Grassmarket, Edinburgh, EH1 2HS
The Grassmarket is a historic part of Edinburgh’s Old Town, dating from the 14th century. It is one of the oldest market places in the city and was also a place for public hangings in the 1600s and 1700s. Today it is a popular tourist area filled with pubs, restaurants, hotels and shops. It is very picturesque with cobbled streets, medieval architecture, monuments and a magnificent view of Edinburgh Castle.
Many of Edinburgh’s history tours and ghost walks are centered around the Grassmarket as there are lots of stories to be told. One of the most famous is that of Maggie Dickson, who was hanged for murder in the Grassmarket in 1724. After hanging for 30 minutes her body was placed in a coffin and taken away to be buried. However, noises were heard coming from the coffin and it was discovered that she was still alive. As she had already received her punishment, no further action was taken and she went on to live for a further 25 years. She became known as ‘Half-Hangit Maggie’. There is now a pub called Maggie Dickson’s, just outside the execution site.
Other notable pubs include The Last Drop, where those sentenced to death would have their ‘last drop’ of whisky, and The White Hart Inn where the notorious murderers Burke and Hare are said to have singled out some of their victims.
Things to do in the Grassmarket
Thankfully the Grassmarket is not such a dark and gruesome place these days. In addition to the historic architecture and traditional pubs, visitors will find quirky shops. These include Armstrongs Vintage Emporium, Scottish and European restaurants and a choice of budget and luxury hotels. There is also a market every Saturday selling locally grown, fresh produce. During the summer festivals there are street performances, carnivals and al fresco dining on offer.