that surround the city. So, rather that growing outwards, buildings began to ascend and climb higher. Some building even reached the height of eleven stories, and this is before the skyscraper era. As you can imagine, all these people living in such a small area started to cause quite a problem. For a long time, Edinburgh was known as one of the filthiest, over populated urban cities in Europe. The high rise tenement buildings were absolutely packed with people.

Beneath the buildings were vaults (a delightful cross between a basement and a dungeon) and as the city started to attract more and more immigrants, they tended to find themselves packed into these shadowy vaults.

However, this was all about to change.

New Town

In the 1760’s the city reinvented itself. The idea, to build a whole new town directly opposite the old one. The town planners had a clean slate so created a grid system opposite Nor’ Loch. As construction went on over the next few years, which had originally jest been a dumping ground for sewage (and supposedly used for witch dunking) was filled in and became what is now known as Princes Street gardens.

When you come to Edinburgh, all those beautiful, ornate buildings you see – The National Gallery, Old Waverley Hotel, Jenners etc. All of it was built on the human waste of Old Town. New Town was, without-a-doubt, stunning. It was modern, beautiful and it quickly drew enlightened minds from around the world. Edinburgh, before too long, picked up the nickname ‘Athens of the North’ (this is mainly credited to Calton Hill which is known for its Ancient Grecian monuments.) With it’s rising popularity among the upper class, Edinburgh soon attracted rich and elite business owners, demanding a market for luxury products. All those magnificent Georgian townhouses basically begged for new custom furniture and decor, right? Those new and wide roads just roared for a new cart to be rode around on them.

New Town, quickly became Rich Town.

A strong divide

Because New Town was built higher up on elevation to Old Town there was a real, literal divide between the two. If you lived in the southern side of New Town you could walk out of your front door and, quite literally, look down on the poor.

As the 18th century transitioned into the 19th century, Old Town continued to suffer in the ever-growing shadow of New Town. Between 1750 and 1850 the population of Old Town tripled from 60,000 to nearly 180,000. Most of those newcomers had to make do and settle into the old part of the city and with them, came illness.

Edinburgh had become a city with a split personality. Old Town represented poverty and weakness whereas New Town represented hope, strength and financial wealth – it was rare for anyone to see both sides. If you were born in the damp, dark, slums of Old Town it was likely that you were going to live there, work there, and even die there. New Town was in a very similar situation. It was a place of knowledge and progress and the people who lived there knew that, so in their own eyes, they were superior to the poor.

However, Edinburgh wasn’t unique in it duality. People, you see, are more than capable of leading a double life as well.

Old TOlbooth
The Old Tolbooth

The untraceable thefts

William’s first crime could be viewed as an act of mercy, maybe – if you ignore all the illegal bits. His friend in Grassmarket was mourning the loss of his son. The boy was barely a teenager and he had been charged with a crime and all the evidence pointed towards his guilt and was set to be hanged in the next few days. One the eve of the planned execution, the two men went down into the Old Tolbooth building (a mix between a courthouse and a jail) and made their way to the jailkeeper. They brought with them a large amount of alcohol and while the father made sure that the jailkeeper drank a lot, and then a lot more, William went and found the cell that was holding his friends son and picked the lock. The boy was smuggled out, but he needed a place to stay, a place where eyes would be off him until he found a way to leave the city. Here is where William Brodie proved just how cunning he was. He took the boy to Greyfriars Kirkyard and then took him to the tomb of George MacKenzie. William broke into the crypt and hid the boy inside.

In 1786, Brodie stepped up his life of crime. He managed to get hold of a counterfeit key which granted him access to a locked desk drawer in the offices of Johnson & Smith – bankers in the Royal Exchange. He stole a pile of money, valued today at around £100,000. William Brodies life as a criminal was going well. But, what’s that saying? You need to spend money to make money. William did just that. He hired a small handful of associates to help him on his ever-increasing heist jobs. .

On Christmas eve of the same year they underwent their first job as a team. They broke into a high end jewelers called Bruce Brothers they walked away with around £50,000 worth of goods. Proud of their work as a team, Brodie and his heist team took on a long string of jobs spanning around 10 months. Late in 1787, they somehow managed to gain access to the room in Edinburgh University where the ceremonial mace was kept. Brodie and his team made off with it with relative ease. The city went crazy with rumours, the city was plagued by a thief/thieves that could not be caught. As you could imagine, shopkeepers everywhere were scared of becoming the next victim. People even started to ramp up the stories of a supernatural presence. It wouldnt be 18th century Edinburgh without a few whispers of the supernatural.

William Brodie and his team weren’t going to be caught anytime soon, but not because they were talented, which they were. But because everyone was looking in the wrong place. A master thief going around stealing expensive items could only be the act of a poor man from Old Town, right? Nobody would expect a member of town council to commit such crimes, for what need would they have. William Brodie was a deacon and head cabinet maker for the city. He inherited the cabinet business from his father, He inherited a lot: four houses, the cabinet business and a bank account worth around £1.6m in today’s currency. Brodie was an upstanding, respected and emulated man in Edinburgh. His position in the council made it easy for him to commit his crimes. As the master carpenter, he was often called to repair the cities security mechanisms, front doors to shops etc. All of this work gave William Brodie access to all the keys necessary to gain access to all these buildings.

But, you can only keep a secret for so long. Sooner or later, the world is going to find out the truth.

A Scene from ‘The Beggar’s Opera’

Brodie‘s influences

Brodie hasn’t always been criminally inclined, so historians say. When he was a child, he was obsessed with a play called ‘The Beggar’s Opera’The play’s story centres around the world of thieves and the upper class women who loved them. The main character is the charming and dashing leader of a whole gang of criminals who also managed to balance not one but two mistresses. This character must have had some appeal to the young William Brodie, as he grew older and older, he took on more and more of the characters persona.

Brodies Lives

Brodie was also an avid gambler, he was part of a secret gentleman’s club called ‘The Cape’. He managed to balance the gambing addiction, a full time job and city appointments, he still managed to find time to father 5 children by 2 separate women, without either of the women knowing the other even existed.

You can probably imagine that paying for this lifestyle wasn’t easy, which is where his night-time hobby came into the picture. As good as he was at being a thief, he never seemed to stopped.

Excise Office
Excise Office

 The last heist

In 1788, Brodie began to plan the biggest heist of his long career as a thief. It would also prove to be his last. The job? An armed robbery of His Majesties excise office. The building where all the tax revenue of Scotland was kept locked up. He assembled his team and the plan was put into action. Unfortunately, this time they had no key.

The events of the night aren’t clear, but we do know that Brodie and his team managed to gain access to the building. Brodie stayed outside of the door to keep as lookout while the others gained access to the loot. It was then that an excise official returned to the building, why he came back remains unknown. When William Brodie saw the man, he turned tail and ran, leaving his team abandoned, they still managed to escape but not with the large fortune that was promised to them by Brodie.

Some of the team felt it would be more profitable to just turn Brodie into the police. But Brodie was nowhere to be found.

 Amsterdam and Capture.

William Brodie fled the country and headed to Amsterdam. While he was away the story broke back in Edinburgh and William Brodie’s carefully orchestrated double life quickly shattered leaving the city in shock. Brodie was caught in Amsterdam and sent back to Edinburgh where a trial was set. It went on for 2 days with very few breaks. He was eventually found guilty of theft and sentenced to death by hanging.

A crowd of over 40,000 gathered to watch the execution in 1788. They had come to see a hanging, they had come to see one of the New Town elite get the treatment of an common Old Town pick-pocket, they had come for justice.

Despite this, Brodie appeared in a good mood that day, he dressed in his best suit and wore a powdered wig and even helped the executer tie the noose around his neck and pulled the hood over his head. His final act was to pull an handkerchief from his pocket and dropped it into the crowd. Rumors circulated that he designed or even built the platform that he was hanged on. Another legend suggests that he had inserted a tiny metal pipe into his throat to stop his neck from breaking and then a french doctor would come and take him to safety. Sadly, none of this is true.


Maybe its the fact that it gives you the ability to live out fantasies, maybe it’s to do things you aren’t usually able to do, maybe its just the thrill of it, whatever it is, the idea of double lives is certainly attractive. It is, according to historians, what got William Brodie into it in the first place.

The saying goes that our true self is who we are in private and makes you wonder, who are we? Really.

It’s a question that another Edinburgh citizen tried to answer almost a century later, a writer. He had written a play in his youth about William Brodie that he called ‘The Double Life’. Sadly, it was a commercial flop and this was taken personally by the writer. He felt he had a personal connection to Brodie, his parents even owned furniture that had been hand crafted by the master thief himself. The story was something that always stuck with him, even far into his writing career. In 1885 he was sick in bed, and one night he awoke from a deep sleep with a plot to a book in his mind. Surely, this would satisy his publishers demand for a cheap new thriller or a ‘Shilling Shocker’.

Today, that novel is one of the best selling thrillers in all of British literature. If it weren’t for William Brodie, we wouldn’t have the book at all. So, let’s thank Robert Lewis Stevenson for his novel, which he called, The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde.

#NationalStorytellingWeek – Day Four – Nor’ Loch

#NationalStorytellingWeek – Day Four – Nor’ Loch

Nor Loch



Early history

Once a marsh, Nor’ Loch was part of the natural defence of the Edinburgh Old Town. Because the Old Town was built on a steep ridge (still clearly visible today), it expanded on an east-west axis, eastwards from the castle; expansion northward, as would happen with the later New Town, was extremely difficult at this point. The Nor Loch was thus a hindrance to both invaders and town growth.

In 1460 King James III ordered the marsh to be flooded in order to further strengthen the castle’s defences.

At that, is how Nor’ Loch came to be.

Middle Age Edinburgh

Middle Ages to 19th century

As the Old Town became ever more crowded during the Middle Ages, the Nor Loch became similarly polluted, by sewage, household waste, and general detritus thrown down the hillside. Historians are divided on whether the loch was ever used for drinking water.

Nor’ Loch was used for a variety of things, spanning way further than your average castle defence. Some of it’s uses include;

  • Witch Trials: It is a popularly held myth that the Nor’ Loch was the site of ‘Witch ducking’ in Edinburgh. ‘Witch ducking’ or ‘the swimming test’ was employed by Witchcraft prosecutors in some areas of Europe as a method of identifying whether or not a suspect was guilty of witchcraft.
  • Suicides: The Nor Loch was a popular spot for suicide attempts during its existence.
  • Crime: The loch appears to have been used both as a smuggling route and as a site for the punishment of crime.

It was a very handy, multi-purpose Loch.

In 1763 the eastern end of the Nor Loch was drained to allow construction of the North Bridge although frequent floods both then and now, threatened to “resurrect” it.

Draining of the western end was undertaken 1813 to 1820, under supervision by the engineer James Jardine to enable the creation of Princes Street Gardens. For several decades after draining of the Loch began, townspeople continued to refer to the area as the Nor Loch.

#Scaredinburgh Side note.

In 1628, a man called Sinclair confessed to committing incest with his two sisters. All three were sentenced to death, but it was said that the clergy commuted the sentence on the younger sister. Sinclair and his older sister were placed in a large chest with holes drilled in it and thrown into the loch to drown. Two centuries later, in 1820, the chest was rediscovered by workmen digging a drain near the Wellhouse Tower of the Castle. Although later 19th-century accounts report only two skeletons being found in the chest, the noted antiquarian Sir James Skene of Rubislaw, who was present at the work in the gardens, reported that the skeleton of a tall man was found between those of two women, suggesting that the younger sister had indeed also been executed.


Edinburgh Collection | Princes Street Gardens Present Day

The popular Princes Street gardens now stands where Nor’ Loch once did. Hundreds of people visit it per day, in summer children play on it and people ‘sunbathe’ (there isn’t much in the way of sun in Scotland). Little do they know, the history of what used to be.


#NationalStorytellingWeek – Day Three – Greyfriars Bobby

#NationalStorytellingWeek – Day Three – Greyfriars Bobby

Greyfriars Bobbys



Greyfriars Bobby is possibly one of Edinburgh’s best known stories. The story has even been made into a couple of films, including one by Walt Disney!

Bobby was a watch dog owned by a police constable called John Gray. His master sadly died in 1858 and Bobby spent the rest of his days lying on his master’s grave in Greyfriars Kirkyard (now very haunted.) The keeper of the kirkyard tried to evict poor heartbroken Bobby on many occasions, however, he failed every time. Bobby would not leave the grave of his owner. In the end, the keeper relented and gave him some shelter by John Gray’s grave.

Greyfirars Bobby John Gray
Grave of John Gray (Greyfriars Bobby’s master)

There is a rumour, unable to be proven fact or fiction, that on hearing the one o’clock gun, Greyfriars Bobby would leave the grave for the nearby coffee house which he frequented with his master and there he would receive a meal. Bobby was beloved by all the local people and they were all happy to look after him.

For fourteen years until his death in 1872, Bobby never left his masters side.


The statue of Greyfriars Bobby is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Edinburgh, it is located in front of Greyfriars Kirkyard where Bobby has a memorial headstone where people often place sticks.

#NationalStoryTellingWeek – Day Two – The Fairy Boy of Leith

#NationalStoryTellingWeek – Day Two – The Fairy Boy of Leith


The tale of young, magic drummer

The Fairy Boy of Leith is a story that brought attention to both Leith and Calton Hill. It is about a Fairy who played the drums with the elves (There seems to have been a lot of elves in Scotland.) The Story was told by George Burton.


“About fifteen years since, having business that detained me for some time at Leith, which is near Edinburgh, in the kingdom of Scotland, I often met some of my acquaintance at a certain house there, where we used to drink a glass of wine for our refection; the woman which kept the house was of honest reputation among the neighbours, which made me give the more attention to what she told me one day about a fairy boy (as they called him), who lived about that town. She had given me so strange an account of him that I desired her I might see him the first opportunity, which she promised; and not long after, passing that way, she told me there was the fairy boy but a little before I came by; and, casting her eye into the street, said, Look you, sir, yonder he is at play with those other boys; and, designing him to me, I went, and, by smooth words, and a piece of money, got him to come into the house with me; where, in the presence of divers people, I demanded of him several astrological questions, which he answered with great subtlety; and, through all his discourse, carried it with a cunning much above his years, which seemed not to exceed ten or eleven.
“He seemed to make a motion like drumming upon the table with his fingers, upon which I asked him whether he could beat a drum? To which he replied, Yes, sir, as well as any man in Scotland; for every Thursday night I beat all points to a sort of people that used to meet under yonder hill (pointing to the great hill between Edenborough and Leith.) How, boy? quoth I, what company have you there? There are, sir, said he, a great company both of men and women, and they are entertained with many sorts of musick, besides my drum; they have, besides, plenty of variety of meats and wine, and many times we are carried into France or Holland in a night, and return again, and whilst we are there we enjoy all the pleasures the country doth afford. I demanded of him how they got under that hill? To which he replied that there was a great pair of gates that opened to them, though they were invisible to others; and that within there were brave large rooms, as well accommodated as most in Scotland. I then asked him how I should know what he said to be true? Upon which he told me he would read my fortune, saying I should have two wives, and that he saw the forms of them sitting on my shoulders; that both would be very handsome women. As he was thus speaking, a woman of the neighbourhood, coming into the room, demanded of him what her fortune should be? He told her that she had two bastards before she was married, which put her in such a rage that she desired not to hear the rest. “The woman of the house told me that all the people in Scotland could not keep him from the rendezvous on Thursday night; upon which, by promising him some more money, I got a promise of him to meet me at the same place, in the afternoon, the Thursday following, and so dismist him at that time. The boy came again, at the place and time appointed, and I had prevailed with some friends to continue with me, if possible, to prevent his moving that night. He was placed between us, and answered many questions, until, about eleven of the clock, he was got away unperceived by the company; but I, suddenly missing him, hasted to the door, and took hold of him, and so returned him into the same room; we all watched him, and, of a sudden, he was again got out of doors; I followed him close, and he made a noise in the street as if he had been set upon; but from that time I could never see him.” – George Burton.

For quite a few years after the story started circulating, people walked around Calton Hill and they swear they heard the sound of a small drum being hit beneath their feet.
#NationalStorytellingWeek – Day One – Thomas The Rhymer

#NationalStorytellingWeek – Day One – Thomas The Rhymer

Thomas The Rhymer


13th Century Scottish Laird, prophet, and rhymer.

Thomas of Erceldoune (also known as Thomas The Rhymer or True Thomas) was a Scottish laird and a prophet from Earlston.  Nobody knows where or how Thomas got his ‘powers’. However, in literature he is the protagonist in the tale about Thomas the Rhymer. It was written that he had been carried off by the “Queen of Elfland” and returned with the gift of prophecy, as well as the inability to tell a lie.


Clan Haig | Bermey Side House
Bermeyside House where the Haig Clan resides.

True Thomas made many prophecies. One even inspired an American Gothic author to write a short story named ‘The Masque of the Red Death,’ maybe you’ve heard of him? Edgar Allan Poe.

One of Thomas The Rhymers popular prophecies was about the well-know ‘Haig’ clan.

“Tide, tide, whate’er betide,
 There’ll aye be Haigs in Bemerside.”

This rhyme prophesized that the ancient family of the ‘Haig’s of Bemerside’ will continue on without end. It was reported that the Haig’s had died out, and Thomas had been wrong. However, the famous and controversial Field Marshall Douglas Haig comes from this family, and was even made Earl in 1919. The Haig family line still continues to this day.

One of his most accurate prophecies came when he uttered the words,

The Burn o’ Breid,
Sall rin fu’ reid.

Which translates to say ‘The river of bread, Shall run full red.’ The river of bread refers to the river in Bannockburn, which was ‘the chief bread’ of Scotland in those days. This river did indeed run red during the ‘Battle of Bannockburn’.


Another prophecy that’ll bring joy to all those who love Edinburgh. It is however, only rumoured to come from True Thomas. It was collected from a 72 year old Edinburgh resident. It may come from another very accurate Scottish prophet ‘The Brahan Seer’.

“York was, London is, and Edinbruch ‘ill be,
the biggest and the bonniest o’ a’ the three”

It suggests that one day, the Scottish capital will become the most important city in Britain.


Thomas and Queen of Elfland
Thomas the Rhymer and the Queen of Elfland

The earliest version (below) of the ballad about Thomas The Rhymer may date back as early as the 14th Century.

“True Thomas lay oer grassy bank,
And he beheld a lady gay,
A ladie that was brisk and bold
Come riding oer the fernie brae.

Her skirt was of the grass-green silk,
Her mantel of the velvet fine,
At ilka tett of her horses mane
Hung fifty silver bells and nine.

True Thomas he took off his hat,
And Bowed him low down till his knee:
‘All hail. Thou mighty Queen of Heaven!
For your peer on earth I did never see.’

‘O no, O no, True Thomas,’ she says,
‘That name does not belong to me;
I am but the queen of fair Elfland,
And I am come here for to visit thee.

‘But ye maun go wi me now, Thomas,
True Thomas ye maun go wi me,
For ye maun serve me seven years,
Thro Weel or wae as may chance to be.’

She turned about her milk white steed,
And took True Thomas up behind,
And eye wheneer her bridle rang,
The steed flew swifter than the wind.

For forty days and forty nights,
He wade through red blude to the knee,
And he saw neither sun nor moon,
But heard the roaring of the sea.

O they rade on, and further on,
Until they came to a garden green:
‘Light down, light down, ye ladie free,
Some of that fruit let me pull to thee.’

‘O no. O no, True Thomas,’ she says
‘That fruit maun be touched by thee,
For a’ the plagues that are in hell
Light on the fruit of this countrie.

‘But I have a loaf here in my lap,
Likewisea bottle of claret wine,
And now ere we go farther on,
Ae’ll rest a while, and ye may dine.’

When he had eaten and drunk his fill,
‘Lay down your head upon my knee,’
The lady sayd, ere we climb yon hill,
And I will show you fairlies three.

‘O see not ye yon narrow road,
So beset wi thorns and briars?
That is the path of rightousness,
Tho after it but few enquiries.

‘Ande see ye not that braid braid road,
That lies across yon lillie leven?
That is the path of wickedness,
Tho some call it the road to heaven.

‘And see ye not that bonnie road,
which winds about the fairnie brae?
That is the road to fair Elfland,
Where you and I this night maun gae.

‘But Thomas, ye maun hold your tongue,
Whatever you may hear or see,
For gin ae word you should chance to speak,
You will neer get back to your ain countrie.’

He has gotton a coat of the even cloth,
And a pair of shoes of velvet green,
And till seven years where passed and gone
True Thomas on earth was never seen.”

Within The Walls of Edinburgh Castle and it’s Haunted Past

Within The Walls of Edinburgh Castle and it’s Haunted Past

Scaredinburgh | Edinburgh Caslte



Scotland has its fair share of old fortresses, but none quite like Edinburgh Castle. What makes Edinburgh Castle so different from the rest is that it is, almost, a living and breathing creature. While St. Mary’s chapel is the only remaining part of the 12th century structure, the other parts have been added throughout the centuries. Giving it that organic feeling to it. Which means, as you know, with life, also comes death – which is all too frequent in old time Edinburgh.

As with most castles. Edinburgh Castle was used as a prison for criminals and political enemies of The Crown. Lore has it that one desperate prisoner escaped into a wheelbarrow full of manure, hoping he would be taken through the front gates to his freedom. This did not happen. He was wheeled to the west port side where the contents of the wheelbarrow were tipped off the edge and he plummeted to the ground, where obviously, he died. To this day, people mention the strong unpleasant smell of manure when they are close to the area, and some even report the uneasy feeling of unseen hands pushing them.


Additionally, the castles lower levels, dungeons and dark tunnels have also played host to countless tales of unexplainable experiences. Heavy breathing, knocking, hammering and moans have all been reported in these lower terrains of the fortress. All are said to be connected to Lady Janet Douglas.

Scaredinburgh | Janet Douglas
Lady Janet Douglas (image from The Paranormal Guide)

In 1528, Janet Douglas was accused of Witchcraft and conspiracy by King James V. All of her family and servants were captured and imprisoned. They were then, one-by-one, brutally tortured in order to force confessions against Ms. Douglas. Who is rumoured to have been locked in a dark room for so long, that she actually turned blind. Throughout all this, carpenters in leather aprons would walk around, crafting the wooden platform from which she was to be burned alive.


In 2001, a British psychologist named Dr. Richard Wiseman wanted to get to the bottom of these storied and managed get over 200 participants for his, shall we say, unorthodox experiment. These volunteers were then screened. The screening process was in place to try and weed out anyone who may have knowledge of the stories regarding Edinburgh Castle and its haunted past.

After Dr Wiseman had verified all of his volunteers, they set to work. Wiseman and his assistants took small groups of the volunteers on tours of the castle. Now, i said this experiment was unorthodox, what I meant to say was, unethical. Some of the volunteers were actually shut and locked into dark dungeon rooms. Wiseman said this was there opportunity to make ‘personal observations’. No matter how safe it might have been, if you to image that getting locked into a castle dungeon would be pretty traumatic.

Scaredinburgh | Dungeon
The dungeons in Edinburgh castle (image from TripAdvisor)

One woman reported that her experience was filled with odd, unexplainable experiences. Heavy breathing, which moved closer and closer to her the longer she was in the room (traumatic, right?). Others hear voices and saw shadowy figures. One group unanimously said that they has seen a man walk slowly at the end of a tunnel. They said he was dressed in old fashioned clothing and wore something strange over his torso.

It was a leather carpenter’s apron.

In conclusion, there’s something about castles. Big strong structures capable of withholding even the darkest of secrets. Few castles were built to the same standards of the modern home. Whether it be a dark dungeon or the bricked up body of a victim. The strong walls of a castle can act like the dungeons many of them are famous for, holding in years of suffering, tragedy and death.

Top 5 Hogmanay Traditions

Top 5 Hogmanay Traditions

Hogmanay Traditions


New Year may be a celebrated and familiar day around the world. However, the Scots have their own rich and honored tradition with the day. They call it Hogmanay.

The origins of the name Hogmanay remain mysterious. Many believe it derives from the Anglo-Saxon ‘Haleg monath’ meaning ‘Holy Month’. However, a fair few people believe it’s origins to come from the French phrase ‘Homme est né’ which means ‘Man is Born’. Additionally, a considerable amount of people believe it to have sprouted from the Flemish words ‘Hoog min dag’ which translates to ‘Great love day’.

In conclusion, there is no official pin-pointed origin to the word. So, take your pick.

Hogmanay as an event is easier to track the origins of. However, historians still don’t have a set-in-stone parentage of the Scottish celebration. The most widely accepted story is that it developed from the Norse celebration of the winter solstice. Hogmanay is also believed to have incorporated customs of Samhain, the Gaelic celebration. And, Yule, which was an event celebrated by The Vikings which later became the “Daft Days” (in Scotland). For the rest of the world it became The Twelve Days of Christmas.

A long time ago, In Scotland, Christmas was not celebrated. Hogmanay was the festive celebration. It’s not clear why Christmas was not celebrated. Although, it is considered to have been a result of the Protestant Reformation. Christmas was seen as “too Papist” after that. Fun bunch, I know.


Anyhow. Here are 5 of the most popular Hogmanay traditions (in no particular order) for you to learn about and maybe, if you like whiskey, even introduce them into your own celebrations (again, that reference will become clear once you read).

Hogmanay Redding The House

Redding the House

Similar to the an annual spring cleaning that some communities have taken has a tradition, or the ritual cleaning of the kitchen for Passover, Scottish families also undertook a tradition of a major cleanup to ready the house for the New Year. They did something else too, while sweeping out the fireplace, getting rid of all the ash that had spattered out of the necessary flames during the harsh cold months of November and December. They read the ashes, hoping it would foretell what was to come in the year ahead. This was a very important practice and there was a skill in reading the ashes, the way some people read tea leaves.

Hogmanay First Footing

First Footing

After the hazy stroke of midnight, neighbors would meet and greet each other, bearing traditional Scottish gifts such as shortbread or black bun (a kind of fruit cake). However, in turn, the visitor is offered a politely small whisky. So, if you had plenty of friends and visited each of their homes to wish them a happy new year. You would likely be offered a great deal of whiskey to which most Scots would say ‘Guy Braw’ which means ‘Very Good’. Additionally, the first person to enter and make the first foot inside the house in the New Year, could bring luck for the New Year. I’m not too sure how much luck a balance-lacking-whiskey-influenced first foot would bring.

Hogmanay Fire Festivals

Bonfires and Fire Festivals

The possibility of a Viking and pagan influence over Hogmanay introduces itself again. This time in Scotland’s fire festivals. The fires usually happen on Hogmanay itself and once again in late January. The use of fire was an attempt to purify and drive away evil spirits. Which we all know, is something Scotland, and Edinburgh in particular is in dire need of. The fire festivals and bonfires have always been at the center of the celebrations in Scottish towns such as Stonehaven, Comrie and Biggar. However, it has only recently become an element in Edinburgh’s Hogmanay celebration.

Hogmanay Auld Lang Syne

The Singing of Auld Lang Syne

Auld Lang Syne, Robert Burns’ version of a traditional Scottish air. Is sang over the world. How it became the New Year’s song is something that like a lot of Hogmanay, remains somewhat of a mystery. At the famous ‘Edinburgh’s Hogmanay’ celebrations, people come together, they join hands, and they sing. They sing what is reputed to be the biggest Auld Lang Syne in the world. Impressive, right?

Hogmanay Saining The House

The Saining of the House

This is a very old, very rural, and perhaps the strangest of the Hogmanay traditions. It involved blessing the house and livestock with holy water from a local stream. This tradition saw a huge drop and had nearly died out. However, in recent years it has experienced a remarkable and unusual revival. Once the house and livestock have been blessed, The woman of the house would go around each room of the house with a blazing juniper branch. The idea of this, was to fill the house with purifying smoke. Now, with all this smoke flowing through the rooms of the house. The occupants started to cough and choke on the smoke so the windows would be flung open and of course, a few drams of whiskey are passed around. This is Scotland after all.

If you are hoping to celebrate Hogmanay, make sure you stock up on whiskey. Or perhaps you just want a few drams for yourself. In which case, we offer some great whiskey tasting. Happy new year and enjoy trying out some of these strange Hogmanay traditions.


Old Waverly Hotel | Cranstons Restaurant
Old Waverley Hotel | Princes Street

Old Waverley Hotel: Due to its perfect location on Edinburgh’s Princes Street. You will have views of the fireworks, light shows and the European Market. This traditional hotel is in walking distance from all the main Edinburgh landmarks and George St. You’ll be in the center of all the great Hogmanay Celebrations.

The Howard | Room
The Howard | Great King Sreet.

The Howard: A luxurious 5-star hotel in Edinburgh’s new town. Just a short walk from Princes Street and all the main Hogmanay attractions. You will be able to enjoy valet parking and a unique butler service. If you are wanting to spend your Edinburgh Hogmanay in luxury then The Howard is the perfect Hotel for you.

Channings | Bathroom
Channings Hotel | South Learmonth Gardens

Channings: Voted Edinburgh’s most romantic hotel. If you are wanting to have a grand and lavish stay in Edinburgh’s new town then Channing’s Hotel is perfect for you.

Holyrood ApartHotel | Apartments
Holyrood ApartHotel | Holyrood

Holyrood ApartHotel: This modern apartment hotel is an easy 1-minute walk from the Royal Mile. It’s also a 4-minute walk from Holyrood Park. These serviced apartment are a perfect home away from home. Perfect for families and business professionals.

Who was St. Andrew? Why does he have a Day?

Who was St. Andrew? Why does he have a Day?

The Edinburgh Collection | St. Andrew

Saint And-who?

St. Andrew. The Story of Scotland’s Patron Saint.

Saint Andrew’s day is celebrated on November 30th it is a day to celebrate Scottish music, food and dance. But who was St. Andrew? Not only is he the patron saint of Scotland. He is also the patron saint of spinsters, sore throats, singers, maidens, fishmongers, women wanting to be mothers, and finally, gout. But how does a man who never set foot in Scotland, become so special and treasured by the Scots so much that he gets his own day?

Who was St. Andrew?

Saint Andrew was a simple fisherman but also Jesus’ first disciple (Scotland is actually one of the few countries to have one of Jesus’ disciples at their patron saint.) He and his brother (Saint) Peter were born in a small Galilean fishing village which is where they met Jesus. However, Andrew didn’t become acquainted with Jesus until he started to follow him home and when Jesus asked “Why are you following me?” Andrew replied by telling Jesus he wished to know where it was that he lived, to which Jesus replied “Come and see”. How times have changed.

Andrew was never overly close to Jesus, which may or may not be to do with the incident regarding his house. While he was always considered one of the main disciples and was in the ‘top four’, John and Mark and his brother Peter were said to have been giving special access to Jesus on some occasions.

What did he do that made him so special?

Once Jesus had died, Andrew carried on preaching the religion of Christianity across European countries such as Poland, Russia and Greece. It was in Greece where his was crucified on an x-shaped cross. He refused to be crucified on a vertical cross as he felt unworthy to die in the same way as Jesus. The ‘X’ is also known as a Saltire which is now the symbol used by Scotland on their flag.

Some time passed.

A monk named Regulus (or Rule) was watching over the bones of Saint Andrew when an angel appeared to him and instructed him to take the remains far west. The journey proved arduous and Regulus was shipwrecked on the east coast of Scotland (where is now the town of St. Andrews).

Andrew was only recognised as the official patron saint of Scotland in the year 1320 at the signing of the Declaration of Arbroath, a declaration of Scottish independence from England in the form of a letter to Pope John XXII. Scotland have always had some leverage with the church as Andrews’s brother Peter founded it.

St Andrews burgh became a popular pilgrimage site in medieval times due to the presence of Andrew’s relics in Scotland. These included a kneecap, arm bones, and a tooth. However, they were all destroyed during the Scottish Reformation in the 16th century. Consequently, the Archbishop of Amalfi gave Andrew’s shoulder blade to St Mary’s Cathedral in Edinburgh In 1879 and further relics were donated by Pope Paul VI in 1969.

Where did he do it?

While it is not certain where Andrew actually preached. A few places have been mentioned with some sort of confidence, those being Scythia, Thrace and Asia Minor. Andrew appears to have travelled great distances in order to spread the word of Jesus and his faith of Christianity. He may have actually travelled to Scotland on these journeys of preachment. However, the tale of Regulus is more widely believed to be the true reason of Saint Andrew’s presence in Scotland.

Why did he do it?

Like all of Jesus’ disciples, he believed in the teachings and practiced the faith. However, why he travelled far and wide spreading the word is unknown. Perhaps he felt some responsibility being the first disciple. Perhaps he felt guilty for following him home. But what is known, is that St. Andrew was dedicated and felt some bond between himself and Jesus and it is believed that Jesus granted his ability to perform miracles unto Andrew so he could carry on transforming the lives of those he met.

Now you know all about St. Andrew and why he is the patron saint of Scotland. So go out, drink whiskey, go dancing. However, don’t follow someone home in the hopes it’ll lead to you becoming a saint. Or getting a day dedicated to your honor. It doesn’t work like that anymore. Latha Naomh Anndra math dhuibh (Happy St. Andrews day).

To Do: How to have the perfect Edinburgh Christmas.

To Do: How to have the perfect Edinburgh Christmas.

Edinburgh Christmas


Our guide of things to do in Elfinburgh Edinburgh this festive season.

Wondering how to have the perfect Edinburgh Christmas? We’ll help you out with our guide of the best things to do in Scotland’s capital this festive season. Edinburgh has plenty of presents under the tree. Whether you’re a culture creature, party person, merry man, festive female or jolly juvenile – there is something for everyone.


Edinburgh Collection | Edinburgh Collection
Street of Lights (image source:

European Christmas Market (19th November – 7th January) – FREE

  • The well-loved European Christmas Market is located in East Princes St Gardens. There are many quaint huts where international sellers offer traditional Christmas items, food and drink. You’ll be sure to check off some items on your gift list.

Street of Light (21st November – 24th December) – FREE

  • Virgin Money’s popular light show is back this year with more stunning displays synchronized to the music of local choirs and bands. It is located on George Street. Hurry, it’s selling out quick!

The Scottish Market – (26th November – 24th December) – FREE

  • Edinburgh Christmas’ Scottish Market is located on George Street. It is a tasty showcase of lovingly handmade food, drink and crafted goods that Scotland’s best Artisans have to offer.


Perfect Edinburgh Christmas
Five Guys Named Moe (image source:

Alice’s Adventure in Wonderland at Lyceum Theatre – (2nd December – 31st December) – From £18.00

  • You know the story. Based on Lewis Carroll’s best-selling, universally-loved children’s novel ‘Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland’. The story has been adapted multiple times on screen and stage due to its popularity. However, every interpretation is different. This is especially true in this new version created and directed by Anthony Neilson.

Five Guys Named Moe at Edinburgh West End – (18th Nov – 7th Jan) –  From £15.50

  • The major West End and Broadway musical comes to Edinburgh this Christmas. Featuring the toe-tapping and merry-music of Jazz legend Louis Jordan performed live on stage by an eclectic band.

Mamma Mia at Edinburgh Playhouse – (29th November – 7th January) – From £15.00

  • The well-known smash-hit musical is coming to Edinburgh. Set on a paradisaical Greek island, a story of love, friendship and identity is intelligently told through the feel-good songs of the well-acclaimed band ABBA.


Icy Edinburgh Christmas
Ice Skating (image source:

Christmas Tree Maze – (19th November – 7th January) – From £3.50

  • A fun, festive, family-friendly experience. Can you navigate your way all the way to the centre and back again? Inside you’ll also discover the Elves’ workshop, where Santa’s jolly little helpers will be waiting for you with a little treat.

Santa’s Grotto – (19th November – 24th December) – From £8.00

  • Santa’s Grotto is a must at Christmas time. This is the perfect chance for well-behaved children to get a one-on-one with Santa before Christmas to get in their final wishes before the big day. You will also be able to meet his most dedicated helpers. Furthermore, if you are on the nice list you’ll receive a little gift.

Ice Skating at St Andrew Square – (18th November – 7th January) – From £5.00

  • It is time to ‘Get one’s skates on’ (literally). At the St. Andrew Square you and your family can skate around the grand Melville Monument. Remember to be safe. Children under 11 must be accompanied by an adult.


We can help you have an even more perfect Edinburgh Christmas.

Old Waverly Hotel | Cranstons Restaurant
Old Waverley Hotel | Princes Street

Old Waverley Hotel: Due to its perfect location on Edinburgh’s Princes Street. You will have views of the fireworks, light shows and the European Market. This traditional hotel is in walking distance from all the main Edinburgh landmarks and George St (location of Scottish Market and Street of Lights).

The Howard | Room
The Howard | Great King Sreet.

The Howard: A luxurious 5-star hotel in Edinburgh’s new town. Just a short walk from Princes Street and all the main Christmas attractions. You will be able to enjoy valet parking and a unique butler service. If you are wanting to spend your Edinburgh Christmas in luxury then The Howard is the perfect Hotel for you.

Channings | Bathroom
Channings Hotel | South Learmonth Gardens

Channings: Voted Edinburgh’s most romantic hotel. If you are wanting to have a grand and lavish stay in Edinburgh’s new town then Channing’s Hotel is perfect for you.

Holyrood ApartHotel | Apartments
Holyrood ApartHotel | Holyrood

Holyrood ApartHotel: This modern apartment hotel is an easy 1-minute walk from the Royal Mile. It’s also a 4-minute walk from Holyrood Park. These serviced apartment are a perfect home away from home. Perfect for families and business professionals.

Harry Potter Tour – J.K. Rowling’s Edinburgh Inspiration.

Harry Potter Tour – J.K. Rowling’s Edinburgh Inspiration.

The Edinburgh Collection | Harry Potter



Harry Potter may live between the spellbinding pages of J.K. Rowlings best-selling book series. However, walk around Edinburgh and you will soon feel like you too are walking in the same magical world. With all the unusual streets, wonderful buildings and other wizz-poppingly fantastic attributes. It is no wonder ‘Jo’ drew so much inspiration from the city.

Here is a list of a few places that inspired the famous books.


Harry Potter Edinburgh | Elephant House

J.K. Rowling used to come to The Elephant House cafe to pen her books, she would sit at the book where she was treated to a spectacular view of Edinburgh Castle which as you can probably imagine is a great view if you want to draw inspiration of a magical world.

Now, The Elephant Cafe is packed full of tourists wanting to soak in even just a drop of J.K. Rowlings life. To all you die hard fans. Yes, you can still sit in her table. If you want an idea of how many Harry Potter fans are drawn to this cafe – just look at the toilets.

Harry Potter Edinburgh | Toilet

Fans have graffiti-ed the toilets with all sorts of Harry Potter related scribbles. (images credit:


Harry Potter Edinburgh | George Heriots School

You probably already guessed which particular building J.K. Rowling used this magnificant building as inspiration. That’s right, Hogwarts was based on Sir George Heriot’s School (not of witchcraft and wizardry).

In addition to taking inspiration from the schools grand architechture. J.K. Rowling also modelled the famous Hogwart’s house system on the one in place at George Heriot’s. The schools houses are Castle, Lauriston, Raeburn and Greyfriars which aren’t too dissimilar to Rowling’s own Ravenclaw, Slytherin, Gryffindor and Hufflepuff. It’s borderline theft. However, I don’t believe that George Heriot’s school has a sorting hat.


Harry Potter Edinburgh | Tom Riddell Grave

No Harry Potter Tour would be complete without a visit to ‘He who shall not be named’. Just behind Hogwarts George Herriot’s School there is a famous graveyard called Greyfriars which houses many notable people including the famous dog who showed heartbreaking loyalty to it’s owner and also it houses the world most recorded poltergeist.

However, some people who stroll through the site (as J.K. Rowling herself used to do) you will find the grave of none-other than Thomas Riddell. The dark lord himself. J.K. Rowling used to take walks around the site to perhaps clear her head or maybe she went with the purpose to find great names from deceased people. What is know for sure is that she drew direct inspiration from this mans grave.


Harry Potter Tour | Victoria Street

There’s a street just below the Elephant Cafe and Greyfriars Kirkyard called Victoria Street in Grassmarket. Which when you see it, it doesn’t take much imagination to picture the bizarre Diagon alley. With it’s cobbled windy street and tall ornate buildings it’s no wonder J.K. Rowling decided to create a magical version of this street in her novels.

Harry Potter Edinburgh | Aha Ha Ha

AHA HA HA Jokes & Novelties lays at the foot of the street which perhaps played muse to the Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes. The shops actually used to have a sign in it’s window telling tourists that it wasn’t a real life version of the shop.


Harry Potter Edinburgh | Balmoral

Now as a hotel company ourselves, we don’t like to advertise other hotels. However, on this occassion it seems too crucial not to as it is the end of our Harry Potter Tour, and the end of Harry Potter itself.

In January 2007, J.K. Rowling checked herself into the Balmoral Hotel room 552 to be exact. It was in that room that she finished writing the famed Harry Potter series. Rumor has it that upon completion. She popped open a fizz-wizz bottle of champagne and enjoyed it (as you would) and finally she picked up a black marker pen and wrote ‘J.K. Rowling finished writing Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows in this room (552) on 11th Jan 2007.’ on a marble bust.

As a token of honor to the author and her time spent in their suite.  The Balmoral Hotel renamed the room the ‘J.K. Rowling suite.’ If you happen to be a particularly wealthy fan. You can stay in the room which has been kept in exactly the same condition as she left it, they have also added a brass owl door knocker. However, I think the bust is enclosed within a glass case now.

It will cost you £1,415 per night if you want to stay here.

If you want a view just as nice as the one J.K. Rowling enjoyed and also cheaper then stay at the Old Waverly Hotel where you can stay in a viewtiful room. Perhaps you can capture some of the same magic she did from this lovely city. book now.


If you have spare time and want to add a little extra magic to your Harry Potter Tour then here are some bonus thing to see.


Harry Potter Edinburgh | JK Hands

J.K. Rowling has been immortalised in Edinburgh’s City Chambers. Her name will obviously never be forgotten as it is written on the cover of billions of books. But now she has some golden hand prints too. J.K. Rowling became the second recipient of the Edinburgh Award in 2008. The award is given to Edinburghers and the winners have their hand prints installed in the City Chambers quadrangle.


While writing her famed series, J.K. Rowling attended the prestigious Edinburgh University. Right next to the university campus is a street named Potterrow during the 16th/17th century it was used for pottery stalls in the old town of Edinburgh. As a student, J.K. Rowling would have been well acquainted with the street, which no doubt served as an inspiration for the naming of her famous protagonist.