Audio Point Five – Grassmarket and Edinburgh Castle.

A short sample from Edinburgh Audio Guide – Audio Point Five.

On the way from the Royal Mile to the Grassmarket you will be walking through a couple of picturesque streets. The first one is the Upper Bow – it leads to a balcony walkway that is above the West Bow.

As you climb down the steps, you’ll find yourself in Victoria Street – one of the most colourful and most photographed streets in Edinburgh. Victoria Street was constructed it the 19th century to create an easier access to the Royal Mile for horse-drawn carriages. Victoria Street continues down the hill as the West Bow.


The history of Grassmarket can be traced back to the 14th century. This wide, open public space was used as a market for cattle, horse and corn right until the beginning of the 20th century. As with most medieval market squares it was the place where crowds gathered to watch executions.

Now it’s a vibrant, busy place with many cafés, pubs and restaurants. Some of the pubs date back to the 16th century.

One of the oldest pubs in the square is The White Hart Inn. It is famous for being the most haunted pub in Edinburgh.

Many of the pubs in the square have fascinating stories connected to them.

As you enter the square, you’ll see a small pub named “The Last Drop” on your right.

The pub got its name from the fact that it was the last place where condemned prisoners would have a drink before being executed on the nearby gallows. The pub was also used as a holding cell for the prisoners before their execution.

Maggie Dickson’s Pub.

Maggie Dickson’s Pub is named after a fish-wife who was hanged in the Grassmarket Square in 1724.

Abandoned by her husband Maggie found work in a tavern in Scottish borders. After a brief affair with the innkeeper’s son, she fell pregnant. To keep her job Maggie concealed her pregnancy.

Her baby was born prematurely and died the same day. Without telling anyone Maggie left the body on the banks of the river Tweed.

Maggie Dickson was eventually discovered and arrested. At the trial in Edinburgh she was convicted for killing her baby, and sentenced to death by hanging.

On the 2d of September 1724, 22-year-old Maggie was hanged at public execution in Grassmarket square. After the execution her body was placed in a coffin to be taken to a burial place.

On the way to the cemetery the man in charge of the coffin stopped at a tavern for refreshments. A couple of passers-by noticed that the lid of the coffin moved and heard soft moaning from inside the coffin. The lid was taken off and Maggie was found alive!

She made a full recovery and – as the sentence of the court has been carried out – Maggie couldn’t be prosecuted again. Maggie lived another 40 years, married again and had many children and was known in the local community as Half Hanged Maggie.

Edinburgh Castle.

As you walk along a row of busy pubs and cafés, you’ll come to an open space at the far end of the Grassmarket which offers a stunning view of Edinburgh Castle.

Dominating Edinburgh’s skyline, the castle is the most recognisable symbol of Edinburgh.

It sits on a volcanic crag 135 meters above sea level. The crag, known as the Castle Rock, was formed about 350 million years ago.

Throughout its long history, Edinburgh Castle has served a variety of roles, including that of a royal residence, military garrison, prison, and fortress.

Kings and Queens of Scotland used this ancient fortress as their home from as early as the 12th century, when King David I of Scotland established a royal residence there.

Throughout the centuries, the castle was expanded and fortified, becoming an important royal residence and a symbol of the power and prestige of the Scottish monarchy.   

Despite its obvious strategic and defensive advantage, the castle was twice captured by English invaders and twice retaken by the Scots during the Wars of Scottish Independence in the 13th century.

By the 17th century it grew into a significant military stronghold with military barracks and a large garrison.

In the 18th and 19th centuries, dungeons in the fortress were used as a military barracks and as a prison for French and American prisoners of war.

Throughout its history, around 23 different siege attempts were made on the castle, making it the most besieged place in Great Britain. The last time the castle was besieged was during the Jacobite Risings in 1745.

Among the most interesting attractions in the castle is the Stone of Destiny – an ancient symbol of the Scottish Monarchy. The Stone of Destiny is on display in the Crown Room with the Honours of Scotland – the country’s crown jewels.