EDINBURGH EXPERT WALKING TOURS - BLOG
Part three of my alphabetic trawl through Scotland's capital city - read the previous entries here and here! This week comes to you courtesy of the letters G, H and I!
THE LETTER G
G is for George Street, George Square, and George IV Bridge - and it's a different George every time!
The Georgian-era New Town was built from the 1760s onwards, under the reign of George III originally. Much of the New Town was named to honour the monarch - George Street for the king, Princes Street for his sons, Queen Street for his wife, Hanover Street for the royal family line, and Frederick Street for George's father. The newly established union between Scotland and England was also commemorated - St Andrew Square and St George Square for the patron saints, Rose Street and Thistle Street for the national flowers.
By the time they came to build St George Square, another development on the southern side of the city already had the name George Square, with no connection to the royal family - but at the risk of having George Square and St George Square to confuse tourists and postmen, they renamed St George Square as Charlotte Square, also after the wife of George III.
George IV Bridge was built during the 1820s, and named for the monarch who succeeded his father, who visited Edinburgh in 1822.
THE LETTER H
H is for David Hume, one of Edinburgh's most influential residents, and who is still considered by many to be the most significant philosopher who wrote in the English language. Hume was born in a property just off the Lawnmarket on the Royal Mile and attended Edinburgh University at the age of just 12 years old. During his life he travelled widely through France and England, before returning to Edinburgh where he became a popular figure in high society and was for a time the chief librarian in the Advocate's Library, a legal library still on Parliament Square.
Hume's influence in politics, philosophy and economics was profound, with many scholars and philosophers who came later paying great tribute to Hume in their works.
Hume was also widely considered to be an atheist, at a time when such a position was a dangerous one to take. His home in the New Town led to the street being ironically dubbed St David Street, a name which stuck and survives to this day.
After his death in 1776, Hume was buried in the Old Calton Burial Ground. He made two stipulations for his grave - the first was that it should cost no more than £100, a relatively meagre sum in the eighteenth century, and secondly, any grave or memorial to him should bear just his name, his date of birth and his date of death. He wanted no mention of his life or work, reasoning that if he had done anything worthy of being remembered, history and posterity would ensure his reputation survived.
THE LETTER I
I is for the 'Innocent Railway', a 12-mile stretch of railway line which connected the mines of Dalkeith with the city centre. Built in the 1830s, the Edinburgh and Dalkeith Railway, as it was formally named, was a horse drawn track which brought coal from the outskirts of Edinburgh to join with the main transport networks, and later was expanded to run as a passenger service. In the 1840s the line was bought by the North British Railway company, who operated the main line between London and Edinburgh, and part of their acquisition from the Edinburgh and Dalkeith Railway became integral to the route between Edinburgh and Carlisle.
The nickname 'Innocent Railway' was supposedly adopted because no lives were lost during its construction and operation, a rare occurrence during the industrial age of the nineteenth century when labour was cheap and industrial accidents were commonplace.
Today part of the line adjacent to Holyrood Park survives, where the original tunnel which carried the service underground has been transformed into a cycle route. The entrance to the tunnel is difficult to find by accident, requiring a short detour through a housing estate to discover it, but it remains a well used and popular 'hidden gem' of the south side of the city.
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A - Z of Edinburgh:
A - C, D - F, G - I, J - L, M - O, P - R, S - U, V - Z
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