Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Exploring Edinburgh // Greyfriars Kirkyard


First, in another new series I've decided to start entitled 'Exploring Edinburgh' (evidently), is a place that to some may seem pretty macabre but is steeped in fantastic history and stories that make it more of a tourist attraction than a resting place for the dead.

Anyone in tune with Scottish legends may well know where I'm talking about - Greyfriars Kirkyard.
Established between 1561-1562 the 'kirkyard' refers to the graveyard surrounding Greyfriars 'Kirk' - meaning church - a Church of Scotland located in the Old Town of Edinburgh.
The kirk is one of the oldest surviving buildings built outside the Old Town and was it the first Church built in Edinburgh after the reformation.


This post, though, is not about the church nor the strong history of the area. The main reason we decided to visit was to pay our respects to the graveyard's most famous residents - Greyfriars Bobby and John Gray. As soon as you enter the Kirkyard there's no guessing as to where the faithful dog now lies with a lovely little headstone, and tributes laid beneath it, right in front of the Church.
I suppose not everyone may be familiar with the story so I'd better quickly tell you what on earth I'm talking about.
I urge you to go to the History-UK website and read the true story in it's entirety, but in short - this is how it goes.
Bobby was a devoted dog who became so famous through his actions that a novel and a Disney movie were made about him. He was a Skye Terrier who was best friend and company to night watchman of the Edinburgh City police, John Gray. Upon John's unfortunate death of TB in 1858 he was laid to rest in Greyfriars, it was then that Bobby became a local celebrity, stealing the hearts of residents for miles when he took to his own watch - that of protecting his masters grave.
When compulsory dog licensing was introduced, to save Bobby from being destroyed, the Lord Provost of Edinburgh paid the fee and presented the dog with an inscribed collar so that he would be free to continue his duty. He did so for 14 years until he himself passed away.
So, I'm sure you can see why so many people visit the Kirkyard, including us. Right outside the entrance is also a statue and a pub named in his honor.


With somewhere of such age, of course, the rest of the graveyard also has a history.
Something that I only found out recently is that of the Greyfriars / Harry Potter connection! I know, I was surprised too - though with the Elephant House cafe where Ms. Rowling did a lot of her writing being situated in the row in front of the Kirkyard, literally a 1-minute walk from it to the main gates, it makes sense that it provided some source of inspiration.
I don't have a photo to show you but it is said that the infamous Lord Voldemort, or more so Tom Riddle was named due to a certain grave of a Mr Thomas Riddle.
Alongside him lay many other important and notable people including poets, historians and more.


As fantastical as it would be to think that graves marked with a skull and crossbones were those of pirates, in fact they have a much less exciting story. Many believe that they show the the place where a sufferer of the plague is buried, while many articles suggest otherwise and that the symbols merely are a reminder of mortality or even that the occupant was a Freemason or a Knights Templar. You will spy many of them dotted around Greyfriars.

The second photo in this last section shows a shorter wall on the right hand side with a tree behind. Apparently this was the entry route for known grave robbers and eventually convicted serial killers, Irish immigrants, Burke and Hare.
Related to this story is that of the metal bars that protect some graves as they were put in place to prevent bodies being taken by the likes of those afor mentioned.




And with that we are at the end of my first post highlighting fabulous points of interest in the Scottish Capital. 
Have you been to Greyfriars or heard any of the stories of the Kirkyard before? Tell me about it in the comments. :)


17 comments:

  1. lol. Wow it looks so creepy and scary. The picture look nice though, but it reminds me of a Dracula movie.

    http://kimchicakes2.blogspot.com/

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    1. Aw it really isn't though. It actually has a very serene feeling, though it is supposedly haunted! :P

      xo

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  2. What an amazing piece of history! Thanks for sharing!! I now need to go look up Bobby and read some more!

    Renee | Lose The Road

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    1. Isn't it just?! I love a good animal story of course but being able to actually see it in person is even better. You'll love the story - it's so sweet.

      xo

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  3. Did you find the Tom Riddle grave? I've looked many times since my friend told me about it but I'm starting to think it's a myth...

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    1. It's there! You have to walk through a sort of gateway to another part of the kirkyard though :) x

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    2. I did yes! It's not a normal headstone and is one of the 'wall mounted' type stones which may be why you haven't seen it. If you google it you'll see photos and should help you know what to look for! :)

      xo

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  4. Lovely photos! I love the Greyfriars Kirkyard. It's such a serene and beautiful place. I visited last December and had to walk through so much mud to get to Tom Riddle's grave, but it was worth it! And the story of Bobby is so cute.

    xx Mimmi, Muted Mornings

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    1. Thank you! Isn't it just?! I've been a few times but on the occasion that these photos were taken, we visited early morning when there weren't many people around which made it even nicer.

      xo

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  5. I love these photos! I think cemeteries make fantastic atmospheric photos, and you always capture the atmosphere so well :)

    It does sound like a really interesting place to visit, and if (and when) I get my butt to Edinburgh it will make it on my list of places to see!

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    1. Thank you! Me too! I used to love a good Church and cemetery visit when I was in middle school and got called strange from the teachers :/
      You will have a huge list of places to visit in Edinburgh once I'm done with this series ;) haha

      xo

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  6. I felt like I had a mini history lesson reading that! :) Educational and interesting! Love your photos too!

    I've not heard about the stories of Kirkyard and I've never been to Greyfriars before, so this was all new to me!

    I've always had a slightly odd interest in graveyards and churches though! Haha :)

    xxxx

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    1. Eek, I hope it wasn't too boring for you! These kinds of post are among my least viewed.
      Glad you liked the photos. They're not the best but I'll blame the rubbish overcast weather ;) haha

      Yes, I have too so its glad to know I'm not alone! :D

      xo

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  7. Brill post. Yes went to Edinburgh about six years ago now and I have a picture of myself next to the statue of Bobby. We also visited the pub and the graveyard and the Elephant house cafe. :)

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    1. Ah do you?! Thats fab. I got one too but didn't include it haha. What was the pub like? It was about 9am when we were there so it wasn't open, through we went to the Elephant house but didnt go in because it was SO busy!!

      xo

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  8. Such a beautiful graveyard! I have a strange obsession with them as I find them so beautiful and haunting. The stones always tell some amazing stories. Some of these stones are really different as well like the one with the mans head looking out.

    hellomissjordan.com xx

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    1. Isn't it? Yes, me too!! I've always been called weird by teachers and stuff for liking them. I had to go back and look at the photos when you said 'mans head looking out' I was like, what on earth is there a ghost I didn't see?! haha
      That's George Buchanan, he was a famous historian and reformer!

      xo

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