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Homescotland10 Secrets About Grassmarket, One of Edinburgh's Liveliest Areas

10 Secrets About Grassmarket, One of Edinburgh’s Liveliest Areas

Here are some little-known historical details and urban tales about this bustling neighborhood in Edinburgh’s Old Town, Grassmarket.

1. It has been utilized by people for a very, very long period.


Archaeologists discovered early human traces when Edinburgh City Council was building the Grassmarket a few years ago. According to carbon dating, the region was inhabited by humans more than 3,000 years ago, between 1500 and 1300 BC, during the Middle Bronze Age.

2. There were a number of fatalities.

In Edinburgh, the Grassmarket served as the designated location for public executions beginning in 1660 and continuing for more than a century. It consequently became the site of a large number of fatalities.

Even a hangman who had been convicted of killing a beggar was put to death at the Grassmarket. The region was also the scene of the infamous Porteous Riots in 1736, during which the Town Guard’s incompetent Captain Porteous was executed by enraged residents.

Almost 100 Covenanters were executed in the Grassmarket between 1661 and 1668 alone, a time grimly referred to as “The Slaughter Period.” In 1937, a monument was built in their honor.

3. One person there faked her death.


When Maggie Dickson concealed an illicit pregnancy and the stillbirth of her child in 1724, she was accused of murder and given the death penalty in the Grassmarket. After being hanged, Dickson awoke in a carriage and continued living a long life because, according to Scottish law, she could not be tried for the same crime again.

A lawyer attempted to perform Dickson’s incredible escape from death on one of his clients in 1775 and even had doctors prepared to revive the patient before deciding against it.

4. It was formerly referred to as “Little Italy.”


The Grassmarket neighborhood served as the residence for early Italian immigrants to Edinburgh. According to legend, the first Italian immigrant, an organ grinder, came to the United States in 1882.

The Grassmarket has a reputation for serving ice cream and Italian music, earning the moniker “Little Italy” for a while.

5. There was an altercation over a huge nose.

The Aha Ha Ha joke shop on West Bow in the Grassmarket stands out for its protruding, enormous nose. The concept, however, was first turned down by Edinburgh Council in 1996 because it was deemed to be excessively large and detracting from the neighborhood’s ambiance.

6. A pizza in Grassmarket was run by a Star Wars rebel.


In 1985, Gold Leader, also known as actor Angus MacInnes outside of the Star Wars world, launched the well-known neighborhood restaurant Mamma’s Pizza in the Grassmarket. Mamma is still operating successfully under the new management, but to commemorate the opening of The Force Awakens, it offered pizzas with Star Wars themes.

7. There once lived a “wizard” there.

Major Thomas Weir fell ill in 1670 after leaving his position as Commander of the Edinburgh Town Guard, and from his sickbed, he told wild tales of a life of depravity and wickedness.

His sister Jean also admitted to engaging in witchcraft and sorcery with her brother, who she claimed had been endowed with magical abilities while riding in a flaming carriage and received his strength from a walking stick.

The two were convicted of witchcraft, given death sentences, and Jean was put to death in the Grassmarket.

8. A German zeppelin bombed it.


The Grassmarket was the target of a rare German zeppelin bombardment north of the border in 1916 during World War One. Before the bombers left and further devasted the city, four people were hurt and one person killed at the White Hart Inn. The firing of the One O’Clock Cannon is said to have discouraged the bombers from taking further action.

9. The haunted pubs are numerous.

The White Hart Inn claims to be “the most haunted” pub in Edinburgh and is not just the oldest pub in the city center of Edinburgh, with portions of the structure going back to 1516.

Staff members have reported strange noises, slamming doors, shadowy creatures, and even missing limbs in the tavern throughout the years. The Last Drop, a different Grassmarket pub, is rumored to be haunted by the ghost of a young medieval girl.

10. It assisted in keeping out armies.


Following the disastrous Battle of Flodden in 1513, the Old Town of Edinburgh was enclosed by the Flodden Wall, which was erected to ward off smugglers and keep the English soldiers out. The Flodden Wall’s remnants maybe be seen today as you go around Greyfriars Kirkyard, the Old Town, and up from Grassmarket.

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