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10 Interesting Facts About Edinburgh That Are Stranger Than Fiction

1. Good Auld Interesting Facts About Edinburgh

Rooftops of the buildings in Edinburgh's Old TownOne of our favourite facts about Edinburgh is the root of Edinburgh’s nickname, ‘Auld Reekie’. Mistakenly believed to refer to the smell coming from the open sewers in medieval times, it is in fact loosely translated to ‘Old Smokey’ in Scots. It refers to a time way back when Edinburgh was covered in a haze of smoke coming from the many chimneys throughout the city.

2. Where There Is Smoke, There Is Fire

With so many people living in close quarters, one swift fire could spell disaster. Finding a solution to a highly flammable city became a burning issue, and so Edinburgh became the first city in the world to have its own fire brigade.

3. Damned If You Do, Damned if You Don’t

Edinburgh Castle with Ross Fountain in frontA favourite pastime of many tourists visiting Edinburgh, is spending a sunny day in Princes Street Gardens in the shadow of the Castle. But this beautiful haven in the heart of Edinburgh once used to be the pungent Nor Loch – the site of hundreds of witch trials. Women suspected of witchcraft were thrown into the belly of the loch. If they swam, they were confirmed witches and executed accordingly. If they drowned, they we presumed innocent but ultimately met the same fate.

4. Serving The People On Hands And Knees

Like all old cities, interesting facts about Edinburgh history can be found around just about every corner. Like the sixteenth century nickname given to the Scottish Parliament. Members of Scotland’s “Creeping Parliament” used to crawl on their hands and knees when attending Parliament in order to avoid gunfire from their enemies on Castle Rock.

5. Mound Over Matter

The National Monument atop Calton HillEdinburgh’s popular Mound is in fact not a mound at all. Unlike Arthur’s Seat and Calton Hill, The Mound is an artificial hill that was created in the 1780s using earth from the foundation of Princes Street. Connecting Edinburgh’s New and Old Town, the (fake) Mound is home to some of Edinburgh’s most famous buildings.

6. What A Shame

Atop Calton Hill stands an ancient monument known today as Edinburgh’s Shame. But Edinburgh’s National Monument is one of the best-loved Edinburgh attractions. Modelled on the Parthenon in Athens, money ran out mid-construction and the monument was never completed. Despite its bleak history, today it is the site of a number of Edinburgh festivals and a trip up Calton Hill is one of our favourite things to do in Edinburgh.

7. Endless History For Miles Around

A sign that reads "Royal Mile"The Royal Mile is a famous cobbled street in Edinburgh that connects Edinburgh Castle with the Palace of Hollyroodhouse – the official residence of the Queen when visiting Scotland. While it is not exactly a mile long by today’s standards, it was given its name because it was exactly one Old Scots mile long.

8. Location, Location, Location

One of the most surprising things when visiting Edinburgh is the shear number of buildings around. That’s because Edinburgh has more listed buildings than anywhere else in the world.

9. A Trip To Grassmarket Was A Matter Of Life Or Death

The Greater Grassmarket area in Edinburgh’s Old Town has long been at the centre of trade and commerce. Once one of the main horse and cattle markets in town, today it is a bustling centre of historic attractions, charming pubs and ancient closes. But in addition to being a thriving marketplace, Grassmarket used to be one of the main sites for public executions. Which is why it comes as no surprise that it also happens to be one of the most haunted parts of the city today.

10. The Grave Truth Behind Ebenezer Scrooge And Lord Voldemort

Spooky graveyard in mistFor centuries Edinburgh has inspired many literary greats. And one of the most interesting facts about Edinburgh is that our graveyards have given birth to some of the best-loved literary villains of all time. The old bah humbug Christmas-hating Scrooge we all love to hate was in fact inspired by a tombstone of an old corn trader in Canongate Kirkyard – Ebenezer Scroggie. Dickens was mortified by the cold-hearted inscription of “Mealman”, which he mistakenly read as “Meanman”, and so a literary legend was mistakenly born. Similarly, Potter fans flock to Greyfriars Kirkyard in search of Tom Riddle’s grave. Having written much of the first Harry Potter book in a nearby café, the names of more than one of J.K. Rowling’s famous characters can be found in the graveyard.

So there you have it. 10 interesting facts about Edinburgh. If you enjoyed finding out more about our favourite city, you may also enjoy these 10 fun facts about Edinburgh Castle.

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