Smoke from chimneys fills the sky

Why is Edinburgh called ‘Auld Reekie’?

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Good “Auld Reekie”

Auld Reekie is an old nickname for Edinburgh, the capital city of Scotland.

Back in the 16th and 17th centuries, Edinburgh’s crowded Old Town was surrounded by city walls. There was no room to expand outwards, so the streets were narrow and the buildings were tall. Such a large concentration of homes produced a huge amount smoke, which bellowed out of chimneys and filled the air with a thick smog. This was the origin of the nickname Auld Reekie, which is Scots language for Old Smoky.

Auld Reikie Poem

Poet Robert Fergusson wrote theĀ famous Scots poem Auld Reikie in the 1700s, which perpetuated the nick-name.

Auld Reikie, wale o’ ilka town (Auld Reekie, best choice of every town)
That Scotland kens beneath the moon! (That Scotland knows beneath the moon)
Whare couthy chiels at e’ening meet (Where friendly lads at evening meet)
Their bizzing craigs and mous to weet; (Their dry throats and mouths to wet)
And blythly gar auld care gae by (And happily bid old cares goodbye)
Wi’ blinkit and wi’ bleering eye: (With blinking and with bleery eyes)

You can read the full poem here. Fergusson died in an Edinburgh assylum aged just 24, but he is known as one of Robert Burns’ greatest influences.

Auld Reekie Today

Edinburgh is no longer the smog-covered city of the past, but locals still use the nickname Auld Reekie. It is perhaps a more affectionate term today than it once was.