Grassmarket in Edinburgh

Friday, 9 April 2021 - 11:00 am (CET/MEZ) Berlin | Author/Destination:
Category/Kategorie: General, UNESCO World Heritage

Pubs at Grassmarket © Reinhold Möller/cc-by-sa-4.0

Pubs at Grassmarket © Reinhold Möller/cc-by-sa-4.0

The Grassmarket is a historic market place and an event space in the Old Town (UNESCO World Heritage Site) of Edinburgh, Scotland. In relation to the rest of the city it lies in a hollow, well below surrounding ground levels. The Grassmarket is located directly below Edinburgh Castle and forms part of one of the main east-west vehicle arteries through the city centre. It adjoins the Cowgate and Candlemaker Row at the east end, the West Bow (the lower end of Victoria Street) in the north-east corner, King’s Stables Road to the north west and the West Port to the west. Leading off from the south-west corner is the Vennel, on the east side of which can still be seen some of the best surviving parts of the Flodden and Telfer town walls. The view to the north, dominated by the castle, has long been a favourite subject of painters and photographers, making it one of the iconic views of the city.

The old market area is surrounded by pubs, clubs, local retail shops, and two large Apex Hotels. Many students live in the Grassmarket, though its openness (due to the large market space) and proximity to the centre of town now tend to increase house prices. The building dates range from 17th century to 21st century. The White Hart Inn dates from the early 18th Century and claims to be the oldest public house in Edinburgh and is said to have been visited by Robert Burns (1759–96), the Wordsworths (1803), William Burke and William Hare in the late 1820s. The City Improvement Scheme of 1868 cleared many of the slums and widened streets such as West Port, and the western group of buildings all derive from this plan. A further improvement plan in the 1920s by the City architect Ebenezer MacRae skilfully closed many of the gaps with faux Scots Baronial blocks, ironically all built as council housing. There are several modern buildings on its southern side. Some properties were used by Heriot-Watt University, and its predecessor college, for teaching and research until the university moved fully to its new Riccarton campus (1974–92). The Mountbatten Building of Heriot-Watt University was built in 1968) for the departments of electrical engineering, management and languages. The Mountbatten building was converted and reopened as the Apex International Hotel in 1996. An example of 21st century architecture is Dance Base (2001) by Malcolm Fraser Architects, the Scottish National Centre for Dance, which runs back from a traditional frontage to a multi-level design on the slopes of the Castle rock; the design won a Civic Trust Award and Scottish Design Award in 2002.

© Carlos Delgado/cc-by-sa-3.0 © Carlos Delgado/cc-by-sa-3.0 Pubs at Grassmarket © Reinhold Möller/cc-by-sa-4.0 View from Grassmarket towards West Bow © Lómelinde East end of the Grassmarket Edinburgh © Kim Traynor/cc-by-sa-3.0 Grassmarket and Edinburgh Castle from Cowgatehead © Kim Traynor/cc-by-sa-3.0 Grassmarket and Edinburgh Castle © Carlos Delgado/cc-by-sa-3.0 © Carlos Delgado/cc-by-sa-3.0
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Grassmarket and Edinburgh Castle from Cowgatehead © Kim Traynor/cc-by-sa-3.0
For most of its history the Grassmarket was one of the poorest areas of the city, associated in the nineteenth century with an influx of poor Irish and the infamous murderers Burke and Hare. Up until quite recently it was still to some extent associated with homelessness and drunkenness before its rapid gentrification as a popular tourist spot. The character of the area was reflected in a number of hostels for the homeless, including that of the Salvation Army Women’s Hostel (now a backpackers hostel) which existed here until the 1980s. From then on property prices started to rise sharply.

The area is, and always has been, dominated by a series of public houses. In recent years many have become more family-friendly and include dining areas. The council has recently further encouraged these to spill over onto outside pavements, giving the place a more Continental atmosphere. The Grassmarket was subject to a streetscape improvement scheme carried out 2009–10 at a cost of £5 million. Measures aimed at making the area more pedestrian-friendly included the extension of pavement café areas and the creation of an “events zone”. The “shadow” of a gibbet was added in dark paving on the former gallows site (next to the Covenanters’ Monument) and the line of the Flodden Wall at the western end delineated by a strip of lighter paving from the Vennel on the south side to the newly created Granny’s Green Steps on the north side.

Read more on Edinburgh.org – Grassmarket, Edinburgh World Heritage – Grassmarket and Wikipedia Grassmarket (Smart Traveler App by U.S. Department of State - Weather report by weather.com). Photos by Wikimedia Commons. If you have a suggestion, critique, review or comment to this blog entry, we are looking forward to receive your e-mail at comment@wingsch.net. Please name the headline of the blog post to which your e-mail refers to in the subject line.




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