Edinburgh’s Georgian Shadows
One evening last week Mr G, The Teen and The Wee White Dug met me outside racing of the rats HQ at 5pm sharp for a jaunt round Edinburgh’s magnificent New Town. The Georgian New Town together with Edinburgh’s Old Town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Each year Visit Scotland choose a theme to celebrate. 2017 is the year of History, Heritage and Archaeology, which is right up my street as a history geek. From 23 February to 26 March Edinburgh’s Georgian Shadows is running daily from 5:30pm to 8:30pm as part of Scotland’s 2017 history, heritage and archaeology celebrations. It’s a free, unticketed event, to mark the 250th anniversary of Edinburgh’s New Town plan.
More of that later though, as our rumbling stomachs told us we needed food. Food was the real reason The Teen had graced us with her presence, showing a sudden ‘interest’ in Georgian shadows!
As we went in search of a suitable dug and under 18 friendly eatery the Edinburgh sky was beginning to take on its familiar, blue twilight hue – my favourite Edinburgh sky of all.
Dirty Dick’s Bar – Rose Street
Having quickly scanned the menu outside we decided to eat at Dirty Dick’s Bar in Rose Street. Established in 1859 the bar has a homely, old-world feel to it.
The menu was a winner for me as it came tucked inside an old Oor Wullie annual. I was reluctant to hand it back, despite having quickly chosen what I wanted to eat. Oor Wullie and The Broons annuals were the highlight of Christmas for me as a child. I can still remember the excitement of getting a new one each year, and trying to savour reading it to make it last.
On the menu was another blast from the past – sausage stovies. Sausage stovies and corned beef stovies are an old Scottish favourite and were a staple part of my diet growing up. My wee Nana was a dab hand at making them and I loved them, so it was sausage stovies for me. I chose a small portion, as they have a tendency to stick to the ribs like all good comfort foods.
Made with potatoes, beef sausages, onion and gravy stock, they were every bit as good as I remembered – delicious, and dare I say nearly as good as my wee Nana’s used to be.
Mr G went for a childhood favourite too – macaroni cheese. The Teen opted for a burger. Like me they were pleased with their choices. The wee dug who’d been welcomed on arrival with a fresh bowl of water and a biscuit was as happy as Larry.
After dinner and with rush hour over, it was dark enough outside to view Edinburgh’s Georgian Shadows looking their best.
The self-propelled walking tour which takes in 7 New Town locations, starts at the east end of Princes Street in front of HM General Register House where the National Archives of Scotland are held.
As we headed eastward along Princes Street the iconic clock tower of the Balmoral Hotel looked lovely all lit up.
Meeting the city’s ghosts – Edinburgh’s Georgian Shadows
The display at the Robert Adam designed General Register House was low-key, but it set the scene well for the rest of the tour. Extracts from the original 1752 proposals for Edinburgh’s New Town were projected onto the wall, and some features of the beautiful Georgian building were subtly accentuated using light.
Our second stop was St Andrew’s Square where several buildings and monuments were lit.
Dundas House at 36 St Andrew’s Square was built in 1774. It was originally owned by businessman Sir Laurence Dundas and would undoubtedly have been one of Edinburgh’s grandest homes in its day. It’s now the registered office of the Royal Bank of Scotland. It was glowing like a purple beacon in the night as we passed.
We crossed the square to numbers 24-25 and caught a fleeting glimpse of the ghostly silhouettes of some Edinburghers of old in the window. Then the buildings transformed into an old map of the New Town. It was really cleverly done.
We made our way to the elegant George Street next and stopped at St Andrew’s and St George’s West Church. The church opened in 1784 and was the first in the New Town – it’s still in use today.
Projected onto the walls either side of the entrance we met characters who were once a familiar sight in Georgian Edinburgh.
There was the Newhaven Fishwife with her creel secured firmly to her back.
And the Fireman being led by a torch bearing Link Boy. It was the job of the Link Boy to carry a lit torch and lead pedestrians through the dark city streets at night.
Today, it’s hard to imagine making children work at night so adults could feel safe.
Further along George Street we arrived at the West Lane next to Edinburgh’s Assembly Rooms. The Assembly Rooms opened in 1787 and quickly became THE place to be seen.
The West Lane was once one of the main entrances to the building. In the lane we bumped into a whole host of Edinburgh’s finest citizens making their way inside. The use of authentic sound effects really brought the scene to life – the clip, clop of horses hooves on cobbles sounded so much nicer than the dull drone of the modern-day traffic.
Keen to get in on the action the wee dug joined the shadowy parade, sticking close to the Link Boy for light. Quite apt for a wee dug named after a ghost. Can you spot Casper with his ghostly new friends below?
At 39 North Castle Street we spotted the instantly recognisable silhouette of dog lover and literary great Sir Walter Scott. Scott once lived here and he wrote many of his famous works in the house.
Edinburgh’s Georgian Shadows – time for tea!
Our tour of Edinburgh’s Georgian Shadows ended in the beautiful Charlotte Square. Robert Adam planned the square, which boasts some of Britain’s finest Georgian architecture. In August the Charlotte Square Gardens spring to life when the Edinburgh International Book Festival comes to town.
Bute House, the official residence of the First Minister of Scotland is located on the North East corner of the square, it was lit up to celebrate Edinburgh’s Georgian heritage. Next door is The Georgian House, a perfect recreation of a Georgian era house managed by the National Trust for Scotland.
It seemed fitting that my favourite Georgian Shadows would be the ones on Edinburgh’s Georgian House.
I stood outside, peeping in as a Butler and Maid set the table for dinner with meticulous precision. It was brilliant and mesmerising and I found it difficult to tear myself away – I loved it.
As we were leaving, an elegantly dressed gentleman standing silently outside The Georgian House caught my eye – of this day, or a shadow of the past? You decide.