Edinburgh building designs span as many styles as there are decades. Amongst the most striking are the many Georgian buildings. Characterized by their height (often 5 or more storeys), their symmetry, and their many windows, today they look as inviting to live in as they did in their heyday.
Many are now converted into apartments as they can be huge but their facades and chimneys are often given protected status so the overall effect of these pleasing blocks and crescents remains largely unchanged.
They are most commonly flat-fronted without bay windows and balconies, so in order to introduce additional light into the buildings, they have small rounded extensions on the corners of either all or just the upper floors, often topped with a turret – a witches hat shaped roof.
Here are just a few local examples – but as you will see this design is not just on 17th-18th century buildings, but is reflected in more modern architectures from the Victorians to the 21st century too.
This story may not be new to all my readers but it intrigued me…
I have joined a local history class which meets on Wednesday mornings but instead of sitting in a classroom, we do our learning on foot as we explore parts of Edinburgh with the incredibly knowledgeable Ian MacDonald.
We are gradually working our way through the timeline of Edinburgh. Recently we started our session up at the Castle Esplanade. There we learned about why there is a second castle entrance (the Elfin Safety folks), saw the small floral plaque and planter dedicated to the “so called” witches who were tried and convicted and learned about some of the monuments in the forecourt.
As you descend down the steps on Castle Wynd North towards the Grassmarket, there is building with a restaurant and bar called the Cannonball.
Worth noting are the original shuttered windows on the side which slide across rather than open and shut like doors.
On the side of the building, there is indeed a cannonball lodged in the wall.
On the edge of the castle hill, you might automatically think that any cannonball must be one which was used in conflict and since this building is outside the castle’s main defences, you assume it was a stray shot or one deliberately fired towards an enemy advancing up the Royal Mile.
The story is actually completely different.
Edinburgh’s water supply was ingeniously piped down from Comiston Hill. This gravity-fed system was viewed with curiosity as it was believed that the water at the top of the Castle hill could not have come from that source as it was so clearly above the rest of the city, this cannonball was placed there by the City engineers at the exact height of the water source to prove that gravity was indeed all that was needed to get the clean water to this point.
On a small promontory sticking out into the Forth just across the water from Rosyth is a Scotland’s Heritage castle which proved to be really worth a visit. It is reachable by bus and bus or train and bus via Linlithgow but on this occasion we were on our way back from admiring the Kelpies so we had our car.
Blackness was the port for Linlithgow and the castle was build to defend it. Later it transformed several times to became a royal palace, a garrison, a state prison and an ammunition depot.
Sometimes referred to as the ship that never sails, it is so nicknamed because the shape of it when seen from the Firth has a profile which resembles a ship.
I love places that this which have no set route so you can wander up and down stairs, in and out of courtyards and in this case step out onto a pier which takes you out over the water.
Fortified in different ways to meet the demands of its different owners and functions, it has splendid waterside ramparts, a large tower, a secure water supply and rooms which feel extremely liveable. You can also find hidden passages and secret spaces.
It also has outstanding views to the 3 Forth Bridges – the iconic red rail bridge, the current road bridge and the new Forth Crossing due to open in May. Along the shoreline we saw lots of wading and water birds and it looks like the sort of area where you just might see otters too.
Once again, I have hardly walked half a mile from home to my next small site of interest.
In the 1800s the area of Fountainbridge with the nearby Union Canal was a heavily industrialised area of Edinburgh so the move of the slaughter house which was previously nearer the centre of the Old Town took place. It remained in use until 1922 when it moved to a new facility even further out of town. A meat market however remained for a bit longer and even served as a distribution point for meat when it became rationed in the Second World War.
Today, the area is unrecognisable and the neighbourhood houses large modern office buildings including the Scottish Widows HQ.
Fortunately the impressive arched façade was rescued and reinstated near to its original spot and behind it providing a seating area the blue tiled backdrop is reminiscent of a butcher’s shop interior. So now each time I pass by, I can smile at the cow heads looking down on me but without what must have been a pretty nasty smell in days of old.